Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sen. Durbin Backs Barack Obama for President

I don't know what the general perception of is but I found this interesting article there about Illinois' senior senator speaking glowingly of the possibility of the junior senator running for President. How appropriate in light of Sen. Obama's name being thrown around as a possible contender for the presidency in 2008 and he's already got one endorsement. I post this article in its entirety.

Sen. Durbin Backs Barack Obama for President
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 11:24 a.m. EDT

Barack Obama is getting a push toward a presidential run from fellow Democratic senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin.

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Durbin said he's told Obama he should look "long and hard" at the possibility of running. The 44-year-old Obama has already said he won't run for president in 2008.

But Durbin says Obama brings something special to politics. He says Obama connects better with people than anyone he's ever seen. And Durbin adds that he thinks Obama has the potential to unite people from both Democratic and Republican regions of the country.

And, yes, Durbin also says he would endorse an Obama candidacy should he decide to run.

© 2006 Associated Press.
I really would like to know what to make of this.


Is US Atty Trying to Peel Emerald Casino Grape?

A year ago Parkway Bank Chairman Rocco Suspenzi refused to tell the state Gaming Board "about his role in secretly splitting up an investment in the now-defunct Emerald Casino with at least one man the FBI has claimed associated with members of organized crime,” according to the Chicago Tribune reporter John Chase.

Now, another Suspenzi is in more serious trouble.

Here’s the beginning of the U.S. Attorney’s press release today:

A former bank officer was charged today with fraud and federal income tax offenses for allegedly obtaining nearly $500,000 from a customer’s credit line and converting the money to his own use. The defendant, Jeffrey Suspenzi, was charged with one count of bank fraud and two counts of filing false individual income tax returns in a three-count criminal information filed today in U.S. District Court, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Suspenzi, 34, of South Elgin and formerly of Palatine, was an assistant vice president of Parkway Bank and Trust Company, based in Harwood Heights.
It seems likely that the two Suspenzi’s are related, so could this be a way of prying information out of bank Chairman Rocco Suspenzi?

Also posted at McHenry County Blog.


IL Dem Corruption on California TV

Assuming Judy Topinka has enough money for TV ads, she might want to take a page out of California State Treasurer Phil Angelides’ use of Illinois Democratic Party corruption in his quest for his state’s gubernatorial nomination.

Awaiting sentencing in the Downstate Teachers Pension kickback scheme in Illinois is former Democratic National Committee Finance Chairman Joe Cari.

Joe Cari, as in the guy who fingered Governor Rod Blagojevich as “Public Official A.”

As in a guy who helped Al Gore raise big money.

Now, California Democrats are batting Illinois Dem crook Cari around like a tennis ball.

Whom Cari helped most is a major issue in California’s June 6th gubernatorial primary fight.

Is Democrat State Treasurer or Democrat State Comptroller Steve Westly more corrupt? That seems to be the issue before Democratic Party primary voters.

State Treasurer Angelides is excoriating State Comptroller Westly for
Raising cash from “a corrupt Chicago businessman,” according to the Los Angeles Times

But, Blagojevich also got $15,000 from Cari—in three 2003-04 chunks of $5,000. Each donation ranked as national player Cari’s biggest Illinois contribution.

What did Blagojevich do with the money?

On August 4th--after Cari copped a plea--the Governor gave it back to Cari.

In effect, Blagojevich made a contribution to his fellow Democrat’s legal defense fund.

And Demo crook Steven Loren, a Blagojevich administration appointee also caught up in the pension scandal, got his $4,500 back, too.

How much more fertile are the crooks, alleged crooks and pre-alleged crooks who helped Governor Rod Blagojevich!

Just in case Topinka’s creative people need any help, here’s part of the TV ad:

"This is Joe Cari," the narrator intones. "He's a corrupt Chicago businessman who gave Steve Westly thousands in campaign contributions."

Westly's picture appears, and the narrator continues: "Westly then steered public pension funds to Joe Cari's investment company….

"Now Joe Cari has pleaded guilty to extortion in a pension fund scandal."
Monday, the LA Times reported that the Clinton-supported Democratic candidate making the charge also sought Cari’s help in fund raising.

Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle's Ad Watch reported:
Cari held fundraisers for Westly in New York and Chicago and, in 2004, the fund invested $5 million in Healthpoint….Westly can't deny that he backed the investment efforts of a fundraiser who was later convicted of a felony.
And, if you think that only in Illinois do public officials try to raise money from those doing business with state pension funds, read this, also from the LA Times:
Westly and Angelides both sit on the state's main public pension boards, and both have raised millions in campaign donations from companies and individuals seeking lucrative pension fund investments.
Topinka can run similar ads, of course.

But she could make them more powerful.

Not only did Blagojevich give money back to pension fund crooks Cari and Loren, but he also gave $500 back to alleged mob firm M&M Amusements on April 28, 2005.

Only after I asked political spokesman Peter Giangreco what the Governor was going to do now that M&M (think brothers James and Michael Marcello) had been implicated in the massive mob indictment was the money returned.

On the other hand, contributions from multi-indicted and part-time Republican Stuart Levine of the alleged Crystal Lake Mercy hospital kickback and the pension fund kickback fame were not returned.

Blagojevich directed his $4,267 in contributions to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

McHenry County Blog is where this originated.


Rep. Aaron Schock: Ticket scalper

For those who missed it and keep asking me about it, here it is: Aaron Schock -- ticket scalper:

When Aaron Schock was in high school, his job was to buy tickets.

His employer would order tickets to, say, a Garth Brooks concert, and Schock would call Ticketmaster. He would purchase the maximum number of tickets allowed and send them to his employer, who would reimburse Schock's credit-card account and send him a commission. Then his employer would try to resell the tickets to a diehard Garth Brooks fan, hopefully for way more than face value.

"It wasn't bad money for a high school student," Schock says. "It beat working at McDonald's."

Schock, one of the Peoria area's representatives in the state legislature, compares the practice of ticket-scalping to other great examples of American capitalism, such as playing the stock market or speculating in real estate. There is the potential of great reward, but also risk. And the risk and reward cut both ways.

Yeah, well the payday loan business is legal too, but I wouldn't call it moral. But you would elect a payday loan operator to the state legislature? I wouldn't want my sister to date one. A ticket scalper is almost on the same moral level.

JS sports columnist Kirk Wessler later explains that the State of Illinois legalized this sort of behavior in 1991. Even the ballclubs are getting into the act, selling tickets never offered to the public to brokers who then immediately jack up the prices. Thanks to computers and the Internet, scalpers don't even have to stand in line, which is why so few tickets are available at the door on game day anymore.

And the problem just keeps getting worse. Eventually, every single sporting event will be like the Super Bowl and the only way to get tickets it to know somebody who knows somebody, or be connected to a powerful politician or be a client for a huge corporation.

Ticket scalping is ruining sports. It benefits the greed-heads at the expense of the fans.

If ticket scalping is one of the "great examples of American capitalism," then so is Enron. But then, the last thing a sharp operator like Shock wanted to do as a kid was work at McDonalds. At least it would have been honest work, and might have better prepared him to understand his constituency a little bit better.

Cross posted to Peoria Pundit.


Protecting Homes Before Studios

Once again, my posting has slowed as the result of a busy schedule, holiday, etc. And I'm not sure that the next 5-7 days will be much more productive on the blogging front.

I have been wanting to weigh in on the Governor's education proposal, but I figured that it has been getting enough coverage and discussion as is. But before I get back to other work however, I do want to touch on one aspect of this issue.

Over the past couple of days, many of my constituents have been receiving reassessment notices for their homes. And three years after getting increases of 40-100%, they are once again getting increases of...40-100%. Same home, same neighborhood, absurd taxes. By example, when we moved into our home about nine years ago, the property taxes were about $3800. With the latest reassessment, we will be looking at a tax bill of about $20,000.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that while about half of our tax bill goes to the Chicago Board of Education, the public school two blocks from my house is one of the worst-performing in the area, graduating just 8 kids last year. What's wrong with this picture? A lot.

The point of this is that while the Governor proposes to pump billions more into our school system, and while he aggressively worked to give tax relief to film producers who shoot in Illinois, many of his neighbors are being faced with having to sell their homes because of our overreliance on property taxes in the funding of school. His proposal does nothing to address this issue, although in his defense I guess, he never claimed that it did.

But this issue has been around long before the near ten years ago since I joined the General Assembly, and long before my predecessor, the Governor, joined the House before that. It has not gone away, nor will it, until something is done to address it head on. Given the propensity of elected officials to think in terms of election cycles rather than real world timeframes, I am dubious that any meaningful reforms are on the horizon.

The exception to this would be the convening of a Constitutional Convention a couple of years from now, something which I think would be in the best interest of the State on a number of fronts.

There is arguably no more pressing issue in my area than that of property taxes, and I believe that I echo the thoughts of a number of my surrounding colleagues in saying that, given this fact as well as the numerous other questions surrounding the proposal, it will be exceedingly difficult (impossible?) to get many of us to support this measure. Couple that with the reported upon concerns of Downstate Democrats about the proposal, and this is looking a lot like a non-starter.

I will be keeping tabs here, but may not post for the next week, but thanks as always for checking in.

To read, or post, comments, visit Dome-icile.


Kudos Daily Southtown; Now, How About School Choice?

The Daily Southtown, with its usual good sense, gives Governor Blagojevich's Education gamble a nice squirt in the puss of wake-up juice.
This morning's editorial calls into question the many 'what ifs' that the Guv boldly side steps.

The ugly step-child at the table - school choice - is once again consigned to the gang-way. Parental choice of school is the only real bold choice equation in education reform. Competition sparks quality.


George Dunne

This I remember,

When U.S. Rep. Harold Washington won the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1983, many white Democrats refused to support him. But Mr. Dunne's protege and successor as 42nd Ward committeeman, Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd), recalled Mr. Dunne's reaction to Washington's nomination.

"George said, `I don't care who he is, we're backing the winner,'" Natarus said. "And he backed him all the way. At one of the St. Patrick's Day parades, he took Harold by the hand and took him to the head of the line."
A lot of other Chicago politicans disgraced themselves instead during those years.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Kettle, you're black!" - the pot

If Rod Blagojevich wants to attack Judy Topinka, he needs to ask a different question than "Where's your education plan, Judy?"

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

A great question Governor. Where's your education "plan"? Why can't the public see the study that purports a lottery sale would bring in $10 billion, the study by the same company that made a bundle off the last privatization plan? Where's the breakdown of how your "plan" will affect each legislative district and each school district, for the next 25 years, or the next four years, or even the next one? Where's your memo explaining how a State Board of Education that can't even get a simple test out on time once a year is going to start taking over school districts and operating them day-to-day?

And please, for the love of all that is Holy, can you explain to us all in detail why you can't seem to find the political will to lead the charge for major property tax relief for millions of Illinois families, but you've decided that Hollywood needs a white knight in shining armor to champion tax breaks for the movie industry?

I hope somebody in that camp is certified in the Heimlich maneuver, because they're going to choke on all that hypocrisy.



Thanks Union Bosses !


The Pegasus Project

Back on February 2, 2003, I wrote an article for Illinois Leader entitled, “I’m Rod. Fly Me…For Free.

The fruits of part of what I found—horse race track owners flying gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich around the state—were harvested last Friday. That’s when Governor Rod Blagojevich signed legislation awarding the industry $36 million a year from Chicagoland’s four casinos over two years.

A company controlled by Richard Duchossois (who owns a big part of Churchill Downs, to which he sold Arlington Park) provided one fly-around on October 23rd. Add to that $25,000 in cash from Churchill Downs that had an Octobler 25th date and you have a big chit.

Cicero’s Sportsman’s Park spent $75,990 on nine free plane trips from August 18th through September 21st. That’s a lot of “face time.”

On May 28th, Sun-Times Springfield Bureau reporter Tracy Swartz quoted Cindi Canari of the Illinois Committee for Campaign Reform as saying the industry had contributed $250,000 to Blagojevich.

May 8th, Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney reported the beneficiaries:

· track owners 40 percent…, leaving the rest for breeders, farmers and others in horse racing
· Arlington Park - $4.2 million
· Hawthorne Race Course - $4 million
· Balmoral Park Racetrack and Maywood Park to split $4.09 million
Whether one uses the $250,000 contribution-to-date figure or the $81,322 spent on the fly-arounds or the $106,322 contributed at the end of the 2002 campaign, the horse racing industry got a huge return on it “investment.”

Somewhere between 132-1 to 405-1.

The odds for the tracks were lower, a bit over 11-1, if one goes with the $106,322 pre-election figure I found.

Here are the details of the fly-arounds:
Duchossois Industries Inc, Elmhurst $5,332 10/23
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $5,524 8/18
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $8,760 8/23
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $24,812 8/26
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $5,512 9/2
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $10,254 9/4
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $5,202 9/14
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $5,799 9/15
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $4,964 9/16
Sportsman’s Park, Cicero $5,163 9/21
And, the story of Pegasus:
Bellerophon tried to use Pegasus to fly to Mount Olympus, but Zeus was not amused and sent an insect to bite Pegasus. Pegasus then bucked off Bellerophon, who fell to earth and died.

Don't try to crash Mount Olympus without an invite.
Another reference mentions that Pegasus is most closely related to Corinth.

Are there parallels today?

This article originated at McHenry County Blog, where today you can learn which Illinois politician is responsible for May 30th not being celebrated as Memorial Day, plus how McHenry County resident George Dunne, who died Sunday, helped State Rep. Penny Pullen pass her HIV public protection bills.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Has Obama decided to run in 2008?

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post discusses indications that Sen. Barack Obama may be planning a presidential run in 2008. Specifically, he's brought in two Democratic consultants with experience in national races: Anita Dunn and Minyon Moore:

Dunn served as a senior adviser to Bill Bradley in 2000 and is playing a similar role for Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh as he weighs a run for president in 2008. Moore was involved in Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential race, served in the Clinton White House and led minority outreach for John Kerry's presidential bid in 2004.

Political insiders will continue to wonder about Obama's plans given the incredibly active travel and fundraising schedule he's maintaining. Obama has already visited 21 states to raise money for Senate candidates and raised better than $1.5 million into Hopefund in the first four months of the year.

My two cents: Obama is a good looking, well spoken man, who can speak off the cuff on a variety of issues and sounds like a moderate. He's been the recipient of a lot of good press and the incredible luck to have run against Alan Keyes. People I know who know Obama speak of him and his wife in glowing terms.

Obama's 2004 keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention introduced the man to the American public, and they liked what they saw and heard. The speech generated the first chatter about him as a possible presidential candidate. But he's always hemmed and hawed about the subject of a presidential run and insisted that as a freshman senator, his job is to learn the ins and outs and so on. It's this aura of humility that makes him all the more appealing to voters.

I believe that the instant the electorate get the idea that this guy is actually taking steps to run, the bloom is off the rose. It's at this point that the conventional wisdom switches from "Gee, that Barack Obama guy might make a good president some day" to "Gee, look who's gotten a swelled head."

In other words, Obama stops being a dream candidate in the public's eye as soon as he says he wants to be a candidate. I think this will be the case in 2008, at least.

I'm not one who thinks that Hillary Clinton has the Democratic nomination in her pocket. Still, the presidential nominees of both parties have for the past several election cycles been those candidates whom candidate conventional wisdom has said would win because of support from their party's movers and shakers (good thing we have primary elections, huh?). Still, if Obama is serious about seeking the White House, he might want to wait and prove he can win a tough statewide election, and then mount a run in 2012 or 2016, when he really can claim to be a seasoned candidate.

It's going to be hard to resist running. Obama was a first-hand witness to and beneficiary of the Illinois GOP's self-destruction brought about by decades of pinstripe corruption, which culminated in corrupt George Ryan administration. President Bush and a handful of GOP greed- and ego-heads seemed determine to bring down the Republicans on a national level. The conventional wisdom is that the GOP is going to loose control of one or both chambers of Congress this year and probably the White House. Obama wants to be in place when that happens, much as he was in 2004.

Hat tip: Bill Baar's West Side and Illinoize.

Cross posted at Peoria Pundit.


Memorial Day in Illinois

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit.

I took this photograph about two hours ago while in front of the Morton Grove Public Library, I used my Treo 650.

The statue was erected in 1920 to honor the local soldiers who served our country in the Great War.

And in the spirit of the National Review listing of the 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs Ever, here is one more great conservative rocker, Paul McCartney's Freedom:

This is my right, a right given by God
To live a free life, to live in Freedom

We talkin' about Freedom
Talkin' bout Freedom
I will fight, for the right
To live in Freedom

Anyone, who wants to take it away
Will have to answer, Cause this is my right

We talkin' about Freedom
Talkin' bout Freedom
I will fight, for the right

To live in Freedom, ah yeah, come on now...

You talkin' about Freedom
Were talkin' bout Freedom
I will fight, for the right
To live in Freedom

Everybody talkin' bout Freedom
Talkin' bout Freedom
I will fight, for the right
To live in Free----------dom

Oh, Cal Skinner wanted to know if any Illinois bands made the NR list. The answer is yes, Cheap Trick with Taxman, Mr. Thief.


State Car Title Loans

TG wrote a comment to a Quad City Times article on the prospect of leasing tollways by Matt Adrian.

It made me smile so broadly, I thought I would share it with you:

TG wrote on May 28, 2006 6:19 PM:
"Great idea Rod. How about just taking all of the Illinios owned vehicle titles to a title loan place. You can get cash now and not have negative effects until later! Has anyone ever taught you the pitfalls of immediate gratification, Rod?"
Maybe, after the election, the Governor can fulfill his promises by going to Pink Slip Loan Financing.

Also at McHenry County Blog, where you can see my "Message of the Day," a bumper sticker in Spanish, appropriate for Memorial Day.


Olive-Harvey immigration forum fosters dialog between Black and Hispanic students

I've blogged a few times about immigration over on my blog. The only point of view I have on immigration is only that I believe that our government should enforce the borders. I almost wonder what the impact of illegal immigration has been in say the Chicago area?

That being said this Chicago Defender article has gotten my attention. Olive-Harvey College is located on east 103rd Street on the south side of Chicago and according to this article they are a minority there. With Hispanic students wanting their faculty and peers to have a grasp on the issue of immigration, the Organization of Latin American Students hosted an informal forum on a Thursday evening attended by 40 people. Here's a quote...

“We wanted to let the community know, but particularly let the immigrant community know, that they can come to this college and find opportunities,” said Edgar Casillas, president of OLAS at Olive-Harvey. “This college is for everyone.”
The idea of this forum is to "is to bridge a coalition with the African American students, who make up about 90 percent of the student body population."

“We wanted to inform them about the political issue that is going on nationwide,” Casillas said. “Before, we had an Afro-Latino Expedition to link together the African Americans and Latinos. Because most of the people don’t know that we do have African roots in our Latino countries. The second largest African population outside of the continent of Africa is in Brazil, which is a Latino country.”
Although the attendance (most of the school's black students didn't show up) was not very good for this forum the assistant dean of Research and Planning at Olive-Harvey, Andrew Sund believed this forum was necessary...

“Olive-Harvey has been serving a predominately African American community for years here on the far South Side of Chicago,” he said. “But there is a growing Latino community, Hispanic community, on the South Side, South Chicago, Southeast Side of Chicago that is beginning to take advantage of the various courses and curriculum opportunities offered by Olive-Harvey. And they are becoming 10 to 15 percent of the student population.

“And this was a students’ initiative. They wanted a forum here for their community that was really informational. So that the community could become aware of what are the proposed reforms, but also what are the current opportunities that exist for immigrants with different statuses in terms of education, in terms of social services and in terms of possibilities in becoming citizens."

Finally, here are some student responses on this issue...

David Simmons, an African American who is part of theatrical production at Olive-Harvey...

“It’s going to cost us as a country either way,” Simmons said. “It’s cheaper to make them citizens than to deport them and go through all of that drama.

“But I don’t like the idea of illegal immigrants coming to America and getting the jobs that we can do, only because they will accept less money for those jobs. It’s makes it harder for those American families who are willing to work hard just to survive with the prices of everything going up anyway.”

Simmons added that if illegal immigrants are going to be legalized, he wants to see the process made fair and not just concentrate on Hispanics. He said the same process should apply to Africans and people from the Caribbean.

Denise Williams, president of the Olive-Harvey chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, said she is for making illegal immigrants legal.

“This is a free country. They are here, so why send them back,” Williams said, who is African American. “They make up a population just as well as we do.”

Sharice Latham, vice president of Phi Beta Kappa, told the Defender that the immigration issue is simply a human issue, and she sees the illegal immigrants struggles similar to those of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s.

“The thing about it is, not only have they (Hispanics) supported their cause, but I’m also seeing other people begin to support their cause, which just shows how determined they are to be here.”


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Campaign Finance CSI

Two former executives of Intercounty Title Company and Independent Trust Co. (also known as Intrust) just got sentenced to 14 years in the Federal pen for defrauding 20,000 investors.

Laurence Capriotte and Jack Hargrove are the bad guys in this $90+ million scheme.

Just for fun, I decided to see to whom these crooks made campaign contributions.

None of the recipients have been accused of doing anything wrong in connection with the contributions, but let's take a look anyway.

I tried “Independent Trust” first and guess what popped up?

$500 to Citizens for Governor George Ryan--since convicted of racketeering--on September 22, 1998.

Now, it wasn’t Independent Trust Company. It was Independent Trust Corporation (15255 S 94th Ave Ste 303, Orland Park, IL 60462), but the odds are good that the two are related, if not the same company. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office has only the Corporation registered.

Next I plugged in “Capriotte.”

Not a dime of contributions.

Next in was “Hargrove.”

There’s more than one, so I looked for “Jack Hargrove” and found a $2,000 October 17, 1997, contribution to Poshard for Governor.

I’m not sure what to make of the two contributions. It is interesting that Ryan’s contribution comes after the one to Poshard.

While the Tribune story did not mention Intercounty Title Company, the Associated Press story did.

Typing in just “Intercounty,” I hit paydirt.

56 contributions totaling $58,499 from different entities, all located at 120 W. Madison in Chicago.

Most are for Intercounty Title Co Of Illinois, a couple are listed Intercounty National Title and one as Intercounty Title Co Sas PAC, which I cannot find registered as a political action committee.

So, let’s see who Intercounty sought to influence.

Let’s go for the big ones first.

Getting $5,000 were

· Friends of Lee Daniels (plus $1,600 in 1995 and 1997)
· Committee to Elect James A. Deleo and
· Aldo DeAngelis, P.A.
All were in 1996, except DeLeo’s, which was in 1998.

Citizens for Emil Jones received $2,500 in 1996.

Citizens for Jim Myers got $1,650 in 1997, following $500 in 1995 and $1,250 in 1994. Myers’ committee also got a $298 CD player in 1999.

$1,600 was given to Citizens to Re-Elect Thomas J. Walsh in 1997 (plus $500 in 1999).

$1,500 was given to Jesse White in 1998, while State Rep. Bob Churchill got the same amount in 1996. Churchill also received $250 in 1997.

Citizens for George Ryan received $1,400 in 1997.

Which other folks who have been governor got checks from Intercounty?

For contributions $1,000 or less, plus those to others who were or became governors, go to McHenry County Blog. At the bottom of this story is that link, plus a link to where you can play Campaign Finance CSI. (Well, maybe there was no political crime, but it's a catchy title, isn't it?)

There are some names of individuals next to some of the Intercounty entries that might yield further clues to why these folks were making political contributions.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

If you fight a lost election then take the high road.

via Paul Dailing in the Kane County Chronicle,

On Friday, Laesch spoke in front of Hastert's Batavia office, in defense of a contested ABC News report that stated that the FBI is investigating Hastert, R-Plano. Laesch gave the same speech later in the day in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse.
Laesch said he believed Hastert is involved.

"My guess is that ABC has a quality source within, and that person is telling the truth," Laesch said, calling Hastert one of "the ringleaders for the culture of corruption."
I heard Eliot Cohen on talk show after writing this column and he said Congress has probably dropped the ball the most of all branches of government since 911.

I look at the creation of Department of Homeland Security --for starters-- and agree. Laesch should take the opportunity to call Hastert on it.

Forget the culture of corruption stuff. It's forgotten fast in Illinois. Use the platform to ask hard questions. It may not get the press coverage but who knows. Laesch would be doing the country a better service.


"I still have a name. You're Public Official A."

Forget Church tomorrow, this sounds way to good to miss!

Gov. Blagojevich and Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka fought their first bout of face-to-face verbal combat Friday, battling over everything from ethics to vision in a contentious hour of finger-pointing, chest-thumping and name-calling.

"You have the most investigated administration in the history of the state of Illinois -- the most investigated," Topinka told the governor. "I still have a name. You're Public Official A."
It's Dick Kay's farewll show. What a great way to leave the business.
The hourlong debate between Gov. Blagojevich and Republican rival Judy Baar Topinka airs at 9 a.m. Sunday and again at 11 a.m. Monday on "City Desk" on WMAQ-Channel 5. It is the final episode of the show to be hosted by retiring NBC5 political editor Dick Kay.


Obama watch: The Fix

via Chris Cizzla's The Fix,

Obama Staff Move Prompts Renewed '08 Speculation

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has brought on two nationally known Democratic consultants as advisers in recent weeks, prompting renewed speculation that the freshman senator may be considering a 2008 White House run. Sen. Barack Obama (AP)

Anita Dunn, a partner with Squier Knapp Dunn, a media consulting company, and Minyon Moore, who is with the Dewey Square Group, are now serving as advisers to Obama.

I voted for him but seems all he's done so far is write another book and raise piles of cash.

cross posted at Bill Baar's West Side


It's About Concrete, Silly

So, O’Hare Airport’s $15 billion expansion is in trouble and is going to cost more than city officials predicted.

Ho, hum.

Opponents have been predicting that for years.

Right after the plan was announced, WTTW had a panel discuss it. One of the proponents was Lester Crown of Material Service fame. Material Service, as in, “We sell gravel.”

There may be more of McHenry County in Cook County than in McHenry County, thanks to Material Service and other gravel pit owners.

Now, last Thursday's Daily Herald’s editorial asks,

Will this plan fly?
It’s first paragraph is
"The reason — the only reason — to expand O’Hare Airport is to substantially increase the airport’s capacity and reduce its delays in a cost-effective manner."
To say there is some doubt is a substantial understatement.

As the Daily Herald concludes:
"Some observers have suggested another course and say that adding one runway and extending an existing runway would significantly reduce delays at much lower cost. It is time, before the city goes further down the uncertain path it is on now, to fully analyze this and perhaps other options in an open-minded search for the most cost-effective modernization of this vital airport."
Could former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald have been right…again?

I wish Daily Herald Jack Mabley were still with us so he could write an “I told you so” column for the Daily Herald. He convinced me that this mega-expansion of O’Hare was unnecessary, as was the Peotone Airport.

Mabley argued that Gary’s airport would work quite find, thank you. It’s 35 minutes from the Loop, but in another state, of course.

But Chicago/Illinois politicians can’t control the contracts there, can they?

It’s really all about concrete.

Also posted at McHenry County Blog.


Let the Floggings Begin!

Rich Miller gets in the first licks on the Governor's education gamble this Holiday Weekend. It's a doozie:

To me, this looks more like a $10 billion plan to eliminate a potentially devastating African-American opponent from the campaign and the foundation for millions of dollars of TV ads, hundreds of newspaper headlines and dozens of stump speeches rather than something that will actually become law one day.
Stay tuned for more weekend editorials and columns as they become available, and please post links to any I miss.

UPDATE: Downstate Democrats have come out against the Governor's proposal in full force. Read here.

"If all the money is going to Chicago, there's no way I'm going to support this." (State Rep. Brandon Phelps)


Friday, May 26, 2006

Dozens of Coptic Christians protest outside King Tut exhibit

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit.

Yesterday, in my second Egyptian post of the day, I made the point that protesting outside the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs exhibit about the plight of jailed Egyptian blogger Alaa was definitely fair game, since the government of Egypt is collecting about half the gate receipts from this lucrative show.

As I was typing that post, a group of Coptic Christians were outside Chicago's Field Museum drawing the attention of the plight of the members of their faith in Egypt.

According to the Chicago Tribune, many of the picketers came from three Chicago area Coptic churches: St. Mark in Burr Ridge, St. Mary in Palatine, and St. George in Monee.

From the Chicago Tribune, free registration may be required:

Discrimination and human rights abuses against Coptic Christians remain widespread in Egypt, according to a report released this month by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Copts face societal intolerance, and Egyptian authorities have been accused of being lax in protecting their rights.

No Christians serve as governors, presidents or deans of public universities, and very few Christians hold positions in the upper ranks of the security services and the armed forces, Coptic community leaders said. A 14th Century law bars Christians not only from building new churches, they said, but also from performing necessary maintenance on structures without government approval.

Recent violence in Coptic churches in Egypt has renewed fears of escalating religious strife. In April, a Muslim man was accused of knife attacks at three Coptic Christian churches in Alexandria that left one man dead and about a dozen others wounded. The incident unleashed three days of rioting on the same weekend Christians were observing Orthodox Palm Sunday.

Anissa Essam Hassouna, an official with the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and part of the Egyptian delegation visiting Chicago, said Thursday that the government has "neglected" the issue of how Copts are treated in Egypt but "is trying to do better."

Well, Egypt has to do a lot better. Besides the mistreatment of the Copts, last month Egyptian blogger Alaa was jailed while attending a peaceful protest. He's still incarcerated.

People shelling out at least $31 per ticket to see the King Tut exhibit (again, about half goes back to Egypt) deserve to learn about Alaa.

Related posts: Egypt, King Tut, and blogger Alaa

Alaa in prison: Pajamas Media Blog Week in Review #4 follow-up

Abusive comments will be deleted.

UPDATE May 29: TigerHawk found one of the few MSM articles to cover Alaa's plight. Along with Sandmonkey, TH has been aggressively following this story.


The Enclave at Galewood Crossings

I always thought Galewood started at Austin and went west to Harlem but I'd let developers claim the name to rebuild on this industrial wasteland. via Arlene Jones at Austin Weekly,

Last month at Ald. Emma Mitts’ town hall meeting, I learned that a new development is coming two blocks from my house. "The Enclave at Galewood Crossings" will be developed at Laramie and the railroad tracks (I always thought I lived in Austin, or at least North Austin. My post office says my zip code is Belmont-Cragin, but I digress).

It will be a development with a mixture of 240 condos, townhouses and single family homes. It will even have its own dog park! The cost of those homes will range from $200,000 to $450,000. Some quick calculations show that someone will have to earn at least $50,000 a year to afford to live there.
She's doing a conference call with readers on Sunday too. That's interesting...
I will host a conference call this Sunday May 28 at 9 p.m. Call 605/772-3200 (this is long distance so use your cell) and enter this Access code: 806598#. I can host up to 96 people and you can give me your opinion with others on the line to hear you. You can talk to me about this column or any other subjects that I’ve written about.
And finally,
Also, join me at Wallace’s Catfish Corner this Friday, May 26, along with Mayoral Candidate Bill "Dock" Walls to talk about issues affecting your life here in the city of Chicago.
So besides getting a new Gated Community the West Side is getting pretty techno saavy and creative.

Now, the City just needs to figure out what to do with this sacrifice to the Sugar tariff and pray we don't lose the one I grew up next too.

cross posted at Bill Baar's West Side


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Keno Dooms Lottery Deal

CapitolFax today draws out the comments of Lottery industry expert Kip Peterson, from WBEZ's "848" show. You can listen to the May 24th show here, just go about 23 minutes in.

Capitolfax omits a couple of facts brought up in that interview that will doom the Governor's proposal.

First, according to Peterson, the only way to make the Lottery deal profitable enough to draw an offer that large is to legalize keno. That was an idea that the General Assembly has already soundly rejected.

Secondly, there are reportedly only three companies in the world with the capacity to run the lottery. One is John Wyma client GTECH. The mere mention of GTECH in conjunction with this proposal is enough to ensure not only no Republican votes, but no targeted Democrats can vote for it either.

Peterson also rebuts Becky Carroll, who points out in her arguments that Great Britain has privatized its lottery. The difference, says Peterson, is that the Britain deal is a seven-year license to run the lottery, not an outright transfer of ownership. The risk is much smaller on both sides of the table.

Peterson says the best way for Illinois to get the most money out of it's lottery system is to follow in the footsteps of Georgia and turn the lottery into a quasi-private agency (similar to the Post Office) still under state control. Of course, the big stumbling block with that idea is that Illinois doesn't get $10 billion upfront, so the Governor has no way to buy Senator Meeks off.

UPDATE: YDD has learned that the lobbyist for the second lottery competitor, Scientific Games, is Blagojevich insider Milan Petrovic. For more on GTECH, I recommend reading this Fortune Magazine profile: "Rare is the company that has faced as many allegations of baldly sleazy conduct as Gtech". Heartwarming, isn't it?


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Privatizing the Lottery

Lew Caldwell was a 12-year (1967-79) independent black state representative from Chicago. He received his degree in social work from Northwestern University.

We stayed in the same cheap ($14.50 a night in the 1970’s) and now demolished hotel—the Hotel Governor—right next to the infamous Hotel St. Nicholas, where shoe boxes of former Secretary of State Paul Powell’s money was found.

That’s probably how we got to know each other.

I eventually learned that Lew had written a novel called “The Policy King.”

It was about Chicago politics.

A group of citizens decided to try to legalize policy.

When Lew told me about it, I had never heard of policy. It was a daily numbers game. Runners sold policy slips with numbers on them. If you had the correct number, you won the day’s prize.

Does that sound like today’s daily lottery or what?

The hero of the book wanted to legalize numbers and, basically, franchise their sale to individuals. The example used was the early insurance industry, which Lew said did not have a good reputation in the early days when salesmen went door-to-door.

The citizens group went to the mayor’s office and made the pitch.

The mayor’s reply was that, when they had some political power, they should come back and see him.

The group then organized and beat the local alderman.

He loaned me the only copy of the book he had, which I avidly read.

When the lottery decided to start a daily game, he introduced a bill to carry out the plan in Lew’s book.

Why not empower individuals, giving them an ability to make an honest living?

You’ll find this hard to believe, but we got House Bill 841 passed the House 173-0 in 1977.

Naturally, the idea died in the Senate.

We couldn’t have private citizens competing with the state and local stores, could we?

Also posted at McHenry County Blog.


Simple math Blagojevich

The Governor's scheme to get Rev. James Meeks out of the race should simply be laughed at from a financial perspective. $10 billion up front for a 99 year lease (assuming someone will pay that), some interest, and POOF, it's ALL GONE BY 2025!!! And in just four years, the state is right back to where it started regarding lottery revenue for education. Then what after 2025? Especially at a time all those pensions are coming due that are not being funded right now. Great, so the kids they are spending more money on now can pay a lot more in taxes when they get out of school making it even harder for them to get started in life and support their families. This makes absolutely no sense at all, unless you are running for re-election.

The state gets about $500 million more for the first four years, then the state is back to around $650 million per year until 2025, and then practically nothing after 2025. Blagojevich is willing to give up almost all revenue after 2025 for about $2 billion more over 4 years up front.

Oh, and the company most likely to "lease" the lottery is GTECH Corp., that already has a large chunk of the contract to run the Illinois Lottery. And who represents GTECH? Why it's Blagojevich's former Chief of Staff when he was a Congressman, John Wyma. More campaign donations to Democrats for years and years to come (like 99) I suspect.

Overall, this sceme will hurt state education funding long-term without doing much of anything at all to stop the decline in quality of government schools. With competition and choice comes accountability and innovation. That concept is a better place to start finding solutions than this campaign gimmick is.

The biggest problem isn't money. The problem is the government monopoly largely controlled by Illinois' biggest campaign funders, the teacher's unions. Simply banning union (and corporation) campaign donations would go a lot further toward improving education quality than this plan by loosening the control the teacher's unions have over legislators. We'd start seeing good teachers being paid more instead of the good teachers subsidizing bad teachers when they all get the same pay raises regardless of performance. We might even be able to fire a few bad teachers, while the increased pay for good teachers would attract more good teachers.

Go ahead and start ripping into me for a perceived anti-union bias (I'm actually pretty neutral on unions that don't abuse their power), but don't try blaming Topinka's lack of any vision on me. I do give credit to Blagojevich and Meeks for stirring up the debate that even has inspired innovative ideas like using prostitution and drugs to fund schools.


Big, bold plan to spend $6 billion on education has some cutting-edge parts

I think Senator Meeks and Governor Blagojevich deserve a lot of credit for putting forward a big-picture, innovative plan for education in Illinois. Everyone agrees that we need to improve education and most people agree that we need to invest more money into education. Finally, there's a big, bold plan out there (right at the top of that would demonstrably improve education if implemented.

I think the most innovative part is a call for merit pay instead of seniority pay, with the full support of the teachers unions. (That is, the plan calls for the unions to work to craft a merit pay plan. I'm not suggesting the unions support the concept today.)

For some background on merit pay, check out Denver. They are probably running the most aggressive merit pay system in the nation. And the teachers unions crafted the plan.

Here's an interview in Education Sector (a neat independent think tank) with Brad Jupp, a labor organizer with the Denver Classroom Teacher Association and a lead negotiator and advocate for the merit pay system.

The whole interview is worth a read, but here are some of the best parts.

ES: What were some of the specific lessons you learned in the pay-for-performance pilot?

BJ: The most important lesson was that you can build pay systems around pragmatic judgments. By pragmatic judgments, I mean decisions that are not necessarily based on researched psychometric standards but reflect common sense and professional judgment to make effective decisions. In fact, almost all pay systems–including the single salary schedule in place in most schools today–are built around pragmatic judgments. We will never create a perfectly objective basis for compensation decisions, but if we rely on the common sense of professionals we can go a long way.

The second thing we learned, which is very important, was that differentiated pay did not destroy workplace morale; it created new challenges, but in our pilot schools, we never saw the plummet in morale predicted by opponents of alternative compensation schemes.

The third thing we learned was that, when teachers set goals and plan to meet them, students perform well whether teachers meet those goals or not. When teachers set high-quality objectives, objectives that have clear, measurable outcomes and well-articulated strategies to meet them, and those objectives are assessed routinely throughout the year–kids learn more. Learning became the cornerstone of the way we built the pay system.

A fourth thing that we learned was that we need to think hard about how to connect the stakes in a pay system to the behavior that we're trying to change. Policymakers often think of pay systems in very simple ways: "If I put a lot of money on the table, it's going to change people's behavior dramatically, so I'll put a lot of money on the table for the behavior I want." But you often don't need to do that, and you may, in fact, be making a big mistake.

We've found, for instance, that a $1,000 incentive to work in a high-poverty school with low-performing kids doesn't motivate teachers in schools with wealthier kids that perform well to move to that low performing school. On the other hand, it does motivate teachers to stay at that high-poverty school after they've been hired there. Maybe what you need to do is to put a small amount of money on the table, stabilize the workforce, and then build the workforce in these schools over time, rather then to assume that what you want the incentive to do is to steal teachers from the suburbs. Another example is that it doesn't take a whole lot of money–only about $330 in the compensation model that we have–to get people to commit to look at their objectives twice a year. But if there's no money, they don't do it. Sometimes smaller stakes make a big difference.

There's a lot more, including why teachers should embrace accountability measures, because then they'll get paid more (as they should).

I also love the call in the plan for longer school days and longer school years.

So, say what you want about the efficacy about licensing the lotto to come up with the money, but this is the best plan that's out there about how to improve education. I think it's a big step forward.


Urbs in Horto (but please no mushroom compost)

Looking better then the Gov's Mansion.

From yesterday's NYT,

But even more than its soil-enriching, moisture-conserving utility, mulch is an organic metaphor, tying together the various pieces of Chicago's novel development strategy, praised by the Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce alike. By wrapping its arms and famous big shoulders around its Latin motto — Urbs in Horto (City in a Garden) — Chicago has become a global model for how a metropolis can pursue environmental goals to achieve economic success.
The generator of Chicago's mulch is Richard M. Daley, the unorthodox and popular Democratic mayor who took office in 1989 vowing to replant the urban forest of his youth that was lost to Dutch elm disease and other blights. At the time, the pledge raised the eyebrows of supporters and critics, who chalked up the mayor's love for trees to his birth on Arbor Day in 1942.
We've used mushroom compost but it really stinks.

I'm glad the City's taken down some of the trees in the Blvds too. Chicago got a little carried away there for a while and I worried truck drivers would have a hard time seeing the traffic.
Barbara and other Roti family members have been leasing trucks to the city of Chicago for decades. At least 17 companies in the city's scandal-plagued Hired Truck Program were owned by Roti relatives and associates -- including Barbara's father, wife, mother-in-law and daughter's in-laws. They were among 165 companies Daley fired in 2004, after the Sun-Times reported the city often paid for trucks that ended up doing nothing, leading to an ongoing federal investigation.
Compost all over the place. That's the price we have to pay for Urbs in Horto.


Culture of Corruption Watch: Hastert, Jefferson, and Berwyn's Sonny Stillo

How can Hastert (R-Il) cry constitutional crisis over the FBI's raid on Rep. Jefferson's (D-La) Office yet everyone was silent when the FBI raided Berwyn's City Hall and confiscated every PC in the place in pursuit of Ald. Sonny Stillo (D)?

Update: LaShawn Barber on Hastert, Jefferson, and ABC.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blago's Flunks History Lesson

“In 1975, the State of Illinois created the lottery. The idea behind the game was to create a funding source for schools that would solve the inequities in school funding. However, over the years, lottery money was not used exclusively for schools. Instead, it was used for a variety of purposes, failing to fulfill the mission promised to the taxpayers over thirty years ago.”
That’s what Governor Rod Blagojevich’s press release said today.

It is, of course, a blatant falsehood.

I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have enough gray heads around the office.

Blagojevich’s staff may have never learned the RTA’s history, but the Governor has.

In the freshman orientation session at the Holiday Inn East in December of 1992, lottery sponsor State Rep. Zeke Giorgi delighted in taunting the newly elected legislators. He said he bet they thought the lottery was passed to finance education and everyone, but I, probably nodded his or her head “Yes.”

Then, Giorgi held up the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with a headline saying something like, “Lottery Finances RTA.”

He even passed out copies to everyone present.

Now, maybe Blagojevich was in the hot tub, but, more likely, he attended the session.

He just doesn’t have as good a memory for lottery facts as he does for presidential succession.

McHenry County Blog
may have the longest discussion of education around. It's right on top. The governor's press release has also been posted in full. There are hundreds of thought-provoking observations.


Rep. LaHood sides with those who side against Israel

There's a law being considered that would prohibit aid to the Palestinian Authority while it is being governed by Hamas. The article, which excoriates Israel for a long list of supposed atrocities while declining to criticize poor, innocent Hamas [/end sarcasm] or even mention recent suicide bombings even once, heaps praise upon U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R.-18th) for opposing the bill.

Not only does the writer describe Rachel Corrie as an innocent person slain while protecting Palestinian homes (she was a terrorist sympathizer who burned the American flag and got killed trying to stop a bulldozer from demolishing tunnels being used to smuggle weapons for terrorists), it also heaps praise upon Hamas:

Why this extreme reaction to the beaten down Palestinian people? Because the Palestinians exercised their democratic rights and elected representatives of Hamas. Hamas has been demonized by Israel and many in the U.S. media despite the fact that it took a pledge against violence more than 18 months ago and has lived up to that promise. They have not committed acts of violence despite violence directed at the Palestinian people by Israel. Israel has demanded Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist -- but Israel is a country without clear borders. What exactly would Hamas be recognizing?

The rest of this article is just as charming ... and inaccurate.

Were I being praised by someone who expressed views like this -- as is Ray LaHood in this case -- I would seriously reconsider whether my position was correct.

Consider this, Ray:

Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Hamas uses money to buy weapons that it uses to kill Israelis. Since Hamas runs the Palestinian government, any money that government gets can be used to further Hamas' goal of killing Israelis (I doubt these people hold the concept of separate fund balances to be sacred).

This bill would stop money from getting to Hamas. So, wouldn't this bill, therefore, make it harder for Hamas to commit terrorism? Of course it would. Call me crazy, but I think that's a good thing.

Cross posted on Peoria Pundit.


Above: Rachel Corrie, the "idealistic college kid who probably had no business hanging around the occupied territory, but that doesn't make her a 'terrorist sympathizer.' " That's her, burning the American flag at a Hamas rally.


City silence on PHA scandal is hypocritical

Last week, the Peoria City Council voted to send a letter to the federal government pointing out that current federal law doesn't give municipalities the power to regulate cable Internet service as it does cable television service. Obviously, the council believes in getting involved when cable subscribers experience a hiccough in service.

But when the Peoria Housing Authority partners with a predatory lender, and then shrugs its shoulders and says mistakes were made when they get caught by the city's newspaper of record, there is no one on the Peoria City Council willing to stand up for the poor, working class victims of the predatory loans.

Why is no member of the council asking for a letter to the PHA demanding a resolution to the crisis that leaves the victims unharmed? Why are there no calls being made from Peoria City Hall to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors? Why is there no debate about this apparent crime on the floor of the city council?

It's not the council's business, as has been suggested to me? Bull. It's as much the council's business as is the Internet service that was the subject of Council Member Patrick Nichting's successful (8-2) resolution last week.

But then I doubt that many of the victims of the PHA loan scandal live in the affluent 5th District.

The silence is hypocritical.

Cross posted to Peoria Pundit.


PHA and the feds still doing exactly NOTHING to help predatory loan victims

Thank God Journal Star reporter Elaine Hopkins has started reporting on the Peoria Housing Authority predatory loan scandal again. She previously wrote one story about how the PHA brought in this crook to teach a course in home ownership, who then turned around and started selling these predatory loans, with the PHA telling poor working class families that they had to deal with this guy if they wanted to participate in its first-time homebuyer program.

Instead or returning Hopkins' call, PHA director Roger Johns got in touch with someone on the Journal Star's editorial board and gave them a lame "mistakes were made" excuse and same vague statement about how the agency would try to help. And the agency still isn't saying why they weren't making the payments toward these loans that they were supposed to. That leads me to think someone with access to these funds has been pocketing the cash.

Well, Hopkins actually attended a meeting and came back with a story about how the PHA attorney agrees that the situation was "sad," but how it was all a misunderstanding and how "hindsight is 20-20." No kidding, Sherlock. There is still no assurance from ANYONE in the PHA that their victims will be allowed to keep their homes.

Again, I ask: What is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan going to do? Where does U.S. Rep Ray LaHood stand on this issue? How about Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, Illinois' two U.S. Senators? Perhaps I need to send copies of these articles to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to get some sort of reaction.

The silence is deafening, suggesting the powers-that-be care more about Johns than it does about poor people who work hard and are trying to become valuable members of society.


He don't bring us flowers

This past weekend I traveled with friends to tour Springfield sites like the Dana-Thomas House, the Lincoln Museum, Lincoln's Home, and Lincoln's Tomb.

The weather was beautiful; my friends were fun; the Lincoln sites were compelling, sobering, and pride-instilling; and for the first time ever I realized an appreciation for Gov. Thompson, who played a large part in seeing Frank Lloyd Wright furniture returned to their proper home (D-T House).

But my well-meaning friend Diane (from Indiana) thought it would be nice to spend Saturday night at the Mansion View Inn, directly across the street from the Governor's Mansion, which gave me plenty of reasons to fume.

First, this beautiful, historic mansion was deserted. No cars. No lights at night. Shades drawn.

Second, the People of Illinois are only allowed to visit this home we pay for a total of 7.5 sporadically spaced hours out of a 168-hour week.

Finally, from our side of the street, the place looked like unkempt, overgrown, junkyard jungle. And there were no potted flowers anywhere.

I kept thinking of the White House and the respect it commands by its very presence. On a smaller scale, we have such a House in Illinois. But alas.

There are many reasons to be angry with our governor. Now add to the list his lack of respect for history and decorum, which disgusts me.

P.S. I picked up a book of Lincoln quotes, and this one struck me as witty and timeless: "The fact is... I have got more pigs than I have teats." ~ Remark on political patronage to Congressman Luther Hanchett, no date.


Culture of Corruption Watch: The Sun Times series on the Rotis

It's pretty good reading.

I grew up just a few blocks from Giancana's home. We'd trick-or-treat there and the care-taker would always give a full size box of cracker jack. Not the small ones sold for Halloween. They had a doormat in back that said go away.

On warm summer evenings neigbors would stand outside watching the FBI guys watch the house.

Giancana was the first person with a snow blower. The care-taker would do the whole block with it.

Doing favors is a big part of the culture.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Some of the risks of leasing the lottery

I have an estimate of what a 25 year lease of the lottery might be worth over at OneMan's Thoughs but I figured I would share some thoughts about the risks someone leasing the lottery might face.

Changes in how they are taxed by the state or how they are taxed by any entity of government in the state.
Changes in law that impact their abiltiy to sell.
Changes in the marketplace (more casinos)
Changes in public opinion about the lottery
Changes in my regulatory environment.

So if I were leasing the lottery here is some of what I would expect to have in the contract and if I didn't get it the discount goes up (perhaps significantly)

1) Protection from any legislative changes that would impact my ability to sell tickets. For example, making sales at bars illegal.
2) Some consideration if gaming is expanded in any way within the state, be it new casinos, slots at racetracks, etc.
3) Any change in the way my revenue was taxed (I saw what you did to the casino people)
4) Any change in the way lottery winnings are taxed.
5) Any changes within MegaMillions that impact me differently than any other state
6) Any changes within the state pension program for my employees if I have to keep them in the state plan.
7) I want the current marketing restriction on targeting groups lifted. I want free reign to market to people over 18.
8) I want to be and want my retailers to be protected against any local taxing change. So if Chicago decides to tax lottery tickets I am covered.
9) I would expect an exclusive contract, that is the state couldn't let someone else sell lottery like products within the state.

There would be a much longer list but this is just some of the concerns I think any buyer would have.



What If the Raid's on the Lottery?

On Friday, the Chicago Tribune dropped the suggestion that the Lottery may be the source of the money with which Governor Rod Blagojevich bought off the Rev. and State Senator James Meeks.

But, you say, money from the Lottery already goes to education.

Yes, it does. So the question arises of what accelerating Lottery revenues by selling it to a private gambling firm would do…in the long run.

One could get big money up front, the same way many states did by selling future Tobacco Settlement collections. But those states needed to accept less upftont in order clinch the deal.

A similar discount would undoubtedly be necessary if the Lottery were sold to private interests.

State Rep. Zeke Giorgi pre-sold the Lottery as being for education, but it was not passed until it became the source of money for the General Fund’s subsidy of the Regional Transportation Authority. (Reviews of the Lottery’s history usually forget this fact.)

In the 1980’s Zeke’s pitch was finally made law when legislators got tired of explaining why Lottery proceeds didn’t go to education. Of course, that got no additional money for schools, because an equal amount of previously General Fund receipts was spent elsewhere.

So, what happens if the Democrats sell this stream of revenue for the current benefit of getting re-elected?

Put simply, it means that Governor Rod Blagojevich will have put another cliff in the path of future politicians in order to obtain a short-term political benefit for himself.

This year’s windfall would turn into some future year’s budgetary free fall.

More musings on McHenry County Blog.


Don't Forget About Us

Today's Chicago Defender has a piece today on the future repercussions of Meeks' threatened thrid-party candidacy.

Though Meeks has dropped out of the race after brokering a deal with Blagojevich that will mean a new comprehensive school funding plan – to be announced on Tuesday - the decision to challenge a Democratic ally may be an example of an effective way to get attention for African American issues...

The Black state lawmaker’s threat to run against the governor, who needs Black votes to retain office, was a “bold tactical move to hold white Democrats accountable,” said Rogers.

Meeks told reporters Friday that polling data showed his candidacy would take more votes from Republican Judy Barr Topinka than the governor. The widespread fear, however, was that a bid by Meeks would siphon off votes from Blagojevich and benefit the Republican candidate.

“The Black vote has become all too predictable and because of that politicians on both sides feel the Black vote can be ignored,” said Rogers.

Read the rest of the article, it raises some interesting thoughts and closes with this:
Changes to school funding may be an important immediate payoff, but there may also be a longer term benefit to Meeks’ challenge of Blagojevich, Rogers said.

“You’re changing the equation. The issue is whether Blacks will come out in support of Democrats and that’s where the strategic power of African Americans lies, if the Republican Party made real overtures, it would be sensible to trade on that,” he said.

To read, or post, comments, visit Dome-icile.


Cold Cash

It wasn't in a shoebox, but Paul Powell would have been proud.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal agents searched the Capitol Hill office of a Louisiana congressman under investigation on bribery charges Sunday, while newly released court papers said agents found $90,000 in cash last year in his Washington home.

In a 95-page affidavit used to obtain a warrant for the office search, investigators stated that an August 2005 search of Democratic Rep. William Jefferson's home turned up the cash sum in a freezer.

Hey, at least it takes the attention away from Illinois.

To read, or post, comments, visit Dome-icile.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Separation church and state, but not the separation of mosque and state

My daughter's annual dance recital brought Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I to Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois this afternoon.

Assuming we live in the same place, Little Marathon Pundit will be a student at Niles West in six years.

LMP danced wonderfully, by the way, as if you expected me to believe differently!

But after the show, I saw something which caused me to suddenly halt and take notice.

Yep, that sign, which I found amongst other placards for the French Club, the Chess Club, and the like, is for the Niles West Qur'an Study group. The little graphic on the righthand corner is the high school's logo, the nickname for its teams is the Wolves. They were the Indians until 2000, but that's another story for another time.

There is a Qur'an Study group, but I saw no evidence of Bible or Torah Study Group. Niles West has an Israeli Club, but not a Jewish Club.

Here's the copy from the Qur'an Study sign:

Every Friday at 2:45pm, Niles West Qur'an Study gives students the opportunity to perform Friday prayer and to increase their knowledge about Islam. All students, regardless of religious orientation, are encouraged to attend.

Meetings, Friday 2:45 Rm 2225

Is the ACLU aware this is going on at a public high school? Do they care?

Would the ACLU care more if this was a Bible Study group performing prayers on school property?

To comment on this and other MP posts, please visit Marathon Pundit.


More lies from the Journal Star edit page

Once again, the Journal Star editorial board is lying to its readers.

Anyone unfamiliar with the history behind the controversy over where to build a proposed replacement for Glen Oak Grade School might read this editorial and think that opposition started after the Peoria School Board voted to spend $900,000 to buy up properties, when those checks were written long after strong opposition developed and without any official open-session vote by the school board. The JS editorial board brainiacs thinks that as long as the money is spent, all opposition to stop. Never mind that is pretty much the opposite of the way things are supposed to work in a system in which there laws regulating how the government can spend taxpayers cash.

The editorial also neglects to mention that the school board has consistently lied to residents about a state law that is supposed to require a set acreage for any new school construction projects, when no such requirements exist. This means that the school district's claims that any other site there must be more expensive are lies as well, because the school board did not seriously consider lower-cost options on smaller plots of land. The district insists the new school must be build on a ranch like a suburban school would be built, even though it is supposed to serve a densely populated inner city neighborhood.

And the editorial writer tells a flat-out, bald-faced lie when claiming that residents don't want a new school or a $15 million investment. The fact is that they do. They have said so repeatedly in letters to the editor and in numerous public meetings. The residents just don't want to loose park land. They don't want their children crossing heavily trafficked Prospect Road twice a day. They don't want a neighborhood school on the westernmost boundary of the school's attendance zone. These residents have offered up suggestion after suggestion for different sites.

When the editorial writer states that opponents might not want the Ray LaHood-brokered meeting to be open (which is something I have not heard even once) the writer neglects to mention that it is the Peoria Park District and School District 150 are the agencies that have conspired -- in secret -- to conduct business and have repeatedly lied to and mislead voters and the Journal Star itself about details behind the land swap deals.

And who are the people who have "attempted to meddle in the matter," as the Journal Star puts it? Taxpayers. Residents. Voters. You know, the people the Journal Star editorial board thinks should just shut the Hell up and mind their own business. Because, as you know, elite progressives are the only ones smart enough to have a say in how taxpayer dollars are used and in how children are educated.

I don't find moral fault in the Journal Star's award-winning (snicker) editorial board disagreeing with me on this or any subject. But what infuriates and sickens me is how these peoeple play fast and loose with the facts and often ingores the content of their paper's own reporting simply because the editorial board finds these facts inconvenient to their agenda. It's dishonest and unethical.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Barack Obama's new book out this fall

This fall, the first book of Senator Barack Obama's three book deal will be published.

Excerpts are available from his web site, Such as this passage:

I find it hard to shake the feeling these days that our democracy has gone seriously awry," he writes. "What's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.

Well, no one will accuse Obama of hiring a ghostwriter.

What's been largely left out of the media coverage of Obama's book deal is that he received a $1.9 million advance for his three book deal after he won his Illinois US Senate seat, but before he was sworn in, which allowed him to skirt Senate ethics rules.

But to most people, he'll always be "Saint Barack."

To comment on this and other posts, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Big box ordinance or Wal Mart ordinance?

From today's Defender,

Residents, business owners and community leaders from the West Side, where Chicago's first Wal-Mart is scheduled to open this summer, spoke out Thursday against the so-called "Big Box Retail" ordinance currently before the City Council's finance committee.
Residents of Ald. Emma Mitts' 37th Ward, who would be likely candidates for jobs at the Wal-Mart when it opens, said the $10 minimum wage would deter businesses from investing in their neighborhood.

"The communities, especially on the West Side of Chicago, are excited about opportunities for jobs. We need jobs. Our communities are filled with the young and the old standing on corners with nothing to do, some laid off from companies that have closed down or moved away, some ex-offenders looking for a new start," said Frankie Freenie of the Nobel Neighbors Association in Humboldt Park.
Drive around Austin and you'll see housing stock is in pretty good shape but the local retail is devasted. There's no local retail for Wal Mart to put out of business. Any kind of investment can only do good for the neigborhood.

This is as true of Galewood as it is of further east along North Ave, or at Madison and Pulaski. The only local retail that can survive now in Chicago are niche retailers for people with money, and ethnic retailers who will cater to their local communities. Everyone else will make the drive to a discounter. Might as well keep the discounter in the City. It seems so foolish to keep them out.

Espeically when you consider the City makes it none to easy for the few local folks who venture into retail either. Read Arlene Jones Why is the city harassing business owners in Austin?


Friday, May 19, 2006

When is a Plan not a Plan?

When its details are secret, of course.

What do Governor Blagojevich and State Senator James Meeks have cooking? That's what a lot of political folks are likely to be wondering this weekend.

Lots of folks are going to be wondering if the Gov's plan is to sell the Tollway Authority. SEIU Local 73 sure will be wondering, since the proposal likely puts their members out of a job. Suburban drivers will certainly be wondering, since the sale of the Skyway by the City of Chicago was followed immediately by a 25% toll hike. And as the Bloomington Pantagraph reminds us, the Governor's proposed sale of the Tollway Offices in Chicago - the "Taj Mahal" as they were dubbed - never materialized, so Meeks and others should be asking what the Governor's Plan B is, if Plan A falls through.

And of course, education funding reform advocates will be wondering too, since Governor Blagojevich did not talk to them first to find out if his plan would pass muster. From A Plus Illinois:

Does the Governor Have an A+ Education Plan?

To address the fundamental problems with our current school funding system, the governor must put forth a plan that meets all of the following principles:
  • Increases the state's investment in education to ensure every school has adequate resources, following the recommendations of the Education Funding Advisory Board.
  • Provides meaningful property-tax relief for homeowners and businesses by shifting the balance of school funding away from local property taxes.
  • Promotes accountability to ensure excellence in local schools and efficient delivery of public services by state and local governments.
  • Protects health, human and public services that are vital to the well-being of children and families.

Our state cannot fully meet its responsibilities to our students unless a plan includes these key components. We'll keep you posted as we receive further details about the governor's plan.

Meanwhile, WBEZ reports that gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka (who also has yet to offer a plan of her own) is still keeping the door open for a property tax swap.


Tollway Lease Billions

Never let it be said that legislators can’t put forward proposals that seem a bit, well, selfish.

That was the word that came to mind when I read the tollway lease distribution ideas DuPage County Republican State Senators Kirk Dillard (also DuPage GOP County Chairman) and Peter Roskam (now running for Congress).

Estimates of the amount at stake could be as high as $14 billion.

It’s not that my former colleagues should not have real fear that toll money paid by suburbanites might end up Downstate. That happens right now.

Only 43% of the money paid in gas taxes for motor fuel consumed on the tollway came back to the six-county area, as of Illinois FIRST (which I did not vote for) days in the late 1990’s. If all of it had been given to the tollway over the years, we could have freeways now.

But, it was siphoned off to build Downstate freeways, one of which I found has less traffic than the Lakewood street in front of our home. (Less than 5,000 cars a day traveled then on parts of the four-lane Route 67 in Western Illinois. Over 6,000 go past our home daily. 4-lane highways are generally justified by 20,000 cars per day.)

So, I share the DuPage County legislators’ concerns that suburbanites should be wary of a Chicago and Downstate rip-off of the billions that could come from privatizing the tollway. So does the Daily Herald in this editorial.

My thought is that the money should return to its source. (The Daily Herald editorial agrees, specifically citing McHenry County users.)

My original conception in the late 1990’s was that surveys would have to be taken to determine where drivers lived. Now, with the wide use of I-PASS transponders, that information should be readily available.

If such a common sense approach should be adopted, then I believe the money should be spent on 1500 miles of existing highways designated as highways designated Strategic Regional Arterial roads. Some are state highways like Route 176; others are county roads like Randall Road.

Plans for the SRA improvements—complete with public hearings--have been made and, if the Illinois Department of Transportation thought far enough ahead (which they don’t), these plans would be recorded in each local county to prevent growth from ruining the plans.

In any event, it seems the money should go back to the counties whose citizens paid it.

One final word: when the Randall Road exit was being considered, Kane County put up the bulk of the money. McHenry County, however, paid $250,000.

So, just because a tollway is in a given county does not mean that county should get all of the benefits of any long-term lease.

Or, for that matter, it doesn't mean that Governor Rod Blagojevich and his Democratic Party-rule legislature should be able to pick the pockets of motorists to finance the education plan to buy off the Rev. and State Senator James Meeks, as some media reports have suggested earlier.

Have fun with the Meeks-Blagojevich deal over the weekend. Or drop into McHenry County Blog.


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