Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stroger vs. Peraica could go either way

Polls on Stroger and Peraica are all over the map. The Trib's new poll finds Stroger way ahead with 48 percent to Peraica's 33 percent, and 17 percent still undecided for some reason. But look, there's still hope: a new ABC7/Daily Herald poll has Peraica on top 51 percent to 42 percent, with 7 percent wavering.

So I don't what to believe.

PS ... Just askin': Could the Stroger surge among independents detected by the Trib be the result of the Tribune editorial board's recent endorsement of Peraica...?

Why is crime down in Chicago?

Who knows? It doesn't seem to be because of gun control, because more people are in prison or because the economy is up. Could it be actually be because of "smarter policing tactics"? Or is that too much to hope for...

Monday, October 30, 2006

New polls out today have Ford over Corker, Webb over Allen, Menendez over Kean, Bean over McSweeney. All good guys. Constituent Dynamics has Duckworth over Roskam 48% to 47%, but the Daily Herald has Roskam up 46% to 42%. Not long now...
On the question of Karl Rove's apparent confidence going into next week, Josh Marshall weighs in in favor of what I called option b.), the bluff:
All sorts of articles have been written over the last week or so with one question: Why is Karl Rove so confident? What does he know that the Dems and the pundit-predictors don't?

The answer is really, really simple: nothing. There's not anything he knows. In fact, he's not even confident. It's a bluff.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Street Fight: a very dirty mayoral election

The documentary Street Fight is about a reform Democrat fighting against an entrenched, seemingly all-powerful machine politician in a mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey. Right now I hope Jesse Jackson, Jr. is watching it on repeat.

The documentary follows the campaign of Cory Booker, an energetic young pol trying to unseat Sharpe James, the corrupt 16-year incumbent Newark mayor. Booker, who was born in the suburbs but lives in a projects tower with his constituents, is ambitious and idealistic. He is capable of disarming candor but is at all times carefully, carefully composed. And he's got the golden resume: played football at Stanford, was Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School, got involved in politics through community organizing, the whole bit. He's a genuine and likable candidate -- a good deal of the film is just him walking from door to door, shaking hands with people and talking about how he wants to remake the city.

In response, James uses the full range of his incumbent's powers to keep Booker from winning. Municipal workers tear down Booker's lawn signs and paint over his billboards. (No conspiracy theory -- this is actually documented on camera.) One night someone breaks into Booker's headquarters and steals campaign research. And James' security staff regularly harass the filmmakers, even at public events, grabbing their cameras, demanding that they hand over tapes, kicking them off the public sidewalk. Meanwhile, James is going around telling reporters that the black, Protestant, Democrat Booker is white, Jewish and Republican, evidently intending each of these as a slur.

Beyond Booker's infectious, optimistic rhetoric, the film doesn't focus much on issues -- it's a movie about a campaign, so in some sense it is bound to be what Matt Weir calls horserace journalism. But for a follow-up on Booker's policies, we can turn to this NYT profile of his first 100 days. Or this story about Sharpe James' crooked land deals...

Then I felt just like a fiend / It wasn't even close to Halloween



PS ... Google News informs me that Bushwick Bill now does Christian hip-hop...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Harold Ford saying the right things

Presumably you have seen the Republicans' race-baiting ad about Harold Ford by now. The RNC's grasping-at-straws justification for hiring a blonde bimbo to say "I met Harold at the Playboy party" is that Ford once attended a Super Bowl party in Jacksonville, Fla., that Playboy sponsored.

Appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher last night, Ford gave the correct political answer to the ad:
I like football and I like girls. That goes over pretty well in Tennessee.
And now a bit of googling reveals that he has been saying it to other folks too. It's a good line, hopefully he will keep saying it whenever the subject comes up, which presumably will be less and less this last week.

Rich Lowry seems to believe that saying "I like football and girls" somehow harms Ford by running counter to his "pious image." I doubt it. Playing against type as a culturally conservative "Tennessee Democrat" has been Ford's strategy for the entire campaign. If he can spin RNC race-baiting into evidence that he's just a good ol' boy, I'd say there's hope.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Election

It is a wave election, and it's gratifying to feel Bush's power start to ebb. The House is sewed up for the Democrats. But right now if I'm honest, I am not sure I see Dems taking the Senate.
  • In Tennessee, Republican Bob Corker's negative ads are apparently working: he seems to be ahead, if only by a little and still always within the margin of error.

  • George Allen is ruined for a presidential run, which is a nice, and Democrat Jim Webb is running close and ahead in at least one new poll. But I'm not sure he's actually winning.

  • Missouri is awfully tight.
If none of these races swing the right way, Democrats could win in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Montana and New Jersey and still not gain control of the Senate.

Some of those victories are going to be particularly gratifying, like Ohio and Pennsylvania. And you never know, Ford could pull it off, or McCaskill. It's a wave election. A lot can still happen.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I want you on the phone, but I also want you blogging

Hold my calls, I am blogging... (h/t TNR)
My election story on the youth vote, which I have been calling my "Will they vote?" story, picked up by the Chicago Defender...

Obama's 50 State Strategy

Sez Newsweek's Jonathan Alter in a post about the obligatory Hillary-angle to Obama's announcement that he's considering '08:
To make matters even tougher for any other Democrat, an Obama adviser told me that if he runs, he would launch a huge voter registration drive in the South. The aim would be to so expand black registration that Southern states would no longer be gimmees for the GOP. At a minimum, it would pin down Republicans defending their base in the South. The little-known clincher is that Obama has personal experience in voter registration. Before entering the state Senate in 1996, he ran a registration drive that registered more than 100,000 new black voters in Chicago alone.
Our next president...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Rolling Stone's "10 Worst Congressmen"...Denny Hastert is #1...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The weekend is a time to make lists

Things the right and left can agree on, British comedians edition: Conservative pundit John Podhoretz thinks Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is "one of the four or five funniest movies ever made." Atrios agrees! It's a bipartisan love-fest!

...And as long as we are on the subject, what are the four or five funniest movies ever made?

Here's a list, you know, for fun. Note that "funniest movie ever made" is not the same thing as "best comedy" and off we go:

10. Tommy Boy
9. Anchorman
8. The Big Lebowski
7. Modern Times
6. Young Frankenstein
5. Groundhog Day
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
3. Best in Show
2. Office Space
1. The Jerk

Now obviously the whole fun of lists is arguing about them. What movie am I crazy to think is funny? Who am I unjustly leaving out? Topic: Funniest movies ever. Discuss.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

David Simon for president

Would you believe that I saw David Simon speak last week and haven't said anything about it here yet? This is unacceptable and cannot continue.

Simon is of course the creator of The Wire and thus the inventor of a genre Slate called the "urban procedural." He gave a Q&A at Northwestern's Block Cinema.

Simon talked about the big themes of The Wire, especially its persistent theme of the failure of institutions. "I live in the America of Enron and the Catholic Church," he said, putting the point succinctly. Of course, he could as easily have named nearly any municipal government, police force or school system. "Too many institutions are invested in doing the wrong thing in this country," he said.

Simon's hyper-pessimism ("Every day human beings are worth less") doesn't necessarily extend to individuals or to families, and it certainly is not applied to his characters, all of whom are rendered with empathy. The Wire and his other work is about the individuals trapped by large social forces outside their control.

Someone asked a question about Simon's close work with drug addicts and struggled for the PC term, settling on "dope fiend" "for lack of a better word."

"Dope fiend is the better word," Simon said. "Junkie is considered perjorative. 'Dope fiend' is sort of speaking to the religion of it."

An anecdote: Before he began the series, Simon had lunch with the mayor of Baltimore and told him what the show was about and how it would come at the city's problems. After the first season completed, Simon's permits to film season two were delayed and delayed. When he called the mayor's office, he said he was yelled at for 45 minutes about the show's content.

So Simon told Mayor Martin O'Malley that if he wouldn't grant the show's permits, he would film it in Philadelphia instead.

"He said, 'If you move it to Philly, would it be about Philly?'" Simon said. "I told him, no, we were pretty much locked in to Baltimore. We have not had a conversation since then. But the city has also been extremely professional since then, and every permit has been granted on time." Well, that is something...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Feds bust Cicero cops

Here is my story from yesterday about three Cicero police officers arrested by FBI agents on charges they beat, pistol-whipped and planted evidence on innocent people...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Great graphic of numbers from like 50 key House races...
Tough kid. Literally caught a bullet with his teeth.
Things the right and left can agree on, foreign governments edition: Vladimir Putin is an anti-democratic authoritarian and no ally of ours. I don't often find common ground with the Weekly Standard, but on this they are dead right...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Nepotism vs. Intolerance: tie game

The Tribune's top headline today is that Stroger and Peraica are in a statistical dead heat in the race for Cook County Board President. Allow the Trib a moment to gloat: with its new poll, it is increasingly clear that the Sun-Times poll showing Stroger with a 33 point lead was either a dramatic outlier or an embarrassing mismeasurement.

Liberals may be personally troubled by Peraica's social conservatism, but it is unlikely to substantively impact county policies. We should be much more troubled by the Democratic machine politics that installed a candidate as transparently corrupt and incompetent as Todd Stroger. (Think I exaggerate? Listen to this interview with Stroger on Chicago Public Radio's Eight Forty-Eight--he cannot answer one question put to him by host Steve Edwards.)

The real story here is that Mayor Daley wants a weak County Board President so that he can control the board through his brother, John Daley, who is the chair of the county's finance committee. It is not much more complicated than that.

That's why I am crossing party lines and voting for Peraica. As AMillionMonkeys commenter Carl Nyberg wrote, "If Peraica isn't great, we replace him in four years. But if Stroger gets in, we could be stuck with the guy for 30-40 years." That is not an outcome Chicago can afford.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why is this man smiling?

In the Washington Post today Michael Abramowitz opens his pre-election piece "White House Upbeat About GOP Prospects" this way:
Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove.
The whole piece is interesting and features info about Bush's election season and quotes from a number of anonymous panicky GOP sources.

But why the inexplicable confidence? As I see it, Bush and Rove could be a.) living in a bubble, b.) bluffing, or c.) privy to information the rest of us aren't, up to and including knowledge of/participation in election-fixing conspiracies.

I think b.) is most plausible, but I am not ruling anything out. And I am taking other people's theories. What do you think?

P.S. ... If true, this would tend to support a.)...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Make it stop

In a rare harmonic convergence of AMillionMonkeys enemies, Mayor Daley has declared today "Diddy Day."
Rezko not in court today, granted extension and will supposedly show up next week...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Same Rezko story, as it appeared in the Chi-Town Daily News...

And the politics of

Sun-Times on Rezko political fallout:
"It's just not big enough to turn the tide, it seems to me," said John S. Jackson, a political science professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. "An indictment against the governor from the feds would turn the tide, make it an even-Steven race. But the indictment of an associate? It's just not clear to me that it's in the same league."
I am inclined to agree; Topinka is behind by ten points and has been flogging the governor for corruption for the entire campaign. This indictment isn't the first and won't be the last to come out of the Blagojevich administration, but unless/until the man himself is indicted it probably isn't enough to put Topinka over the top.

PS ... Also, look at these ABCs of the Rezko indictment, identifying every one of the unnamed individuals in the document...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rezko postgame

Here is the story I wrote with my colleague Krystin E. Kasak about today's Rezko indictment.

Here are the pros' stories, not that you will be needing them.

The indictment says Blagojevich cronies Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine conspired to extort almost $5 million from six investment banks in two months, kind of a stunning figure I think. To one client, they offered a choice: in exchange for a $220 million allocation of investment funds, the firm could give them either $2 million cash or the low low price of a $1.5 million campaign contribution. This contribution would be offered to a mysterious figure called in the indictment "a certain political official."

A reporter, not me, asked Patrick Fitzgerald if the government called him that because "we are all certain who that public official is?"

"Good line, but I'm not going to comment on that," Fitzgerald said.

An additional bit of intrigue is that Rezko, who is originally from Syria, is apparently traveling outside of the U.S. His arraignment is scheduled for this Friday afternoon, and almost certainly he will show up. But when last heard from he was "between London and the Middle East." So you never know. But that we will find out on Friday at 1:30pm.

Rezko indicted

Big breaking news: Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko indicted. I'm going to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference in another hour and half, will report back later...
My story about the sentencing of one of George Ryan's former aides got picked up by the Northwest Indiana Times.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kos, realist

Necessary dose of skepticism and don't-count-chickens-before-they-hatchism from Kos of all people.

Maybe someone who reads DailyKos can answer this question for me: What are the netroots supposed to do when Lieberman wins in Connecticut? Will it be considered a failure of will or a political miscalculation or what? Or will it just get papered over...

UPDATE -- I should mention that I don't like Lieberman any more than you do. I am sad that he is almost certainly going to win. At least he's promised to caucus with Democrats.

SECOND UPDATE -- Obviously if everything else falls into place on Nov. 7, it will hardly matter...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Here is a picture of our hollow earth

R.I.P. Anna Politkovskaya

Did Vladimir Putin kill Anna Politkovskaya? The Russian president was far from the only enemy of the slain investigative journalist, who wrote about human rights abuses in Chechnya. But he was her most powerful enemy.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Haahnster breaks down the latest radio ad by this guy, a Republican candidate for Illinois Rep. from Canton, and its fear-mongering/shameless pandering/veiled racism.
In fact, take a look through the key races at the bottom of Slate's scorecard and Dems are up all over the place... Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island... PS: Still a lot that can happen in four weeks, of course...

Friday, October 06, 2006

And look, George Allen has fallen to a dead heat with Jim Webb, with the two tied at 43 percent in a new poll.
Scalia isn't racist, but boy this shit is racist. "Paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee," wouldn't you know... UPDATE -- And here is why...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Liberal Media Watch...

Today there was an anti-Bush/anti-war protest in the Federal Plaza, which is across the street from the courthouse where I was covering the sentencing of Scott Fawell, George Ryan's former chief of staff. A locally famous TV reporter with carefully manicured hair was there, and I overheard him say to another reporter:
I wonder if the nutcases are out yet for their protest. As one of our employees said, this means there will be no one working at Starbucks today.
Guess he thinks the war is going just peachy...

Scalia

I don't know, is this really so bad? He isn't saying all Mexicans are drunks, he's saying that the concept of "supervised release" doesn't make sense without a supervisor. Right? Or no?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

City that Cheats Watch...

Up at Chi-Town Daily News, my story on the guilty plea of a landscaping company CEO who bribed a city official to get contracts to do landscaping at Millennium Park.

My favorite part is when he sends her and her family to a Wisconsin Dells resort called the Copa Cabana and she comes back and says "The Copa Cabana didn't really work out" and demands he send her on another, better vacation.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What the hell is Mayor Daley talking about?

From the Sun-Times:
"If you took the impropriety of every congressman and senator in Washington D.C. [as an excuse to demand resignations], I don’t think anybody would be left.

... I’ve known Denny Hastert personally and publicly for a long time. He’s been a great public servant, a great speaker of the House. He really has. He’s been very fair to the city of Chicago, which he didn’t have to. This idea of asking everyone to resign -- there would be no one left in Congress. They’d better be careful.
But of course no one's asking everyone to resign--just Denny Hastert, and that for quite a specific reason, viz. covering up his knowledge of Rep. Mark Foley's thing for Congressional pages.

It will not shock Chicagoans to learn that the mayor has a very high bar for which "improprieties" are worthy of resignation. And he did apparently leave himself a little wiggle-room, saying "I don’t know all the particulars." Still, it says something about Daley that his first instinct is to brush off any charges and to demean the very concept of accountability...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Do not hold breath for SCOTUS podcast tho

Check this shit out: podcasts of oral arguments at the 7th District court... Suitable for jogging or riding the train... I recommend case number 06-1362, which is the DNA database one we talked about, USA v. Hook. Listen from about 7:27 to about 9:00 to hear it get bloody between Judge Posner and Hook's lawyer.

Baker out, McPhail out, baseball season over, wait 'til next year

Here you can download the radio piece that the illustrious Laura Kwerel, the [UPDATE -- in]imitable Nick Taborek and I produced for Chicago Public Radio about the last Cubs game of the season. It aired today but I can't find it on WBEZ's Web site yet...