Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rich Miller's commenters debate the question: Tribune or Sun-Times?

I'm surprised at how much love the Trib is getting. I don't get much of my national or international news from either paper, so that is not a big factor to me. And the Sun-Times is often better on Chicago politics.

School is interfering with my blogging

And that is a sad state of affairs. But in my class right now we are heavy into finishing our final project work. Blogging around here has been light and will probably be super-light for the next few days.

I know, I know, my priorities are all mixed up. But it's only temporary! In a few short weeks I will graduate and after that I plan never to see the inside of a schoolhouse again. Then it will be a 24-7 blogfest extravaganza, you'll see...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

Duckworth wants another go?

Tammy Duckworth wants to take another run at that 6th District seat:
In 2008, Duckworth's turnout could be boosted by powerful coattails: Sen. Dick Durbin, who first persuaded Duckworth to run, will be leading the state ballot, and White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama will either be the presidential or vice presidential nominee or campaigning on behalf of the national ticket. In addition, Roskam would be running without the fund-raising juice of the House speaker, who in 2006 was Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
(via SCAM) Makes sense, they do say the first reelection cycle is the hardest in the House, and I can't imagine Roskam's pro-war positions are going to look better in '08.

Last time around Duckworth endured a barrage of negative ads from Roskam that accused her of favoring "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. That issue isn't going anywhere, either, but there I doubt things are changing in a way that benefits Duckworth. If she wants to run in '08, she should start making critical statements about the current immigration bill, probably sooner rather than later.

The Kyl-Kennedy bill is bad policy because it allows way too many guest workers. Guest workers depress overall wages on the labor market, so the law would be bad for working people. And because there is no path to citizenship, the guest workers would be basically indentured servants -- not much better off, really, than they are now as illegal immigrants. What's to like? If Duckworth were to speak out against it, she'd be arguing on the side of the angels and she'd be inoculating herself politically for next year. Something to look for.


Funny thing how once you get started making political opposition illegal, you find you can't stop. No sooner does Venezuela's Hugo Chavez shut down one opposition TV network than he finds another one he'd like to shut down, too. But I'm sure after he shuts down these two he'll be good and won't go any further.

Lots of things aren't slippery slopes. But some things are.

Tom Mannis, hardest-working blogger in America's fifth-bloggiest neighborhood, has much much more.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mark Silva flacks for McCain

Shouldn't Mark Silva of the Tribune's blog "The Swamp" add a correction or update to this post about the spelling of the word "flack"? Silva wrote:
You know the campaign is heating up when Sen. John McCain of Arizona takes a full-bore shot at Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois -- "two years in the U.S. Senate" -- for misspelling flak jacket.
But "flack" jacket is considered a variant spelling, not a misspelling. Silva's commenters have pointed this out -- jj makes the point that the dictionary says so and tf shows that even the military spells it that way sometimes. Tom J points to this summary of coverage.

McCain's little jab at Obama is factually incorrect, and so is Silva's lede. The evidence has been given to him by readers. Why doesn't he fix it?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Obama's memory

"If we can't trust you to remember which magazine you read in Indonesia when you were nine, how can we possibly ever trust you to protect our country?"

Beach Boys/Brian Wilson youtubes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

R. Kelly, "Blow It Up"

Feat. Young Dro & Young Jeezy
Best headline award.
Julianne Shepherd on R. Kelly:
The photo sent around by his PR to accompany "Rise Up", a charity song for victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre, features Kells passionately perched at a piano-- wearing a shirt depicting a photo of himself. On Double Up and beyond, it's like his mind is a house of mirrors-- but unlike other super-musicians whose looking glasses have begun reflecting only themselves ( i.e., his former collaborator Jay-Z and that flatlined last album), Kells' are portals to other worlds, or bombastic interpretations of his own.
Well put, random person in a Seekonk, Mass., store.
Cheney is afraid Bush doesn't want war with Iran badly enough. He's had his people plan an "end run strategy" to go around President Bush by getting Israel "at some key moment" to launch missile strikes against Iran. Who is comfortable with this method of running our foreign policy?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The end of homelessness

Un artículo muy interesante en el sitio web con el nombre "Can Chicago End Homelessness?":
When Daley first announced the plan back in January of 2003, it seemed laudable enough, if unrealistic: to ensure that by 2012, not a single man, woman or child will be left abandoned on the city streets. No more nightly shelters that have been a staple across the country. Less transitional housing that merely puts a band-aid on addictions, psychological disorders or financial disarray. No more overcrowded shelters. No more inundated health clinics. ...

At almost the midway point of his timetable, however, many observers say Daley's plan is a pretty vision -- of a city dressed up with flowers and new parks and without a man or woman or kid in need -- but lacks a workable way to fulfill it.
Los autores de el artículo excelente son Eric Ferkenhoff, un profesor a Medill, y Matthew Bigelow, un compañero de clase de mí y mí amigo. ¡Muy bien historia, hombres!

P.S. ... How does Mayor Daley come off to you in this story? Readers of this blog will know that I do not care for hizzoner's style of governing, but I am of two minds on his "end homelessness in 10 years" initiative. It's a big goal, and there is something to be said for a strong position like that. Like most things in Daley-world, it has been implemented somewhat ham-handedly (see Matt's and Ferk's story), but it's not clear to me that it's being done cynically, and there is a difference.

Anyway, take a look at the story, then come back here and comment because I am interested to hear other people's reactions. Daley's end-homelessness initiative: well-intentioned good government or cynical political pageantry? Or something in between?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Political disappointments abound this week. Democrats in Congress couldn't find enough support to pass an appropriations bill with a timetable for Iraq withdrawal. Monica Goodling's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was oddly uncompelling. (She got immunity for this? Where's Rove?) And today Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced that he doesn't have the votes to pass HB750.

So it looks like the state of Illinois will try to solve its fiscal problems through expanded gambling. This is certainly not the worst option on the table, but it is far from the best. It's a de facto tax on the poor, and it's one of those politically expedient revenue-generators that keep politicians from ever getting anything real done.

Yep, it's been a tough week. If it weren't for the news about Patrick Fitzgerald's subpoenas of Blagojevich campaign records, there would be nothing at all to smile about...

Al Gore blames Britney

Jack Shafer:
In condemning Britney-obsessed reporters and readers, Gore takes the easy route. If he possessed any real courage in his conviction that news coverage of the frivolous blocks the discussion of serious "issues," he'd attack sports coverage. Sports capture a billion times the attention that celebrities do and probably swallow 20 percent of the news budget of dailies. The reason Gore gives sports coverage a bye while castigating Britney coverage is simple: Sports fans talk back -- loudly -- and folks who crave entertainment-news coverage are too embarrassed to defend their innocent diversion.
But I think the problem here is that it isn't really a zero-sum game, this business of "frivolous" vs. "serious" news. Obviously there are all sorts of media covering all sorts of things, and why not? There's no contradiction in being simultaneously interested in Monica Goodling, Iraq, Cubs scores and American Idol. They're all interesting!

Mostly, when people make the argument that pop culture is shallow or there's too much talk about Britney Spears or whatever, what they're really asserting is that it's vulgar to discuss such things, in the old blueblood sense. (And yes you betcha that's what most anti-rap screeds are saying.) But it amounts to a call to keep people from being interested in interesting things. And that is silly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More R. Kelly goodness, this one with a Kanye West beat...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Is Arlen Specter helping?

Will Alberto Gonzales resign before the Senate takes a vote of no confidence in him? And does Sen. Arlen Specter's pronouncement of that possibility on Face the Nation make it more or less likely to happen?

I'd say less. Look, the walls are closing in on Fredo, no doubt. But at the same time, some of the Republican senators who have called for Gonzales to step down (Tom Coburn, Lindsey Graham) now seem to be saying they won't vote no-confidence in him. How they square that circle, I have no idea, but that's what they are saying.

The no-confidence vote can't have its desired effect -- getting rid of Gonzales -- without a big bipartisan margin. No doubt there are a lot of Republicans who would prefer Gonzales just went away rather stick around and force them to record a vote for or against him. But right now some are waivering about which way they'd actually vote. To my ears it sounds like Specter is overplaying his hand.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

These are for Keith

"Umbrella" by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z ...


"I'm a Flirt" by R. Kelly feat. T-Pain and T.I. ...

Also: New Beastie Boys songs!

Obama haiku

Haahnster left this original haiku in comments here, but it is worth pulling out:
Barack needs a pet
Obama, ride a llama
Victory is yours
Pretty much says it all.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dear Keith Richards: Please stop sharing your opinions about genres of music. You are too old. Sincerely, Rob Mentzer

P.S. ... "The rhythms are boring; they're all done on computers." What a joke. What does the first part of that sentence have to do with the second?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Holdout juror keeps Luna from what now?

In its paper edition (on the online story page too), the Tribune's top headline today is:
1 vote saves Luna's life
Pretty good hed! Dramatic!

But isn't there a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois? And isn't there not much chance that it will be reinstated any time soon? So it's really much closer to the truth to say that one holdout juror spared Luna from receiving a meaningless death sentence that wouldn't ever have been carried out anyway? Sort of sucks the drama out of that headline, I know, but there you are.

No confidence in Fredo

Boy if 10 Republican senators have already publicly called for Alberto Gonzales to resign, I'd expect even more than that would end up voting no confidence in Gonzales as AG if it came to a vote.

Having specifically offended Sen. Ben Nelson and other conservative Democrats, would Gonzales get the vote of even one Dem in the Senate? (Lieberman? Where's Lieberman on Gonzales these days?)

So how damaging would a lopsided no-confidence vote in Gonzales be to the White House? It'd be nonbinding, but it would sure look pretty bad. Bush's choices for dealing with it would be a.) make Gonzales resign before the vote can happen, b.) have Gonzales step down after the vote, or c.) attack the vote itself as irrelevant Congressional overreach, hope no one cares enough to follow up on it. Isn't a.) the obvious best choice, or is this just wishful thinking on my part?

UPDATE [5/18 8:57pm] ... White House says the no confidence vote comes from the
bottomless bag of tricks that Democrats in the Senate would like to pull out on a weekly basis, regarding the Attorney General.
Looks like they're going with option c.). For now!
Austin Mayor: There is a God!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I don't like that Obama doesn't have any pets. It's not the biggest deal ever, I acknowledge, but if I were advising him I'd say he should think about getting a kitten.

Not for political reasons, though. I just like kittens.

(via The Plank)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm traveling today and most of tomorrow -- I'm back in Holland, Mich. doing school-related tasks -- but I'll be back to posting tomorrow night probably.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

James Comey's action-packed testimony about the Bush DOJ

What drama! In 2004, the White House sent Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andy Card to Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bed to try to pressure Ashcroft into signing off on an illegal surveillance program.

The deputy AG, James Comey, raced to the hospital to head off the visit by Gonzales and Card, arriving minutes before they did. He found Ashcroft groggy and ill. Gonzales, then White House counsel, tried to get Ashcroft to sign, but Ashcroft wouldn't. Gonzales and Card, not acknowledging Comey's presence in the room, stomped out, and then Card called Comey for an immediate meeting at the White House.

Who does this? It was Ashcroft's judgment that the program was illegal, and as attorney general it was his call to make. Comey was acting AG while Ashcroft was in the hospital, so Comey was a.) correctly articulating his boss's policy, and b.) acting lawfully under his own authority. President Bush's response was to send his people around to John Ashcroft's hospital bed, hoping they can pressure/trick him into changing his mind? This seems a lot closer to Tony Soprano's management style than a president's.

It's a great story, or as Dahlia Lithwick said a "whomping good yarn." I linked to NPR above because I think it helps to hear bits of Comey's testimony. Other good accounts here and here and in many other places no doubt; YouTube clip here.

We already know the White House believes that the "unitary executive theory" exempts the president from the rule of law. But the other take-home lesson of Comey's testimony is that the administration doesn't have a plan. The administration just says the president has unlimited authority, and uses intimidation and dissembling to get to anyone who says otherwise.
Helpful guide to what to expect in tonight's Republican debate...

Blagojevich is not Columbo

Zorn's wishful thinking on the governor:
My hope, and I admit it's farfetched, is that Blagojevich knows exactly what he's doing. He's merely been acting the part of a stubborn, arrogant, tone-deaf governor in order to serve as a rodeo clown -- the comical distraction that offers safety for the cowboy of sensible tax reform in Illinois. ...

[W]ittingly or not, Blagojevich has given great cover to backers of alternative plans including income tax hikes: Next to him, they now look like cautious, reasonable, flexible, job-friendly, fair-minded and brave Solons who know a good tax from a bad tax.
(Original emphasis.) He's right, this theory is far-fetched -- based on what we know of Blagojevich, it's really, really, really far-fetched. But I am with Zorn in seeing a possible positive outcome to the governor's terrible tax proposal.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The governor and I, we may have our disagreements, but still I have to admire his dedication to Chicago sports. (Courtesy Andy Plonka's Daley Show)

Sunday, May 13, 2007


A regular habit of the show's writers is to make small, mean jokes about how uncultured or uneducated its characters are. In tonight's episode Tony tells Dr. Melfi he is "prostate with grief." This is a symptom of the Sopranos' overall problem of being too clever and sort of too cool for itself sometimes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Illinois Rep. John Fritchey blogs that Blagojevich's statements to media are straight out of the "'How Not to Build Support' playbook." Yes, exactly!

P.S. ... The assumption behind the Blagojevich-wants-GRT-to-fail theory is that the governor thinks he benefits politically if he can blame the bill's failure on the legislature. With zero support from anyone, that becomes quite a difficult trick to pull off. And yet the governor shows no sign of changing course. Does this undermine the kabuki theory or does it just indicate the depths of Blago's delusions? You decide!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vrdolyak indicted.

UPDATE ... Read the full indictment here [pdf]. I won't be able to dig into this until later tonight probably, but I'll post something then.

UPDATE [5/10 11:21pm]... The indictment is all about Vrdolyak's scheme with Stuart Levine to funnel money from Chicago Medical School in the form of $15 million real estate deals. Sweetheart contracts, under-the-table payments, kickbacks all around. By now we all sort of know the drill.

Most of the details in the indictment are things Stuart Levine has already pled guilty to, and the criminal enterprise described is getting awfully familiar. It goes like this:

1.) Levine gets appointed to this or that board of directors
2.) He immediately begins steering contracts or deals or stuff to his politically connected friends -- Robert Kjellander, Tony Rezko, Fast Eddie Vrdolyak. These friends either receive contracts directly (Rezko) or give them to a friendly company (Vrdolyak) which then
3.) Kicks back a few million here and there to Levine and other co-conspirators as necessary.

And everybody's happy. But then Levine finds himself indicted by Patrick Fitzgerald. He eventually pleads guilty to federal charges, and he becomes a cooperating witness. Before the indictments go public, he even wears a wire! And he turns out to be connected to all sorts of schemes and frauds involving powerful people in Illinois.

Vrdolyak is a political figure, of course -- an infamous one -- but in this indictment he's really just a corrupt lawyer. One part of the story that isn't here is the public component of Levine's schemes. In order to keep himself appointed to the right boards, Levine had a step four, which was:

4.) Write fat checks to politicians all the time. Be a part of the state's political establishment.

If you were looking, there's the Blagojevich angle! It's not in this indictment, but let's remember that Levine worked directly with Gov. Blagojevich a lot. The governor is already "a certain public official" in one of Fitzgerald's indictments against Rezko and Levine. And if Levine spilled on Rezko and Vrdolyak, he definitely spilled on Blagojevich, too.

Back to the subject at hand. Truthfully, this indictment feels like one misdeed out of a probable kajillion that could eventually have caught up to Vrdolyak. But then it only takes one.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Re: Giuliani: How do you think this will go?
Sounds like the governor's tax plan went over like gangbusters. As expected.

UPDATE [5/9 10:13pm] ... I see my old friend Lou Lang (and by "old friend" I mean "I interviewed him one time") got a good reaction in today's hearing:
Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) drew applause from his colleagues when he asked the governor why he wouldn't consider other alternatives.

"You say you're here in the spirit of compromise," said Lang, who supports expanding gambling to raise money. "How can we compromise with you if there's only one thing left on the table?"
It's almost enough to make you wonder if Blagojevich wants the GRT to fail...

More Giuliani and the right

The Washington Post front-pager today titled "Conservatives step up attacks on Giuliani's abortion stance" shows about what you'd expect: Giuliani's Republican rivals opportunistically exploiting his pro-choice views for political gain in their party's primaries. That's no surprise since Republican primary voters are overwhelmingly pro-life.

But wasn't it just a couple short months ago that Roger Simon, chief political columnist to the Politico, was explaining that "there isn't a candidate who profits from raising [the issue of Rudy's social liberalism]"? What became of that theory, I wonder?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm feeling a Lil Boosie

My man Levois of the It's My Mind blog comes through with the excellent rap recommendation. Out of Baton Rouge, La., it's Lil Boosie.

Of interest to fellow Houston rap devotees: Boosie is signed to Trill Entertainment, Pimp C of UGK's label.
Zorn on Blagojevich's GRT proposal: It is a matter of whether you trust the governor or not. Put that way, it seems really, really impossible to accept, no?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Justice Dept.: We "will not stand in the way" of an immunity deal for Monica Goodling. (Discussed here and here.)

Brownback's with Biden

Brownback signs on to the Biden plan to federalize Iraq. Q. How will Republican primary voters respond? A. Probably by saying, "Now which one is Brownback again?"

P.S. ... In the article above, politics guru Larry Sabato tells McClatchy the exact same thing he told me when I asked a similar Brownback-and-Iraq-related question back in early February. All Republican candidates, Sabato says,
have to stick with Bush but leave enough daylight so that if somehow they get the nomination they'll have a prayer of winning in November.
Presumably this is why Brownback has been so half-hearted about distancing himself from Bush policies, even those, like the troop surge, that he's on record opposing.

Republican debate

I'd say this about sums it up...

(from Real Time with Bill Maher)
Much as it pains me to agree with the Tribune editorial board, the proposals of this teachers group to incorporate performance into the way teachers are paid seem pretty sound. Simple seniority-based pay maybe works for post office employees, but who would argue that it makes sense in the public schools?...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Fred Thompson loves Mein Kampf: The proof is in the screencaps!


"Take a look. Take a very long and very hard look."
Back in 1988, Fred Thompson played a neo-Nazi leader on TV. Yesterday's L.A. Times story by Tina Daunt dared to ask the question: "Will Fred Thompson's racist role have political repercussions?"

The answer: Probably not! But Daunt's story left out the most important part, which is of course the images themselves. Now, for the first time anywhere, we've obtained screen captures from "School of Hard Knox," the episode of Wiseguy that featured GOP presidential hopeful Fred Thompson as a white supremacist leader.

"His politics are just to the right of Genghis Khan."

"Accept a belief in our divinely ordered superiority as a people!"

"This is a gift."

"It's a first printing, and it's signed by the Fuhrer."

"Only you would have the sensitivity to know what this would mean to me. ... Thank you for being the solid rock on which our sacred movement stands."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Giuliani endorses adultery. Seriously.
David Byrne talks to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin about art and the brain.

(via Bookslut)

UPDATE ... Link fixed.
Still more of the broad-based support for Blagojevich's GRT plan...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Today Steve Rhodes actually writes the script (scroll down to "Ad Preview") for a suggested RNC attack ad against Obama. This marks a new level of straightforwardness about his interests...

P.S. ... I am not accusing Rhodes of working of the RNC. But at least he's honest here about his overriding interest in the 2008 presidential campaign, which is to root against Obama. Rhodes is like the Jay Mariotti of Chicago politics!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I know just the guy

Balkinization reacts to the complications in Monica Goodling's immunity deal:
So let's get this straight: It is up to the DOJ to decide whether Congress will be able to give immunity to Ms. Goodling. Whom, if anyone, would "we" trust in the current DOJ to make that decision? ...

Isn't it clear that an independent prosecutor should be appointed (but by whom and under what authority) since everyone in the DOJ is hopelessly conflicted out?
Hey, how about Patrick Fitzgerald?
Why didn't one of you Pitchfork-readers tell me about this Julianne Shepherd column on the new Lil Wayne?

Romney not a reader

Mitt Romney's favorite novel is Battlefield Earth:
His favorite novel.