Monthly Archives: December 2008

Coming January 20th: Mysteriously Wonderful Things

Victor Davis Hanson describes the Orwellian attitude makeover we will undergo after January 20th:

By July, we will come to feel that 2009 will be one of the most upbeat years in our history, as what used to be the news media… begins to get behind America and report on all the mysteriously wonderful things that are suddenly taking place.

All the campaign talk of the Great Depression, a Vietnam-like war, and our shredded Constitution will now thankfully subside as the Obama administration assumes office and solves problems with conciliation, dialogue, and multilateral wisdom, rather than shrillness, unilateralism, preemption, and my-way-or-the-highway dogmatism. We will hear that, by historical levels, unemployment is still not that bad, that GDP growth is not historically all that low, and that deficits, inflation, interest rates, and housing starts are all within manageable parameters. “Depression” will transmogrify into “recession” which in turn by July will be a “downturn” and by year next an “upswing” on its way to boom times.

Indeed, almost supernaturally crises will be solved with the departure of the hated Bush: no more flooding streets from cracked water mains that were a result of a President’s neglect of infrastructure, and no more spontaneous crashes of Mississippi River bridges due to diversions of critical federal aid from cash-strapped states to Iraq. And when the temperatures rise or drop, the wind howls, the clouds burst forth or go away, the snow melts or piles up, it will be, well, nature that caused the havoc, not the current occupant of the White House who failed to sign Kyoto.

As we watch the innocent die from natural mayhem, it will be due to the breakdown of local responders who now suddenly kill people, not federal inaction–except perhaps for an occasional few Bush federal holdovers that have not yet been rooted out. Human nature, of course, now will be seen more culpable, more selfish, as in needlessly resisting wise and caring federal interventions, rather than being inherently noble but shunned by an uncaring Washington. Yes, when dikes collapse and planes collide on crowed runways, it will be due to a cruel and unpredictable nature, or intrinsic design flaws, or improper local use and maintenance, or the past President’s nefarious legacy, not current government policies. (But if you still must bash the government, it will be wise to do it in 1950s style of inattentive state and local officials, prone to regional and tribal prejudices, blocking the infinite wisdom of a caring federal government.)

Some military action abroad could be necessary–and necessarily reported on as measured and reluctant, rather than cowboyish and gratuitous. European whining will be a result of miscommunications or the Euros’ unfair caricatures of Americans, not Bush’s alienation of allies. If radical Islam strikes, it will be, well, radical again and sometimes even dangerous, not a figment of neocon pipe dreams. If an administration official quits, goes on 60 Minutes, and writes a nasty tell-all book about Obama’s insensitivity and his government’s directionless ennui, he will be a heretic, a whiner, a turncoat, not a truth teller or brave maverick who blew the whistle in need of a bestseller hyped from NPR to the New York Times. We will come again to hate the filibuster, obstructionist Congressional policies, and the occasional loud-mouthed Senator who voices slurs against our nation in unpatriotic fashion.

Those around Barack Obama understand that precisely those measures most derided during the campaign–wiretaps, the interrogation of prisoners in Guantanamo, the decimation of al Qaida members in Iraq and Afghanistan, overseas detentions–probably account likewise most for the absence of another 9/11-like attack. In other words, as the Obamians privately ignore the media hype about flushed Korans and hundreds of innocents caught in the cauldron of war and unfairly detained, and instead examine the sort of killers who are presently in Guantanamo, the type of intelligence gathering that led to prevention of dozens of planned attacks since 9/11, and those who turned up and were killed or arrested in Iraq and Afghanistan, they will realize how dicey it will be to follow through with campaign rhetoric about Bush, Inc. torching the Bill of Rights, fighting made-up enemies abroad, and generally alienating our allies.

So all that will change for now will be the sudden absence of shrill complaints that we live in an America without a Constitution. Static, same-old, same-old government policy will, of course, be said to have altered radically (“hoped and changed”), but it will also be refashioned in the media as “sober” and “judicious”, as the administration moves “in circumspect fashion” to probe and explore “complex” and often “paradoxical” matters of national security that “indeed at the end of the day have no easy answers”.

Expect much of the same on the economic front. For all the campaign hysteria about greedy Bushites who destroyed the economy, Obama realizes that in fact the seeds of the current financial weeds were sown years ago, and watered and fertilized by an array of both Democratic and Republican facilitators in Congress and hacks in government-affiliated mortgage sinecures. So expect the bailouts to continue. We will see Wall Street in about 24 hours after January 20 transmogrified from Gordon Gecko’s habitat into a sort of the old Robert Rubin/Warren Buffet-like necessary institution about which a Sen. Schumer or Chris Dodd can offer invaluable advice and consultation…

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The Princess

Jonah Goldberg compares the rise of the Barracuda to the anointing of the Princess:

For people who think there’s no cultural divide in this country, consider the treatment of two women much in the news in 2008.

The first is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. A woman from very humble roots and with a very blue-collar life story, she worked with her steelworker and professional-fisherman husband to provide a life for their large family. She got involved in the PTA. She became mayor of her small town, then rose, by dint of her dedication and almost naive fearlessness, to the job of governor. In a mainstream, almost romantic sense, it’s almost like she was designed by God for a Hallmark movie of the week.

But, when John McCain picked her to be his running mate, the full fury of the liberal establishment — and sizable swaths of the conservative establishment, some of whom dubbed her a “cancer” on the GOP — came down on her with a vengeance usually reserved for Klansmen and pedophiles. Don’t get me wrong: There were valid criticisms to make. But that is quite a different thing than saying all of the criticism was valid or that the intensity and volume of the criticism was warranted.

Then there’s Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, brother of John Jr., niece of Senators Ted and Robert Kennedy, granddaughter of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, and the cousin of myriad other Kennedys and Shrivers who’ve burrowed deep into the timber of the house of liberalism. A multimillionaire from birth, Ms. Kennedy has spent most of her life on the charity-benefit and cotillion circuit. A product of the Brearley School in New York and the Concord Academy in Massachusetts before she attended Harvard and Columbia, Kennedy has made the importance of public education her signature cause.

Sweet Caroline (she was the inspiration for the Neil Diamond song) recently made it known that she would like to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat.

One could say without fear of overstating things that the liberal reaction to the inexperienced Caroline has been somewhat more gracious than the reaction to the “inexperienced” Palin. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has devoted two columns in as many weeks to this “fairy tale” scenario in which Kennedy, our “tragic national princess,” is finally rewarded — for her years of quiet dignity, selflessly avoiding scandal and the paparazzi — with the Senate seat that once belonged to her uncle Bobby. What’s astounding about the normally sensible Marcus’ case for “the Cinderella Kennedy” (New York magazine’s phrase) is that she doesn’t really make one, at least not on the merits. Marcus doesn’t even bother. It’s all schoolgirl gushing.

The editors of the New York Times, in a more skeptical editorial, summarized her qualifications thusly: “Ms. Kennedy has much going for her. As a public figure, she carries the glamour and poignancy of her family …” The editors then went on to describe what great liberals her dad and uncles were. That’s it…

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Jews: Hating Their Friends and Trusting Their Enemies

Ron Radosh writes of Bush and the Jews:

…George W. Bush’s commitment to Israel and his solidarity with the world’s Jews [leads] me to reflect on a great irony. Within the United States, a high percentage of Jews, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, have been opposed to the policies of the Bush administration and bear an animus to Bush personally.

When I returned home from the [White House annual Chanukah] party, a friend had e-mailed me two statements that address this issue. The first came from the head of America’s Reform Jewish congregations, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffe, who delivered his remarks as a sermon at the Union Board Services in Tampa, Florida on December 12th. Reform Jews are as a whole the most liberal politically of all Jewish religious bodies in our country. On various issues, especially social ones, they stand firmly opposed to the Republican Party political agenda. Whether it is gay rights, stem cell research, the fight of a woman to have an abortion if they choose, and questions pertaining to civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, they stand on the liberal side.

Rabbi Yoffe’s remarks were largely a meditation on our current crisis, and the hopes that American Jews shared for the success of the coming Obama Presidency, and their desire for the new President’s success in his endeavors to serve our country. He was particularly concerned for the creation of universal health care, and he urged President-elect Obama not to put its attainment off because of the serious economic issues confronting us.

It was a surprise, therefore, to read these words of Rabbi Yoffe:

“And what of the State of Israel? When we look at Israel today, we see a strong state with a reasonably healthy economy. Much of the credit should go to President George W. Bush. He supported Israel’s security needs, provided much-needed military aid, and accepted no excuses for Palestinian terror. The President is under siege right now, but we in the Jewish community must not forget that he has been a good friend to the Jewish State and the Jewish people.”(my emphasis.)

Reform Jews who often participated in the veritable orgy of Bush hatred must have blanched as they heard these words, but it would not have come as a surprise to those Jews who knew the President.

An op-ed by Noam Neusner, a Jewish liaison for President Bush from 2002 to 2005, explained to his readers how seriously George W. Bush was in his commitment. The Jews, Neusner writes, “really do matter to him.” It is not simply a case of pandering to a constituency, one he well knows does not support him politically. “I saw his eyes well up,” Neusner writes, “while watching the Holocaust-themed movie “Paper Clips”…I know how moved he was by meeting with Soviet Jewish refuseniks, Holocaust survivors and the parents of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.” Neusner attended one meeting the President had with Jews from around the world, who now lived in America after years of torment in countries like Cuba, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other bastions of anti-Semitism. As they told him how only in this nation did they find the right to live as Jews, Bush “walked out of the meeting shaking his head, appalled by the special hatred tyrants have reserved for the Jews.”

Neusner understands well that since Bush is a Southern evangelical Republican, it is virtually impossible for him to win over the Jews, and that criticism of him for favoring policies most Jews disagree with is “fair enough.” On foreign policy, some conservative Jews feel he did not do enough to confront Iran- he should have taken military action to stop them move to obtaining nuclear weapons- while others feel he was too bellicose.

But on Israel, Neusner cannot countenance that they see “his leadership on Israel and anti-Semitism” as both “quaint and one-dimensional.” Some take it for granted. “But they should not,” he warns, “be so casual with a friend.” In fact, Neusner argues that Bush was “more Zionist than many Israelis, more mindful of Jewish history than many Jews…and we American Jews can be thankful at least for that.”

A few years ago, I heard former Mayor Ed Koch of New York accept an award at a dinner honoring Jewish leaders in Washington, DC. President Bush was present, and Koch saluted him, telling his largely liberal audience that in his eyes- and Ed Koch is anything but a conservative- that George W. Bush was as a President the best friend that Israel ever had and the President most sympathetic to Jewish concerns.

Perhaps, like Rabbi Yoffe, more Jews in America will come to understand that.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, on the other hand, speculate on what they believe will be a showdown between a leftist Obama administration and a probable Netanyahu Israeli government:

With the election of Obama, the United States has moved dramatically to the left in its foreign policy at just the time that Israel, which seems likely to return Bibi Netanyahu to office in early February, is moving to the right. A collision is almost inevitable.

Caroline Glick, the highly astute conservative columnist for the Jerusalem Post, writes that the “international community” believes that Obama “will move quickly to place massive pressure on the next Israeli government to withdraw from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the interests of advancing a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians and the Syrians.”

She notes that “people who have been in close contact with Obama’s foreign policy transition team have privately acknowledged that the widespread belief that Obama will move swiftly to put the screws on Israel is fully justified. According to one source who has spent a great deal of time with the transition team since last month’s U.S. elections, Obama’s people are ‘scope-locked’ on Israel.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, there is a growing consensus, reflected in public opinion surveys, that trading land for peace is a chimera. Netanyahu points out that “we do not have a viable partner with whom to negotiate peace.” The Palestinian Authority does not speak for the people of either Gaza or the West Bank, and Hamas, which probably does (it won the election) does not want to be a party to any peace agreement. Recent experience suggests that Hamas will quickly install rocket launchers on any territory Israel concedes, using it not as a basis for peace but as a platform from which to kill more Jews…

And then Ronald A. Cass considers the Madoff scandal in which rich liberal Jews trusted a thief, apparently, because he’s Jewish:

Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, “Was it a Jew?” My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about “affinity fraud.” The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah’s Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal that, if offered by someone without such ties, would sound too good to be true.

The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your aunt — it just doesn’t feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work.

The level of affinity and of trust may be especially high among Jews. The Holocaust and generations of anti-Semitic laws and practices around the world made reliance on other Jews, and care for them, a survival instinct. As a result, Jews are often an easy target both for fund-raising appeals and fraud. But affinity plays a role in many groups, making members more trusting of appeals within the group…

How ironic: Jews hate those who stand by them and trust those who would betray them.

A Banana State of Mind

Claudia Rossett helps us to consider the case of New York state politics as a rival to Chicago Way politics:

…Eight years ago, a Senate seat from the Banana [New York] State was won by the wife of a sitting president of the republic. That wife had never before resided in Banana State, but she bought a house there, campaigned with the aura and entourage accorded to a presidential spouse, and with one leap, winning her first elected office ever, she became a senator.

Riding a national political machine to re-election for a second term, that former first lady swiftly turned her Senate seat into a springboard for her own campaign for the presidency. She lost, but took a job in the new administration, leaving the governor of Banana State to appoint a replacement senator.

That governor was himself a replacement, due to the resignation of the elected governor, a crusading moralist caught in a prostitution scandal. As the replacement governor prepared to name a replacement senator, a former president’s daughter declared her interest in the Senate seat — which one of her uncles had won some 44 years earlier, and was using as a springboard for his own presidential run, after serving as attorney-general in his brother’s presidential administration. This former first daughter had recently worked on the campaign of the President-elect — an experience that awakened in her an appetite for politics – but she had reached the age of 51 with no direct experience of her own in public office. Nonetheless, another of her uncles, also a senator, was ready to endorse her for this leap to the Senate. So was the mayor of Big Plum (the biggest city in Banana State), who on his own turf had just succeeded in scrapping a two-term limit so he could run for a third term — which he justified as a way of offering people a broader choice (namely, himself).

That’s how it works in Banana Republics. Whatever Caroline Kennedy’s native abilities, celebrity mantle and political connections, if she thinks this is a good way for things to work in New York State, that alone is reason to worry about her qualifications for the job.

And Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn on the leftists’ radical chic fantasy that the Guantanamo “detainees” are David to the U.S. Government’s Goliath:

…In the popular mind, the 200 or so Guantanamo detainees filing for habeas corpus in federal district courts are up against the full powers of the United States government. And they are. But practically speaking, this means that 60 or so Justice Department lawyers are handling the bulk of that legal load.

Against these 60 attorneys are arrayed some of our nation’s most prestigious private firms. Last year, at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, the National Legal Aide Defender Association bestowed its “Beacon of Justice Award” on 50 law firms for their pro bono work on behalf of the detainees. These firms included WilmerHale; Jenner & Block; Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan; Paul Weiss Rifkin; Mayer Brown; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Dechert; Pepper Hamilton; Venable; Perkins Coie; Hunton & Williams; and Fulbright Jaworski. These firms in turn are joined by law professors from Stanford, Yale and Northwestern right on down to Fordham.

The imbalance was illustrated by a scene last week at the federal courthouse building in Washington, D.C. There Judge Thomas Hogan was to consider rules governing the habeas corpus petitions of the detainees. That meant half a dozen Justice Department lawyers waiting in a room packed wall-to-wall with high-priced partners — many backed up by legions of associates, outside legal experts, human-rights centers, and concerned law students.
Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted some of those responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, knows the disparity firsthand. His organization, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is one of the few filing in defense of the government. “When we file an amicus,” he says, “it goes on top of a three-inch pile. Against that is a 20-foot stack of thick amicus [briefs] written by everyone from the American Civil Liberties Union to [Yale Law School Dean] Harold Koh.”

Now, nothing against those who simply want to ensure those at Gitmo have access to a good lawyer. And if Seton Hall Law School wants to hold teach-ins featuring the poetry of these men — one of whom murdered more than a dozen people in a suicide bombing in Mosul after his release — well, that’s the school’s business. But with all these top-flight lawyers providing separate defenses for each detainee or detainee group, the good men and women at the Department of Justice might stand a little outside help…

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There Aint No Sanity Clause

Another column by the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass makes the season bright:

…Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to declare [Governor] Blagojevich “disabled.” She called on the justices—some of whom are there by grace of the Chicago machine—to remove Blagojevich, pronto.

“State government is paralyzed by a governor who is incapable of governing,” Madigan insisted. “We would look to the fact that the term ‘disability’ legally is very broad, that it is not simply isolated to a physical or mental disability.”

Incapable of what? Signing his name to bills? He can sign his name, to bills, or to a federal witness list, which would be much nicer. But they don’t want that, or another week or two of Gov. Dead Meat leading the nightly news.

After stubbornly refusing to see Chicago politics as it really is, the national media are finally paying attention. That’s great news for most everybody, except for our politicians.

Madigan’s stunt was treated as legitimate jaw-dropping news by the national networks. She declared herself “the people’s lawyer,” over and over. It has a nice ring to it, “people’s lawyer,” and I thought of one of those TV shows I would watch only on pain of death, like “Law and Order,” where the earnest attorneys make the big speech for the public good, before they cut to the Depends commercial.

What they didn’t report on the evening news is this: Lisa Madigan is more than just “the people’s lawyer.” She’s a candidate for governor and Dead Meat is in her way. Her daddy is Mike Madigan, powerful boss of the machine’s 13th Ward and speaker of the Illinois House who hates Dead Meat.

Her dad wants to make her governor. She wants to be governor. And the best way to get there is to whisk Dead Meat into a political straitjacket and lock him in the political version of a padded cell.

This business about the governor’s sanity didn’t begin when he was charged. It began during the state budget battle last summer, when Mike Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, told reporters in Springfield that the governor was a psycho.

“Let me give you a little hint: Go to a computer and Google ‘sociopath.’ In layman’s terms it lays out the traits and diagnosis of behavior that accurately fits Blagojevich,” Brown said.

That was funny. And now, Jay Leno and Dave Letterman and Conan O’Brien repeat variations of it, buttressing the Democratic mantra that what comes out of a madman’s mouth cannot be believed.

But just imagine if Dead Meat talks to the feds, or stands up on his hind legs to fight back if fellow Democrats impeach him in the Illinois legislature. The governor might actually mention a few of the legislators’ deals. Ouch.

Obama, though not personally implicated in any of this, wouldn’t like it much. The national media outlets were desperate to portray him as someone about to transcend our politics. But in Chicago he was just a smooth guy on the way up, looking the other way.

If crazy hair and strange utterances—even frightening expressions in public—are the criteria for a politician who’s been “disabled,” I wonder why the Illinois Democrats didn’t apply their standards to another guy.

Mayor Richard Daley.

Sometimes he frightens people, his hair gets wild, his eyebrows fly off his forehead, his face turns purple, his jaw juts out, like when he’s channeling his inner Mayor Chucky.

It happened a few years ago, when the Tribune revealed he gave $100 million in affirmative action contracts to white guys who were friends of his with Outfit connections. Even Obama didn’t question the mayor’s sanity then. Nor did any other Democrat who valued his or her career.

In Illinois, I guess, political mental health is just a state of mind.

And Victoria Toensing thinks obsessive-compulsive Inspector Javert, also know as Patrick Fitzgerald, ought to stop his now familiar moral grandstanding:

…In [his] Dec. 9 press conference regarding the federal corruption charges against Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Mr. Fitzgerald violated the ethical requirement of the Justice Department guidelines that prior to trial a “prosecutor shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused.” The prosecutor is permitted to “inform the public of the nature and extent” of the charges. In the vernacular of all of us who practice criminal law, that means the prosecutor may not go “beyond the four corners” — the specific facts — in the complaint or indictment. He may also provide any other public-record information, the status of the case, the names of investigators, and request assistance. But he is not permitted to make the kind of inflammatory statements Mr. Fitzgerald made during his media appearance.

…What’s more, Mr. Fitzgerald is a repeat offender. In his news conference in October 2005 announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice, he compared himself to an umpire who “gets sand thrown in his eyes.” The umpire is “trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked” his view. With this statement, Mr. Fitzgerald made us all believe he could not find the person who leaked Valerie Plame’s name as a CIA operative because of Mr. Libby. What we all now know is that Mr. Fitzgerald knew well before he ever started the investigation in January 2004 that Richard Armitage was the leaker and nothing Mr. Libby did or did not do threw sand in his eyes. In fact — since there was no crime — there was not even a game for the umpire to call.

In the Libby case, rather than suffer criticism, Mr. Fitzgerald became a media darling. And so in the Blagojevich case he returned to the microphone. Throughout the press conference about Gov. Blagojevich, Mr. Fitzgerald talked beyond the four corners of the complaint. He repeatedly characterized the conduct as “appalling.” He opined that the governor “has taken us to a new low,” while going on a “political corruption crime spree.”

Additionally, Mr. Fitzgerald violated another ethical mandate under Justice guidelines for prosecutors: He is supposed to “exercise reasonable care to prevent” law enforcement — in this case the FBI Agent — from making the same type of extrajudicial statements. Mr. Fitzgerald exercised no care.

Special Agent Rob Grant volunteered that when he arrived in Illinois four years ago, he was asked by the media whether Illinois is the “most corrupt state in the United States.” He then answered that four-year-old question claiming, “[I]t’s one hell of a competitor.” Mr. Grant did not stop there. He revealed that the FBI agents who participated in the case were “thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard.”

Well, weren’t we all? Even though the governer’s maneuvering to sell the Senate seat most likely had not yet crossed the line to become criminal behavior, it was base, sordid conduct. But those thoughts and words are for the rest of us to express before the trial. It is unethical for those who are government prosecutors to do so.

This Miasma of Malfeasance

Jonah Goldberg wonders what’s not to love about Chicago:

…There’s the enormous I-should-have-had-a-V8! moment as the mainstream press collectively thwacks itself in the forehead, realizing it blew it again. The New York Times — which, according to Wall Street analysts, is weeks from holding editorial board meetings in a refrigerator box — created the journalistic equivalent of CSI-Wasilla to study every follicle and fiber in Sarah Palin’s background, all the while treating Obama’s Chicago like one of those fairy-tale lands depicted in posters that adorn little girls’ bedroom walls. See there, Suzie? That’s a Pegasus. That’s a pink unicorn. And that’s a beautiful sunflower giving birth to a fully grown Barack Obama, the greatest president ever and the only man in history to be able to pick up manure from the clean end.

Obviously the list doesn’t end there. Blago’s hair not only appears bulletproof but seems to confirm reports that he is the human model for Playmobil action figures.

And you can’t leave out the supporting cast. Mrs. Blago curses like the inmate working the cafeteria at a women’s prison who replies with an f-bomb to anyone objecting to a leaden ladle-thwack of unidentifiable green mush on their lunch tray.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., himself the son of a shakedown artist, is alleged to have offered (through a minion) a half-million bucks for Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat. Jackson replaced former Rep. Mel Reynolds, who went to jail for getting jiggy with a 16-year-old campaign staffer and stayed in jail because of various fraud convictions. Reynolds, in turn, was the “reformer” who had replaced Rep. Gus Savage, the thug-congressman who groped a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire while on a “fact-finding” trip. Savage held off Reynolds’ attempts to replace him for several years by claiming Reynolds was financed by “racist Jews.”

Man, what isn’t there to love about Chicago politics?…

And John Kass wonders about Rahmbo and takes us on a tour of the Chicago Way:

When it comes to being the guy behind the guy, there is no one more conspicuous than Rahm Emanuel.

As chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama, he’s usually at Obama’s news conferences, standing off to the side, glowering like some fiercely loyal mini-me.

But Emanuel wasn’t there Thursday when Obama faced reporters to answer questions about federal charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Dead Meat), accused of trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.

“I have never spoken to the governor on this subject,” Obama said. “I am confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat.”

Wow. No staffers tried to make a deal for his Senate seat?

“I’ve asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor’s office about this vacant seat, so that we can share them with you over the next few days,” Obama said.

He could have just asked Emanuel, but he wasn’t there, and reporters kept wondering, “Where’s Rahm? Where’s Rahm?” What they should have been asking is, “Where’s Jimmy?”

As in state Sen. James DeLeo (D-How You Doin?)

DeLeo is an extremely powerful politician. You know this because he’s hardly ever quoted in newspaper stories.

Emanuel and DeLeo have a relationship. Emanuel is the congressman from the 5th Congressional District, where DeLeo is the Democratic state central committeeman. What hasn’t been reported on much is that Emanuel has not yet resigned from the House. And if you want to play politics in Jimmy’s sandbox, you need his OK.

DeLeo is also considered by some to be the real governor of Illinois. Blagojevich is the nutty guy who makes the speeches and gets the federal slap. They’re so close that if Jimmy suddenly stopped walking, Rod would chip his teeth on the back of Jimmy’s head.

It’s reasonable to assume that if there’s one fellow Rod would talk to about the Senate seat, it’s Jimmy. And given their relationship, Jimmy could talk to Rahm. I’m not suggesting money was offered. There is nothing illegal about politicians horse-trading to fill seats. Only when such deals are monetized—as the governor is alleged to have done—is it illegal.

I’m just talking about putting political pieces on the board the Chicago Way. A vacant Senate seat and a soon-to-be vacant House seat in Illinois would be a package deal. Consider this mathematical equation: Jimmy/Rod + Jimmy/Rahm = Happy Rod, Jimmy and Rahm. Get it?

Before he became so powerful, Jimmy was a lowly traffic court bailiff making a measly $20,000 a year. Yet he was able to own shiny new Cadillacs, Jaguars and Mercedes, astounding federal agents, who in 1989 charged him with taking bribes to fix tickets in the Operation Greylord probe of judicial corruption.

Later, his former roommate told a federal grand jury that there was $35,000 in cash in their freezer, carefully wrapped in butcher paper so the bills wouldn’t get freezer burn. But the roommate came to Jimmy’s defense, saying the money was his, not Jimmy’s, and that it came from the roommate’s stolen-car business.

At Jimmy’s trial, Outfit gambling boss Ken “Tokyo Joe” Eto emerged from the witness protection program to testify that he passed cash to Jimmy via handshakes. Eto had been hiding since Outfit hit men tried to kill him. They used cheap bullets, and three slugs failed to fully penetrate Eto’s diamond-hard cranium.

The jury didn’t believe the feds. They believed Jimmy and acquitted him, so he rose to political prominence, and now Obama’s chief of staff is the congressman in the district Jimmy controls…

Entitled To Be Suspicious

The media consensus that Barry is the only honest politician to have risen out of the Chicago machine reminds me of an article by the Washington Times’ Tony Blankley (posted here on October 15th) about Barry’s pre-presidential elections:

…Obama’s first election was described recently by Martin Fletcher, a foreign correspondent for NBC News, in the British newspaper The Times (not on NBC): “Mr Obama won a seat in the state senate in 1996 by the unorthodox means of having surrogates successfully challenge the hundreds of nomination signatures that candidates submit. His Democratic rivals, including Alice Palmer, the incumbent, were all disqualified.” Hmm.

Obama’s election to the U.S. Senate was even more curious, as described by Gerard Baker in the Irish Independent: “Two exquisitely timed divorces smoothed the way.

“In the Democratic primary, he was a long shot. But a month before the election, his main opponent, Blair Hull, a wealthy Chicago futures trader, was forced to publish divorce papers that revealed, among other charming details, his wife’s claim that he had once threatened to kill her.

“In the general election, lightning struck again. His opponent, the engaging Jack Ryan, had run a campaign as a different sort of Republican. But a few months before the election, his divorce papers revealed that, while he might have been a different sort of Republican, he was from precisely the same stable of Obama political opponents. He had, it turned out, once tried to force his former wife to go with him to sex clubs in Paris.”

Was Obama really the innocent beneficiary of these rare events? Anything is possible. But when a fellow deals himself two royal flushes in a row, the other players are entitled to be suspicious. Moreover, when a politician is suspected of hypocrisy, the Washington press corps usually is supercharged in its efforts to prove their suspicions. But despite the fact that these bare outlines of Obama’s elections are pregnant with the implications that he has gained every office he has sought so far by underhanded and sordid means – while posing as a Gary Cooper-like idealist in a corrupt political world – the American media have let these extraordinary events simply pass without significant comment…

The Gentle Faun of a Magic Forest

According to today’s New York Times, Barry is not only the sole virtuous politician from Illinois, he’s also an indefatigable crime fighter.

The headline: “Obama’s Effort on Ethics Bill Had Role in Governor’s Fall.”

And Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass:

…Chicagoans aren’t really surprised. This is the state run by the Combine, with the Democratic machine on one side and the Republican insiders on the other, and the Chicago Outfit forming the base. That is the real iron triangle.

Blagojevich was supported by the machine and by the now-indicted Republican power broker Big Bill Cellini. If that’s not reform, what is?

The governor is alleged to have tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, used his leverage in attempts to oust Tribune editorial writers who didn’t play ball, and schemed to shake down the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital for campaign cash in exchange for a state grant.

So though Illinois isn’t surprised—this is after all the home of the Chicago Way—the national media must be shocked.

They’ve been clinging to the ridiculous notion that Chicago is Camelot for months now, cleaving to the idea with the willfulness of stubborn children. It must help them see Obama as some pristine creature, perhaps a gentle faun of a magic forest, unstained by our grubby politics, a bedtime story for grown-ups who insist upon fairy tales. But now the national media may finally be forced to confront reality…

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Honest Barry? And Dueling Histories

From what I understand, there are two views about corruption in Illinois: one is that Barack Obama is the only honest politician in the state, and the other is that there are no honest politicians in the state. Today’s news of the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for, among other things, trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat has to make you wonder how far U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s crusade against crime will be allowed to go.

The criminal complaint more-than-mentions Barry’s “real estate fairy” Tony Rezko (see complaint starting on page 11).

And a New York Times editorial rewrites the history of the Community Reinvestment Act as a racial quota program used to discriminate against, rather than in favor of, minorities:

The mortgage crisis that has placed millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes has been especially devastating for black and Hispanic borrowers and their families. It seems clear at this point that minorities were more likely than whites to be steered into risky, high-priced loans — even when researchers controlled for such crucial factors as income, loan size and location.

The Congress that takes office in January can start to deal with this problem by strengthening fair-lending laws, especially the Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages fair, sound lending practices while requiring banks to lend, invest and open branches in low- and moderate-income areas…

Harvey Golub, writing in a Wall Street Journal oped piece, provides correction:

…To begin to understand today’s problem, we have to have a sense of how we got there. Between 1994 and second quarter 2008, the U.S, housing stock more than doubled in value from $7.6 trillion to $19.4 trillion. Almost three quarters of that increase was due to a speculative bubble, the root cause of which was government policies designed to increase home ownership, largely among people who would be considered nonprime borrowers — i.e., people without sufficient documented income or employment history and little or no savings or credit history.

The intellectual start of this mess was in a flawed Boston Federal Reserve study published in 1992 that purported to show that minorities were treated less well than whites. That study led to increased political pressure on banks to modify their standards with increased emphasis through the Community Reinvestment Act, and aided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations in the Clinton administration that required parity of outcomes in the lending process.

The effect of all of this meddling was compounded by the lax or incompetent supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. All in all, the government got into the business of encouraging and then forcing lending institutions to make mortgage loans to people who could not pay them back. What we ended up with is a failure of government, which we have erroneously termed a failure of capitalism.

The standards applied to these subprime loans began to be applied to what heretofore had been prime borrowers who also increasingly became overextended. But, as housing prices increased, owners cashed out their equity and bought cars, appliances and other items, including using the freed-up equity to pay for everyday living purchases. Over the past decade alone, U.S. households have taken on some $8 trillion in debt, bringing the nation’s current consumer debt load to $14 trillion.

This cynical and unsustainable cycle was abetted by mortgage originators who had little interest in making sure loans were good quality, investment banks that securitized and packaged these loans, rating agencies who forgot fundamental laws of gravity, and purchasers who bought securities they could not possibly understand. This was fueled by borrowers who committed fraud and bought houses, or speculated in them, when there was no realistic chance they could afford them.

All of this led to a huge overleveraging in the consumer market. The increase in debt burden fueled much of the nation’s economic growth over recent decades, aided somewhat by increases in productivity and underpinned by easy money from the Federal Reserve. Since consumers represent about 70% of the nation’s GNP, and since leverage cannot increase forever, we were bound to see the bubble burst and eventually enter a substantial recession… [All emphases mine]

The Anti-Antiterror Lobby

A scary Wall Street Journal editorial on how Mumbai can happen here:

India’s three days of carnage stand as another warning about how easily terrorists can perpetrate a major attack. So when top New York City counterterrorism officials declare that U.S. intelligence laws are shackling their powers to prevent the next Mumbai, it ought to raise more than eyebrows.

Instead, almost nobody seems to care. Seven years without an attack on the U.S. mainland has created a growing public complacency. And the anti-antiterror lobby has exploited that complacency to assail and constrain critical Bush Administration intelligence programs, making it harder to intercept terrorists before they strike. As a consequence innocent Americans may be killed.

That’s the reality exposed in an extraordinary exchange of letters between NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The city and the Justice Department are feuding over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, the 1978 domestic wiretapping law that was amended this year and requires a warrant to listen in on suspected foreign terrorists. Mr. Kelly says that Justice’s FISA policies are “unduly constraining” his high-priority “international terrorism investigations in the greater New York area.”

Two city applications for electronic surveillance, one in June and the other in September, got quashed — not by the FISA court, but by Justice’s own legal team. As a municipal outfit, the police intelligence division cannot appeal directly to the special FISA panel of rotating judges but must instead work through DOJ. Both cases are classified.

Mr. Kelly was furious and let Mr. Mukasey know it in a searing critique. Someone leaked the October correspondence late last month, and though each party blames the other, both have since walked back from public conflict. In any event, whoever leaked made his point. Mr. Kelly’s letter exposed a “lack of urgency and excessive time lags” in processing FISA applications; as well as a bureaucracy that insists on “frequently long and unjustifiable delay,” even “weeks of delay.” This is disturbing enough given fast-moving terror plots.

But Mr. Kelly’s main criticism — “an unnecessarily protracted, risk-averse process that is dominated by lawyers, not investigators and intelligence collectors” — is far more troubling. He believes that Justice is applying “inappropriately high standards of probable cause” that stop “close cases,” which “involve considerable uncertainty,” from ever going before a FISA judge.

Justice, in other words, is not erring on the side of averting catastrophe but on the side of political self-protection from judicial second-guessing. “The real question,” Mr. Kelly writes, “is how many applications did DOJ not submit to the Court . . . In a proactive, intelligence-driven domestic counterterrorism enterprise, such omissions should be unacceptable.” He concludes that “the federal government is doing less than it is lawfully entitled to do to protect New York City, and the City is less safe as a result.”

Mr. Mukasey was just as pointed. “We are acutely aware of the stakes,” he replied, saying Mr. Kelly’s call for a relaxed reading of FISA was “to be kind, impractical” and likewise accused him of putting the public at risk. “Were the Court to be presented with a significant number of legally insufficient applications, the government’s credibility would be substantially undermined,” he wrote.

“If we were to adopt the NYPD approach and routinely submit cases lacking probable cause,” Mr. Mukasey continued, “the Court would rightly doubt our credibility and our judgment. . . . The less the FISA Court comes to trust the validity of the applications, the more inclined the judges will be to impose on all applications the kind of scrutiny that doubtful applications merit.” A higher standard for warrants inevitably means fewer warrants, which in turn means less intelligence.

Mr. Mukasey is not soft on terrorism, and no doubt his may-it-please-the-court stance is pragmatic. The real problem is FISA itself. The Attorney General is only allowed to pursue threats up to certain legalistic edges, which contracted under this year’s political compromise that greatly expanded the role of the courts in intelligence gathering. Commissioner Kelly is practically begging people to think about what this means in the real world.

FISA was passed before the advent of disposable cell phones, encrypted emails and high-speed fiber optic networks. Now we live in a world where terrorist communications that originate in, say, Peshawar happen to move through U.S. switching networks. The executive branch already possesses the Constitutional authority to monitor such communications, but Democrats and the political left claimed it was “illegal” under FISA.

Then the anti-antiterror bar filed multibillion-dollar lawsuits against the telecom companies whose good-faith assistance after 9/11 made such surveillance possible. The goal was to shut down the program, and the telcos made it clear they couldn’t cooperate without Congress’s blessing. Forced to choose between a Democratic deal that gave the companies legal immunity or giving up a key U.S. antiterror tool, President Bush chose the former. The price — the one Commissioner Kelly is paying — was narrowing the government’s antiterror wiretapping powers.

What Democrats have done, in essence, is to insert an unelected judiciary into the wartime chain of command. As Mr. Kelly notes, this is producing a “lack of accountability” and “the lack of transparency into the inner workings of the FISA process.” If some faceless FISA judge denies a surveillance request from Mr. Kelly and New Yorkers die as a result, that judge will answer to no one. Under current FISA rules, we won’t even know who that judge is. Meanwhile, the very Members of Congress who insisted on FISA’s limitations will blame the executive branch that they put under the supervision of those anonymous judges…

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