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Filed under: Blagojevich, Ethics, History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:41 am

David Axelrod is largely - and rightly - credited with successfully crafting Barack Obama’s campaign message machine and using it to great effect during the campaign.

But before he elected a president,  David Axelrod advised campaigns for a host of politicians including Chicago’s mayor Richard Daley. In fact, he considers himself an expert in “urban politics” - which translated means big city Democratic machine politics.

It is important to note that Republicans have their own “machines” - mostly in the south where “courthouse politics” employs many of the same patronage, kickback, and even “pay to play” schemes you routinely find in Democratic-run big cities. No party has a corner on corruption - which made the Democrat’s “outrage” in 2006 at the “Republican culture of corruption” so laughable.

But Axelrod just elected Mr. Clean as president. And it is important to get a handle on what a man who will be a close advisor to President Obama in the White House thinks of Patrick Fitzgerald’s corruption investigations.

Fitzy has taken down a host of pols in Chicago including aldermen, politically connected businessmen like Tony Rezko, and even 2 of Mayor Daley’s closest aides in city hall.

That last scandal involved serious violations of a court ruling that was supposed to clean up the city’s corrupt patronage system. Chicago mayors (and other big city pols) have used patronage as a means of controlling the Democratic party for decades. But a lawsuit against the practice in Chicago resulted in a ruling that most city jobs had to involve a fair hiring procedure where only the most qualified candidates would get government jobs.

Then in 2005, the Chicago Sun Times broke a fairly routine scandal involving the use of (or, in this case, the non-use) of city trucks - contracts to politically connected (and sometimes mobbed up) trucking firms that paid millions of dollars for little or no work. The city was entertained for weeks with stories of bribes being paid by city employees to steer truck contracts to specific firms, ghost payrolling, lolligagging truckers drawing taxpayer monies for going golfing, and other examples of extraordinary venality on the part of city politicians.

Once Fitzy got involved, the investigation expanded to include the entire patronage system in Chicago. And what prosecutors found was simply astonishing; 30 city pols who routinely violated the patronage law by doctoring documents to show interviews with candidates that never happened, resume tampering, and other fraudulent actions all to get loyal campaign workers city jobs. Fitzy’s investigation eventually reached deep into Daley’s office as two of his closest aides - including his patronage chief Robert Sorich - were convicted in the case.

Here’s how it worked:

In February 2005 a grand jury indicted Sorich for devising a scheme to “provide financial benefits, in the form of city jobs and promotions, in exchange for campaign work.” As part of this scheme, it charged, Sorich and other officials “corrupted the city’s personnel process” by awarding “jobs and promotions” to preselected candidates “through sham and rigged interviews.”

At the Sorich trial Kozicki, then in the buildings department, testified that as managing deputy commissioner he had altered 19-year-old Andrew Ryan’s interview rating to ensure that Ryan scored high enough to get a building inspector’s job for which other applicants were more qualified. Andrew Ryan is the son of Tom Ryan, secretary-treasurer of Carpenters Local 13, a union that was a major financial contributor to Daley’s 2003 reelection campaign.

And Axelrod? Here’s what the new Senior Advisor to the President had to say about it: back in 2006:

As Axelrod has said, a too-zealous prosecutor can look at normal political behavior and suspect impropriety. In a 2006 Vanity Fair interview, the Obama aide complained about Fitzgerald’s scrutiny of Chicago politics.

“He goes after fleas and elephants with the same bazooka,” Axelrod said. “At some point there’s a line … where you begin criminalizing politics in its most innocent form.”

When you practice the art of politics amidst such sleaze and corruption, egregious lawbreaking can, I suppose, seem “innocent.” But what does that reveal about the moral compass of people like Axelrod? When the rest of us are shocked and appalled at the routine and arrogant criminal conduct carried out by powerful people like Daley and Blagojevich, who obviously believe the rules followed by ordinary folk do not apply to them, do we really want moral pygmies like Axelrod anywhere near the seat of national government?

Indeed, Obama himself - now caught in the lie that he had no knowledge that any of his aides were meeting with Blagojevich’s people about his senate seat - has shown a curious lethargy about the entire Blagojevich scandal, especially because he’s known since a week after the election that Blago was shopping his seat to the highest bidder (See Jim Lindgren’s timeline of the scandal that shows how Obama first, made it known he wanted his good friend Valerie Jarrett to get the appointment and within 24 hrs of a phonecon involving Blago and one of his advisors - probably Emanuel - he yanked her name from consideration and gave her a job in the White House.)

The Obama team will vigorously deny they knew anything about Blago’s attempts to sell his senate seat but that just doesn’t pass the smell test. Given how careless Blagojevich was about the spread of such information, it is inconcievable that the president-elect, whose Chicago and Springfield connections are as good as anyone’s, wouldn’t have been aware of what was going on.

But why should they not come forward with the truth? They didn’t break any laws. The reason they won’t and can’t reveal their knowledge in this matter is because to do so would be to reveal a hole in their moral universe that shows that they considered Blago’s auction of the senate seat “innocent” and nothing more than routine political horse trading - routine for the culture of corruption in Chicago and Springfield. Obama was smart enough to see a train wreck coming and pulled his good friend Jarrett from consideration while still allowing Emanuel to have input into the selection process. In short, there were no illegalities but rather an incredible ineptitude in recognizing a moral problem with Blago’s criminality.

I am not sure what this portends for the next 4 years as far as the way the White House will operate. If you have a bunch of people who don’t know or can’t tell what’s moral or immoral as far as political actions are concerned, what kind of scandals will be breaking by this time next year?



Filed under: Blagojevich, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 1:16 pm

The Blago Blow-Up is beginning to churn like the contents of one’s stomach following a helping of bad escargot. You begin to realize you just ate a heaping, steaming plate of snail flesh and begin to wonder if it will just give you gas or perhaps end up deposited unceremoniously on the floor — a stinking, putrid mass that slowly spreads across the linoleum.

In Rahm Emanuel’s case, I think it about time that we officially begin the “Emanuel Under the Bus Toss Watch.” Reports are circulating that Obama’s trusty aide and Chief of Staff-designate met with Blago’s people several times regarding the open senate seat.

Is it possible Emanuel met with Blago’s people without the president elect knowing? This is important because Obama looked us all in the eye yesterday and said he wasn’t aware of any contact between his staff and Blagojevich regarding the senate seat. Emanuel will probably say he never informed Obama about the meetings but that doesn’t pass the stink test. Obama wanted his best friend and confidante Valerie Jarrett in that seat and simple common sense tells us that his #1 aide would keep the boss informed of his progress.

Not only Obama’s denial of contact rings hollow at this point but how about his solemn promise to have his staff canvass his transition team in order to ferret out anyone who had contact with the Blago crew? If he knew Rahm was dealing with Blago on the senate seat, it means that entire excersise is political theater and no more.

And what of Emanuel, the man who promised us transparency and openness in this Hope and Change administration? Here’s an example of transparency, Chicago style:

Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama’s news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago’s City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.

A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.

“You’re wasting your time,” Emanuel said. “I’m not going to say a word to you. I’m going to do this with my children. Dont do that. I’m a father. I have two kids. I’m not going to do it.”

Asked, “Can’t you do both?” Emanuel replied, “I’m not as capable as you. I’m going to be a father. I’m allowed to be a father,” and he pushed the reporter’s digital recorder away.

Now that’s the Chicago Way of ditching reporters.

Eventually, we may get another bit of political theater; the spectacle of Emanuel going before the cameras and tearing up as he talks about how he only wanted to give Obama a Christmas present of Valerie Jarrett’s appointment by Blagojevich which is why he wanted it to be a surprise and never told the president-elect. Obama will be by his side, give him a big hug, and the press will forget the whole thing.

That’s one scenario. Another, more likely chain of events ends up with Emanuel’s exposure as a willing participant in what the feds may consider a bribery scheme to secure Jarrett’s appointment as senator. Obama would have no choice but to throw Rahmbo under the bus while questions would continue to be asked about his own knowledge of what was being discussed between his chief of staff and the governor’s people.

How bad is it for Mr. Transparency? Caught in a couple of lies before you’re even sworn in as president would not be good but is hardly impeachable. Bribery is going to be very hard to differentiate from political horse trading which is not illegal but sure gives the lie to Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra. At the very least, the stink of this scandal will follow Obama into the White House.

He apparently tried to avoid it. Whether because he was unwilling to pay Blago’s price or recognized how exposed he was, this timeline by Jim Lindgren at Volokh shows that something strange happened between the time Obama let it be known that Jarrett was his choice to fill the senate vacancy and his announcement that he was appointing the Chicago machine pol to a White House position:

1. On the weekend of Nov. 8-9, Obama lets it be known that his choice for Senate is Valerie Jarrett. Aides tell WLS-TV in Chicago and CNN, which announces Obama’s choice on Sunday. Nov. 9.

2. On Monday, Nov. 10, Blagojevich holds an incredible 2-hour conference call with multiple consultants: “ROD BLAGOJEVICH, his wife, JOHN HARRIS, Governor General Counsel, and various Washington-D.C. based advisors, including Advisor B,” discussing his corrupt schemes. He follows this with two calls with Advisor A.

3. That very night, Monday, Nov. 10, at 7:56pm, CNN reported:

Two Democratic sources close to President-elect Barack Obama tell CNN that top adviser Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

“While he (Obama) thinks she would be a good senator, he wants her in the White House,” one top Obama advisor told CNN Monday.

Over the weekend, Democratic sources had told CNN as well as Chicago television station WLS-TV that Jarrett was Obama’s choice to fill his Senate seat.

So what happened? The likeliest scenario is that one of the many participants in Blagojevich’s Monday phone calls either floated his plans to the Obama transition team to assess their response or tipped off the Obama camp about the reckless ideas that Blagojevich had planned.

In any event, within hours of Blagojevich substantially expanding his circle of confidants, the Obama camp withdrew Jarrett’s name from consideration and attributed that withdrawal to the President’s wanting Jarrett in the White House. And the Obama staffers went out of their way to depict this as Obama’s choice, rather than Jarrett’s, which would have been more common. The report claims Obama’s involvement in the decision and suggests a direct effort to undercut the idea that Obama was pressuring Blagojevich to appoint Jarrett.

I tend to believe that Obama saw a train wreck coming and yanked Jarrett away from trouble while trying to cover his own tracks with double talk about needing Jarrett in the White House. At the time, of course, he didn’t know about the wiretaps on Blago’s phone that could trip him up later.

As a Chicago pol, Obama has a well developed sense of potential exposure to the kind of cesspool politics played out in this entire affair. His instincts must have been on full alert once he was sure that Blago was shopping his seat to the highest bidder - no doubt informed of this by Emanuel who it is inferred through a phonecon between Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris (also arrested) was being threatened with the appointment of someone unpalatable (”Candidate #5″ - Jackson) unless Obama upped the ante.

And speaking of Jackson, this bit of news dug out by the Chicago Tribune is very bad for him. Jesse The Younger’s Campaign finance surrogate had a meeting with Blago’s representative back in October where he offered $1 million in campaign contributions for the senate seat. Jackson had a press conference where he said he had no knowledge of this offer and yet, just last Saturday - three days before Blago’s arrest - he held a fundraiser for Blagojevich where the express purpose was to help him secure the senate seat.

As Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to pick Illinois’ next U.S. senator, businessmen with ties to both the governor and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign as a way to encourage him to pick Jackson for the job, the Tribune has learned.

Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.

Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for the Senate.

Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.

That meeting led to a Blagojevich fundraiser Saturday in Elmhurst, co-sponsored by Nayak and attended by Jesse Jackson Jr.’s brother, Jonathan, as well as Blagojevich, according to several people who were there. Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side.

Blagojevich and the congressman met to discuss the Senate seat on Monday, one day before federal prosecutors arrested Blagojevich and charged him with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. As part of the charges, prosecutors alleged that Blagojevich was considering awarding the seat to a politician identified as “Senate Candidate 5″ because emissaries for that candidate were promising to raise as much as $1.5 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

Not only does this put Jackson totally out of the running for the senate seat but it is obvious he has not been forthcoming about what he knows with regards to Blago’s attempt to sell the senate seat. The fact that his own brother attended the fundraiser guarantees he knew about it and also knew what price he had to pay in order to get the appointment. This makes the statements he made at his press conference “inoperative” as they say in Chicago.

And what of Obama’s statements? Will they be identified as “misstatements” or perhaps there will be claims that Obama “misspoke?” And what of Emanuel? His reluctance to talk to the press is understandable in light of the fact that there is no good explanation for how he could have spoken to Blago’s people and not told Obama.

The right thing to do would be for Obama, Emanuel, Jarrett, and anyone else who had contact with Blago’s people to stand before the press and tell us what they know - “full hangout route” as they said during Watergate. More likely is the “limited hang-out route” where some minor things will be admitted and other, more serious allegations denied.

That’s the “Washington Way.”



Filed under: Blagojevich, Ethics, Obama-Rezko, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 7:56 am

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Those of us who have followed Illinois politics for any length of time are tempted to give the Rod Blagojevich arrest and pending indictment a quick shrug, a knowing smile, and a cynical sigh of know-it-all arrogance. “We’ve seen this before in Illinois, nothing new here, just move along” is the condenscending response to questions from out of staters that usually suffice when some Illinois politico is caught with his fingers in the taxpayer’s cookie jar.

But the Blagojevich True Crime Drama is not criminality as usual in Illinois politics. The malfeasance of Governor Rod Blagojevich is so outrageous, so brazen, so breathtaking in its scope and character that even  jaded journalistic hacks whose beat has been the statehouse for years are shocked. In the long history of official Illinois corruption, the Blagojevich schemes to personally enrich himself, enrich his cronies, and use the power of his office to further his nefarious designs are unprecedented.

“I want to make money” the governor was heard admitting on tape. Evidently, the opportunities that presented themselves for Blagojevich to clean up were too tempting to pass up. Here’s a partial list of the charges via the Chicago Tribune:

Prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services, secretary of the Energy Department or gain an ambassadorship in the new Obama administration, or get a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate. An Obama spokesman had no immediate comment.

Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year’s end when a new tougher law on campaign donations, prompted by the governor’s voracious fundraising, would take effect.

Even Blagojevich’s recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and “green lanes” on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. “If they don’t perform, (expletive) ‘em,” Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Blagojevich and Harris also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

In addition, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.

The big news, of course, is the governor’s attempt to sell the senate seat of Barack Obama. Incredibly, it appears that he tried to get the best deal by shopping the seat to as many as 7 potential candidates - including, indirectly, Barack Obama.

Blogger Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire details the offer to an unamed high level Obama advisor (evidence suggests it is newly-designated chief of staff Rahm Emanuel). Blagojevich was pushing what Cannon calls “a wacky scheme” where the governor would take over control of a not for profit group - a 501(c)(4) - set up by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (who would act at the behest of Obama) in exchange for appointing Obama’s choice for the senate seat - his long time friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett.

This is directly from the criminal complaint: (PDF) that details several conversations caught on a federal wiretap:

The advisor asked ROD BLAGOJEVICH if the 501(c)(4) is a real effort or just a vehicle to help ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that it is a real effort but also a place for ROD BLAGOJEVICH to go when he is no longer Governor. The advisor said he likes the Change to Win idea better, and notes that it is more likely to happen because it is one step removed from the President-elect.

“Change to Win” is a labor NGO that the governor was interested in heading up. In order to get that job, Blagojevich had to approach the head of the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Andy Stern. The governor was willing to name a candidate who would be little more than a union toady in order to secure that position. And he was asking “Advisor B” (Emanuel) to make it happen.

according to Advisor B from the President-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer “fingerprints” on the President-elect’s involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, “you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.”

Was Rahm Emanuel (read Cannon’s reasoning on why the evidence points to the chief of staff) making a counter offer to the governor’s bribe? It’s an interesting question and one that the press may wish to ask the new chief of staff.

In addition to the Obama team, Blagojevich was trying to sell the senate seat to as many as 6 different candidates. One candidate’s representative - “Candidate #5 in the complaint - allegedly offered Blagojevich a substantial bribe for the office. The governor liked that idea and told an aide that if Obama “didn’t give him anything” he would choose Candidate #5.

Who is “Candidate #5?” Speculation is zeroing in on Jesse Jackson, Jr. From the actual complaint via Marc Ambinder:

Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided
Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.” Noting that he was going to meet with Senate
Candidate 5 in the next few days, Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to reach out to an intermediary (Individual D), from whom Blagojevich is attempting to obtain campaign contributions and whi Blagojevich believes is close to Senate Candidate 5. Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that Senate Candidate 5 was a very realistic candidate but Blagojevich was getting a lot of pressure not to appoint Senate Candidate 5, according to the affidavit.

The only candidate for the senate seat to meet with Obama in the time period mentioned was Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

It should be noted that there is absolutely no evidence that Jackson had any knowledge of these representations to Obama made on his behalf by a fundraiser nor is there any evidence that an “intermediary” informed him of the “negotiations.

If you read all 72 pages of the indictment, you just can’t help being struck by the money grubbing nature of the governor and his mania for money. He had schemes within schemes to extract cash from supporters, cronies, and companies who wished to do business with the state.

His “pay to play” program was particularly lucrative. This was a scheme where Blagojevich friend and campaign financier Antoin “Tony” Rezko pressured companies doing business with the state to contribute to the Blagojevich re-election campaign in exchange for lucrative state contracts. Rezko was convicted of 18 counts of fraud in connection with the scheme and the governor’s name was prominently mentioned during his trial. Others involved in this scheme include Stuart Levine, a GOP mover and shaker in the state.

At least you can say we here in Illinois are bi-partisan when it comes to corruption.

While the selling of the senate seat and pay to play complaints got the most headlines, perhaps the most incredible of all the charges alleged against Blagojevich is his attempted shakedown of the Chicago Tribune.

The Trib not only owns the Chicago Tribune but also the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Owner Sam Zell (who has just filed for bankruptcy) is trying to sell the team and, more importantly, one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Chicago; Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs.

But the sale of Wrigley field will involve massive taxes - something on the order of $100 million dollars in capital gains. Zell had a approached the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) in order to strike a deal where, according to the criminal complaint, the IFA would take title to Wrigley Field thus saving Zell a lot of cash.

Enter Blagojevich who told his chief of staff John Harris (also arrested today) to make it clear to Zell that no help from the IFA would be forthcoming unless some members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board were fired.

In a November 4 phone call with Harris, Blagojevich told his aide “”our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ‘em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”

Harris reported back on November 11 that Zell “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.” Later, Harris told Blagojevich that there were “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s (Zell) going after that section.”

No firings have taken place yet and it is doubtful that Zell will make a move now that this deal is in the open. I suppose he saw it as a cost of doing business and $100 million is a lot of cash. But the thought that he would buckle to the whims of this strutting peacock of a politician who wanted journalists who were only doing the job they were being paid to do axed because they were telling the truth about his corruption stinks of rank cowardice.

No doubt over the next few days many aspects of this story will be fleshed out. We will almost certainly be treated to some fancy footwork by the Obama team as they seek to avoid the appearance that anyone connected with the new president came within a country mile of Blagojevich. That may be difficult to do what with the taped conversation between the governor and “Advisor B” and unanswered questions about whether Obama actually discussed the appointment of a new senator with the governor or not.

Obama said in his statement he had no contact with Blagojevich. Unfortunately for the new president, his top aide David Axelrod told Fox News on November 23 that Obama had indeed talked with Blagojevich about the senate seat. The transition has since released a statement saying that Axelrod “misspoke” on November 23.

And I have a bridge over the Chicago River you can have for a song if you believe that one.

The chances are very good that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is far from finished. Meanwhile, the Democratic party in Illinois may be in for a very rough ride as their leader ponders his future - or lack of one - and his associates lawyer up in anticipation of legal trouble.



Filed under: The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 4:39 pm

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show,, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I have my two good friends from Chicago with me - Ed Lasky and Rich Baehr - both of The American Thinker, to talk about the Blagojevich arrest and all the juicy permutations that make this the jaw dropping scandal it truly is.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio


Filed under: Ethics, PJ Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 2:05 pm

My latest at PJ Media is about the Blagojevich arrest and details “the most breathtaking corruption in the history of Illinois politics.”

A sample:

In any other state, this would be simply unbelievable, or perhaps considered a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence to have such breathtaking and brazen corruption reveal itself at the highest levels of state government.

But all of this occurred in the state of Illinois, where the arrest of Blagojevich makes it four governors in recent history * who have been arrested and charged with wrongdoing while in office.

And that doesn’t include the steady stream of state officials, lawmakers, Chicago alderman, and others doing business with the state who are frog-marched into the federal building downtown and locked up for taking advantage of their office to personally enrich themselves and/or their cronies.

The potential sale of Obama’s senate seat in return for a Blagojevich appointment to the cabinet or a cushy union job is interesting to note if only to wonder whom he made the offer to. Someone on the Obama transition team perhaps, but more likely someone with extensive union ties who could bring pressure to bear on the Obama people.

The “pay-to-play” charges have been out in the public for more than two years. This was a scheme where Blagojevich friend and campaign financier Antoin “Tony” Rezko pressured companies doing business with the state to contribute to the Blagojevich re-election campaign in exchange for lucrative state contracts. Rezko was convicted of 18 counts of fraud in connection with the scheme and the governor’s name was prominently mentioned during his trial.

This probably will not involve Barack Obama. The next president gave Blago a wide berth and evidently went so far as to pull Valerie Jarrett, his close personal friend, out of the running for his replacement when it became clear that Blagojevich was trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder.

But it is instructive to note that this is the political culture that nurtured and raised Barack Obama. To think that it hasn’t tainted him is just plain idiocy. There are plenty of examples of Obama using his clout to help a friend or crony not to mention steer government business to campaign contributors. Obama lived, breathed, ate, and slept Illinois politics for more than a decade. And that’s something to keep in mind as his Administration rolls along.


Filed under: Financial Crisis, Government, Politics — Rick Moran @ 12:14 pm

Conservatives are rightly up in arms over the trillion dollar (and climbing) taxpayer funded bailout packages being thrown around Washington these last weeks. Beyond that, many are livid at the ridiculous notion being advanced by lefties that the free market “failed” and that government takeovers (if not in fact then certainly in effect) of the financial industry, banks, insurance companies, and now The Big Three will somehow solve this crisis, stemming the flow of lost jobs and re-opening the credit markets thus getting the economy growing again.

I have come to the conclusion that anyone who says anything definitive about the “root causes” of this crisis is a loon. There are as many theories about what caused the sub prime collapse, the mortgage security mess, and the subsequent contraction of financial institutions as there are economists. Both right and left have their favorite theories (”de-regulation” on the left and “government interference” on the right) none of which will probably be proved true in the end. Once historians sink their teeth into what caused the crisis a decade or more from now, I fully expect many factors to have been at play - some of which are probably not even dreamed of at this point by any of the “experts” who so confidently rail against capitalism or Democratic interference in the mortgage industry.

That “failed” free market just finished giving the United States the longest, the most sustained period of economic growth and prosperity in the history of western industrialized civilization. But there is also little doubt that someone, somewhere, should have applied the brakes to the mortgage security madness both at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and on Wall Street.

In the end, I believe that like 9/11, one key factor that will be highlighted when historians make their judgements may very well be a failure of imagination by government and the Big Banks to anticipate the consequences of some of the actions taken by the players involved. Yes there were doomsayers - just as there were Cassandras warning of a terrorist attack. In hindsight, it is too easy to say policymakers and regulators should have listened to them. This should be obvious but never is to those who see history as a linear progression of events rather than the confused, contradictory, babble it truly is.

So historically speaking, the “root causes” arguement means little at this point. But politically, it is everything. In the real world, Barack Obama and his team are formulating policy based on their perceptions of what happened and why. They are planning a response to the crisis based on their political understanding of events and their lifelong experiences that have shaped their worldview. They also feel constrained to act because the voters who just resoundingly elected them want the government to “do something about the problem.”

The soothing assurances we are getting from the Obama camp that a half a trillion dollar “stimulus package” and bailouts of the auto industry and other troubled concerns are all well and good. We should expect them to have confidence in their ability to turn things around and prevent an even worse downturn than the one we will surely have to endure regardless of what the new Administration does.

But are they right? And for my conservative friends, I have an even more difficult question.

Do you want Obama to be right? Do you want him to succeed?

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with this site knows that I am not in the business of cheerleading for liberals. But we are in a very bad spot and wishing Obama to fail - even if it means that success might mean his certain re-election - cannot be an option if you care about America.

If it is your desire to see us sink into a deep recession or even a depression because we know Obama’s policies won’t work, then you have no conception of what that will mean to millions of your fellow Americans not to mention the extraordinary damage it would do to entire industries.

Should we fight the bailouts, the stimulus package, and the rest of his program? Absolutely. In fact, stopping a lot of his ideas from becoming law may be our salvation. But to do so, we must have alternatives that we can offer rather than simply screaming “NO” at the top of our voices while openly cheering on the destruction of our economy. Bailouts are not the answer but what about steering some of that money away from business failures and offer loans to successful companies where we would have a reasonable expectation that the money would be paid back? Companies on the verge of bankruptcy are not going to be hiring anyone. Companies who are successful but suffering as a result of the tight credit would benefit both themselves and the nation if they used that money not to stay afloat but to hire on more workers and expand their businesses.

Rather than giving money to taxpayers outright, why not lower taxes permanently? Instead of enacting protectionist policies, why not approve the Columbian trade agreement? There are many conservative responses to this crisis that are not being pushed because we’re so busy screaming “socialism” that nothing else matters.

I think we should try and help Obama succeed. His success is America’s success at this point. We know that his policies carry enormous risk and the potential to make things worse by propping up failed businesses led by incompetents. Better to offer rational, reasonable alternatives that would accomplish the goal of restarting the economy and get people back to work - even if it means Obama gets the credit.

No, it is not likely that that this will happen and Obama will go on his merry way, throwing money that we don’t have and can’t pay back at businesses not likely to survive this downturn. But I for one will not hope that his policies meet with utter failure. The consequences of this would be too terrible for the country.



Filed under: Financial Crisis, Government, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 1:08 pm

As President elect Barack Obama seeks to expand the size of government to previously unheard of proportions, conservatives find themselves in a very difficult position politically. The fact is, there is no way, in principle, conservatives can compete with Obama when offering government help to anyone and everyone with their hand out. To do so would be to betray basic princples of the conservative movement.

But the political problem faced by conservatives is that they are in a position only to say “no” to the Bush/ Obama bailouts - playing Grinch to the next president’s Santa Claus. The question of a conservative alternative to this madness - except to allow the market to do its dirty work and pick and choose which businesses deserve to live or die - has rarely been raised, largely because the cure involves more economic pain than Obama is promising.

The “solution” that applies the principles of big government liberalism is unacceptable because, at bottom, it alters the social contract between the people and their government, substituting dependency for freedom (not to mention utterly failing when tried previously during the Great Depression). The other way - also tried during the depression - is to allow the market to function as executioner while perhaps taking most of the rest of down a path to economic ruin that we would be a decade or more recovering from.

The fact is, conservatives have no viable response to the Obama bailout program. On the one hand, the next president offers to save jobs, save companies, and prime the non-existent Keynesian pump with hundreds of billions in federal dollars that will - he says - put people back to work. On the other hand, conservatives are telling the American worker that he will have to take a hit due to the incompetence and short sightedness of his managers and be patient while the market sorts out the winners and losers.

One kind of government is too big. The other kind is too small. Clearly, what we need is a government that is “just right” - or at least an expression of “limited” government where conservative principles are married with the needs of a 21st century society.

“Too big to fail” is being overused in this crisis. But there are other ways to avoid failure than simply handing out unthinkably large sums of money to managers who have performed incompetently and whose actions caused the crisis in the first place and where such handouts presuppose that government can then dictate how that company or industry does business.

What about intelligently structured bankruptcy, government facilitated mergers with healthier companies, and even in special cases, guaranteed loans where the chances of the taxpayer being burned is very low? The point being, when one way being pushed involves big government solutions and the other way offers a small government conservative alternative that doesn’t address the real needs of real people, what is needed on the part of conservatives is a little imagination where proposed solutions will keep many if not most employees working, save important companies, and address the worries of the American people (a side benefit of which could be a boost in consumer confidence that might get money circulating a litte more freely). Most importantly, there must be ways for government to assist business in this crisis without ending up having what amounts to ownership rights that would for all practical purposes nationalize entire industries.

The Wall Street Journal laid out some alternatives to the auto bailout plan while showing how the Democrat’s plan would basically nationalize the Big Three by forcing them to accept the government’s own business plan:

Yet amid all the hopeful talk about the brave, new green car world, the men from Detroit were studiously silent on whether they can sell these new cars at a profit any better than they can their current lineup. Yes, the restructuring plans, especially GM’s, have some stark numbers about downsizing — 30,000 blue collar jobs are on the chopping block at GM alone. And this is accompanied by gauzy predictions of matching Toyota’s labor costs by 2012. But it’s hard to see how that gets done without a bankruptcy judge to tear up the contracts and start over. Once the auto makers agree to let Barney Frank run their businesses, does anyone really believe organized labor will roll over and let them gut the United Auto Workers?

The core problem is that the companies can’t pay their creditors in fuel-economy standards. Two economists testified that the ultimate cost of this bailout would certainly be much, much higher than $34 billion. Mark Zandi of economy.com put the number at up to $125 billion — and he supports the bailout. NYU’s Edward Altman said the company proposals were “doomed to fail.” He proposed a prepackaged bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler, with the government providing the debtor-in-possession financing if necessary. His point, which ought to be sobering, was that outside of bankruptcy there is no way to make these taxpayer loans senior to existing secured debt — meaning the government might never get paid back if the companies go bankrupt later.

Mr. Altman’s suggestion has a lot of things going for it. Instead of the politically driven “car czar” being mooted to oversee the bailout, you’d have a bankruptcy judge to make sure that the companies did, in fact, emerge as more viable businesses. The resulting restructuring would be far more likely to be driven by business considerations

What we’re talking about here is not “small” government but “limited government” - the idea that government can go this far and no farther consistent with Constitutional principles and conservative ideals. But we’ve been so busy railing against “big government” that other ways and means of dealing with this crisis have escaped our notice. In the process, we have become irrelvant in this, the most important debate in more than a generation that, at bottom, is one that deals with the size and scope of federal power and whether and how much it should be expanded at the expense of the states, private industry, and individual citizens.

In truth, Obama and the left don’t want to have this debate. That’s because they wish to use this economic crisis to remake American society - from the top down:

The thing about a crisis — and crisis doesn’t seem too strong a word for the economic mess right now — is that it creates a sense of urgency. Actions that once appeared optional suddenly seem essential. Moves that might have been made at a leisurely pace are desired instantly.

Therein lies the opportunity for President-elect Barack Obama. His plans for an activist government agenda are in many ways being given a boost by this crisis atmosphere and the nearly universal call for the government to do something fast to stimulate the economy.

This opportunity isn’t lost on the new president and his team. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s new chief of staff, told a Wall Street Journal conference of top corporate chief executives this week.

He elaborated: “Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”

He ticked off some areas where he thought new doors were opening: energy, health, education, tax policy, regulatory reforms. The current atmosphere, he added, even makes bipartisanship easier: “The good news, I suppose, if you want to see a silver lining, is that the problems are big enough that they lend themselves to ideas from both parties for the solution.”

Note that Emanuel sees the GOP rolling over and playing ball with this radical restructuring of American society because conservative alternatives are not being pushed by the party leadership. Any “ideas” advanced by Republicans will involve fiddling with Democratic legislation at the margins, not offering viable, limited government alternatives.

William Kristol correctly identifies the problem but offers the wrong solution:

Now it’s true that the size of the government and the modern liberal agenda are connected. It’s also true that modern conservatism has to include a strong commitment to limited (though energetic) government and to constitutional (though not necessarily small or weak) government. Still, there’s a difference between a conservatism that is concerned with limited and constitutional government and one that focuses on simply opposing big government.

So: If you’re a small-government conservative, you’ll tend to oppose the bailouts, period. If you more or less accept big government, you’ll be open to the government’s stepping in to save the financial system, or the auto industry. But you’ll tend to favor those policies — universal tax cuts, offering everyone a chance to refinance his mortgage, relieving auto makers of burdensome regulations — that, consistent with conservative principles, don’t reward irresponsible behavior and don’t politicize markets.

The solution, as Scott Johnson eloquently points out, is not “big government conservatism” but “limited government” bounded by the Constitution:

Yet a debate framed in terms of big government versus small government is sterile without the notion of limited government. The proper understanding of limited government provides the judgment on the government programs on offer from the current and prospective administrations.

The gist of the column seems to be Bill’s is opposition to small-government conservatism. He urges conservatives opposing big government public works programs not to oppose them as irreconcilable with the proper ends of constitutional government, but rather to accept them as inevitable.

“Small government” conservatism is, as I have argued, intellectually satisfying but unrealistic and even politically counterproductive. If you are concerned with the philosphy of conservatism as a coherent set of principles that should be the ideal for a just and moral society in the abstract, then small government conservatism makes sense.

But if you seek to use conservative principles to govern a hugely diverse nation of 300 million people with clashing interests, differing needs, and even different ideas of what it means to be an American, then there should be a realization among conservatives that there is no “big” government or “small” government at all. Rather, it is using government to address the legitimate needs of the people consistent with the Constitution that matters in the end.

After all, there is nothing in the Constitution which states that government needs to be big or small. There are only limits placed on what government can do. Inherent in those limits may be the ideal of small government. But surely there is room for limited government while recognizing government’s legitimate responsibilities. For instance, the question of whether we must have drinking water that won’t kill us if we drink it is not addressed in the Constitution. And common sense should inform us that we can’t have 50 different standards for clean water. Ergo, assuring a supply of clean drinking water for its citizens is a legitimate function of the federal government.

We can argue the finer points of the Clean Water Act, including some regulations that are unnecessary and burdensome. But the basic notion that only the federal government can keep criminally irresponsible individuals and businesses from contaminating something so basic to life remains.

Is this “big” government? Or is it recognizing that in a nation of 300 million people who need clean water to stay alive that it must be the federal government’s responsibilty to oversee the process?

Readers here have engaged in spirited discussions in the comments about the nature of modern conservatism and its relevancy in a 21st century industrialized democracy. I believe that unless that debate includes ideas about the political relevancy of conservatism in a nation where “limited” government is preferrable to either “small” or “big” government, then conservatism itself will become an irrelevancy and the remaking of America by Obama and the liberals will become a foregone conclusion.



Filed under: CHICAGO BEARS — Rick Moran @ 10:49 am

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Bears RB Adrian Peterson in last year’s Green Bay Game

When the Football Gods gave NFL founder and the original owner of the Chicago Bears George Halas the Ten Commandments of the Gridiron, the game was in its infancy. There was little passing, not much in the way of protection for the players, and the single wing was still a new formation.

The Gods, knowing a good thing when they saw it, made the Commandments somewhat flexible. For instance, Commandment #5 - “Thou shouldst be mindful that three things can occur when forward passing and two of them are bad” morphed into the modern “Wing it, baby!” And the Second Commandment -
“Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath by playing The Game” changed into “Eh, whatevah.”

But the First Commandment was not to be trifled with: “Thou shalt honor the Gods by never playing the game indoors.” In the history of the NFL, only two domed teams have won the Super Bowl; Indianapolis and St. Louis. (The Gods gave Indy a break because their favorite movie is Hoosiers while St. Louis was made an exception due to the enormous pity felt by the Gods for a city that had to endure 5 years of Bob Costas as a sportscaster).

The Gods are wise. Football is a game made to played outdoors. It is not canceled for rain or snow or sleet or wind or cold. Fans must view the event in the elements along with the players which makes football a truly unique game. It is a “no excuses” game because both teams must play in the same weather with the team coming out on top who is best at stoically enduring whatever Mother Nature can impose upon the contest.

All of this is relevant because the weather forecast for today’s clash between my Beloved Bears and the Jacksonville Jaguars calls for temps to be in the mid to upper teens with a stiff wind doing its swirling dance around Soldier Field that will no doubt perplex Jacksonville’s warm weather kicker Scott Scobee.

Also predicted - snow - which should arrive by the second half. All in all, the perfect playing conditions for a team that thrives in the cold and snow.

Not so much Jacksonville.

They call it “Bear Weather” here. Many a foe have come a cropper in December at Soldier Field thanks to their inability (or unwillingness) to man up and match My Beloveds when the cold penetrates their pitiful attempts to keep warm and the wind howls. It is an icy wind, almost alive in its desire to eat through the layer upon layer of thermal clothing worn by opposing players and make its presence felt by causing it feel as if a thousand icicles are pricking at their skin. That wind, if it is blowing off the lake, is a wet wind, a damp, freezing gale that can be so miserable to endure that some simply give up and play not to win but to get the contest over with so they can be warm again.

Such was the case two years ago in December when the Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick came to town with temps in single digits and a wind chill that froze the spit before it reached the ground. It was comical. It was so obvious that the Falcons didn’t want any part of the Bears, the cold, or even playing football that the game turned into a rout. Michael Vick, the talented run/pass QB currently serving jail time for his transgressions against dogs - and humanity - refused to take off and run through defenses as he had been doing all year and simply headed for the sideline when pressured. The whole Atlanta team gathered around the sideline heaters trying not to look at their coaches, hoping their number wouldn’t be called. Head coach Jim Mora was simply glum, standing on the sideline being forced to watch as his team froze and then fell apart in the bitter cold.

Similar scenarios have played out through the years with other teams. Only Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and perhaps Cleveland, who also play outdoors in December, give the Bears all they can handle when the temps plunge and the snow falls. (Pittsburgh and Green Bay especially seem to glory in the elements and both have easily defeated my Beloveds in December in recent years).

But don’t expect such manly efforts today from the Jags. On their website is a story with the headline, “Stay Away from the Heaters.” Good advice, but the reporter doesn’t have to be out there hitting or getting hit by 300 lb linemen with bone jarring intensity:

Win in Chicago this Sunday and the Jaguars will avoid such attacks on their integrity. Hey, how about four wins in a row to end the season? That would turn the tables, right?

Yeah, it sure would, but since victory is something no one can guarantee, I would offer this small bit of advice to Jaguars players for this Sunday’s game in frigid Soldier Field: Stay away from the heaters.

Trust me on this one, guys. I know your coach has already so warned you and you really need to listen to him on this one. I’ve covered football for a long time and most of that time was spent covering a cold-weather team, and we always watched the opposing team’s sideline to see how many players were gathered around the heaters; how many guys were wearing the long coats on the “Hot Seat,” with their feet in the slots and their bodies in the tuck position.

In the comfort of our little press box, we would turn to each other, smile and say, “They quit.” It’s the time-honored way of judging the state of mind of a team out of contention, especially such a team from Florida or California, playing in the Northeast or Midwest in December. All eyes will be on the Jaguars’ sideline to determine if the Jaguars are more concerned about staying warm than about winning.

Stay away from the heaters. Don’t put on the long coat. Limit your time in the “Hot Seat” and when you are sitting on it, don’t tuck your feet into the slots; appear as though you’re using it only as a place to sit, not a place to get warm. I promise you that if you do as I say no one will accuse you of quitting. It’s a cold-weather thing. Take it from a guy who knows.

The fellow may as well be remonstrating against moths to stay away from a flame. Not inured to the icy cold, the Jags may win the game anyway (such is the lamentable state of my Beloveds defense that they would be hard pressed to stop the offense for the Class 8-A High School Champs to be decided next week). But I guarantee they will take full advantage of the heaters and the “Hot Seat” and any other device they can find to keep warm.

However, the cold and snow will grant My Beloveds an advantage anyway. In such weather it becomes difficult to pass the ball and the game is won or lost at the line of scrimmage. The “Big Uglies” up front on both sides of the ball for both teams will win or lose this game by blocking for their side’s featured back.

For the Jags, it will be Fred Taylor - a wizened veteran and one of the most underrated running backs in NFL history. Taylor does it all and does it all better than most. He can still hit the hole with authority, still make LB’s miss, still has speed, and still has toughness to spare. Few are better at catching the ball out of the backfield. He can also block and has the instincts to go along with all this talent. In addition to all that, he is one of the great gentlemen of the game, a man deserving of much more approbation than he receives as a result of him playing in the smaller media market of Jacksonville.

On the other side, the Bears defensive line has become a bad joke. But the Jags O-line has not shown anything special either so one can count on the Beloved’s superior linebackers and safeties to keep Taylor from dominating the game. If he does, the Jags win.

For the Bears offense, Matt Forte, a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, will bear the burden of running and hitting in the cold. I like the match-up of the Bears O-line versus the Jags D-Line and believe it will be the decisive difference. Forte will need to gain more than 100 yards for the Beloveds to win - unless the defense takes over the game and takes matters into their own hands by scoring a few TD’s themselves.

Forget the QB’s in this game. David Garrard for the Jags has been terribly inconsistent while Kyle Orton hasn’t looked the same since his ankle injury. There will probably be a lot of three and outs on both sides with the team who is able to play the field position game the best probably having the best shot to win. As in any contest, turnovers will be important with the team that can hang on to the ball the favorite.

By the time the snow arrives, I expect the Bears O-line to have taken over the game somewhat. And kicker Robbie Gould may be the best offensive weapon in my Beloved’s arsenal. Gould has an uncanny knack of being able to gauge the winds at Soldier Field and that’s why I think the Bears will win this game. If the offense can get Gould within 40 yards, he will win the game with his foot.

The Gods of Football had the Chicago Bears in mind when they created the game. For this reason alone, the Bears should triumph in a low scoring, not very exciting game.

Final score: Bears 20 Jags 13.



Filed under: Blogging — Rick Moran @ 9:59 am

Dear Comcast:

It has been quite a few months since my last letter - a fact that no doubt has caused you to heave a sigh of relief. Allow me to take this opportunity to apologize for some of my more - shall we say - enthusiastically boorish remarks that, while reflecting exactly how I felt at the time, have since caused me to regret if not the substance then certainly the enjoyment I got out of skewering your company.

When I referred to Comcast as “a conniving, evil, money grubbing, anti-capitalist pox upon decent commerce” I may have overstated my case a bit. And when I called your corporate leaders, “greedy, acquisitive, loutish babbits with no more concern for the customer than a drunk ocelot” I suppose I could have chosen my words more carefully.

So let’s just look at that as water under the bridge and move on, alright? Besides, I have a favor to ask and I think it important that we start with a clean slate.

The favor I ask is simple: Please buy Mediacom.

Now, far be it from me to give you business advice in these troubled economic times. But really, you’ve been buying up just about every other cable company in America so purchasing my cable provider shouldn’t put you out too much, right? And given the level of service and the meager lineup of products Mediacom offers, they certainly can’t be worth very much. I’m not saying you could take them over by depleting your petty cash account but how expensive can these jamokes at Mediacom really be?

I never thought I would say it - never thought in a million years that I would ever utter the words “I miss Comcast.” But it’s true. I didn’t think there was a company in America who could match your disregard for customer service, your piss poor delivery of products, the constant problems with equipment, the interruptions in service, the service reps who learned their craft at some school they found on the back of a matchbook, or those cheerless voices on the phone who made your customers feel they were prisoners at Abu Gharaib rather than well, you know, the people who paid your salaries.

But then, we moved here to Streator, IL and discovered Mediacom.

Now, I would never accuse a company of being run by crooks - at least on this site. But what else do you call a company that takes your money and gives so little in return? Weekly internet outages, extraordinarily niggardly choices in products, a 19th century technological plant (do hamsters turn the generators that fail so regularly?), interruptions in all services, half hour to hour waits to get through to talk to a human being who turns out to have little or no knowledge of what is going on and tells you so with the manners of a goat, and a colossal cluelessness that permeates their corporate culture at every level.

At least you had about 50 HD channels, crystal clear reception on non-HD channels, and an on demand library that featured 1000 free movies and programming from other channels. Mediacom has less than half the HD channels, analog broadcasting on most non-HD channels that makes me want to look into buying rabbit ears in order to get better reception, no free movies, few free programming on demand options from other channels, AND NO NFL NETWORK!

This forces me to try and watch Thursday night NFL games on my computer using their pirated broadband signal. At least I think it is pirated. All I know is I am paying $60 bucks a month for 15 MBPS and by the time it is squeezed through their jury rigged, spit, gum and bailing wire, Rube Goldberg devised broadband cable, it is slower than DSL (according to various speed tests I’ve taken) and the picture keeps freezing and pixelating on me. This is common with all broadband video I try to watch - including any high quality porn I wish to enjoy. I mean, what’s a classic porn addict to do when Christy Canyon freezes in mid-moan?

You may suggest that I look into the dish. I have. From what I’ve heard from my neighbors - many of whom tried the dish and have since returned to cable - the folks who contract with Dish Network to install the hardware are, if anything, more clueless than Mediacom’s techies. After several visits trying to clear up an unwatchable picture, one of my neighbors just gave up (it is as flat as a pancake for hundreds of miles around). Besides, getting the dish won’t solve my internet problems although I am getting to the point where if I can be promised uninterrupted service I may just go for satellite broadband.

So, Comcast, you can see my dilemma. You are a gigantic corporation with massive resources. I have no doubt whatsoever that if you were to purchase Mediacom, you’d be able to elevate their service to at least the rock bottom level you offer. I eagerly await your reply.

Your friend,

Rick Moran



Filed under: Climate Chnage, Science, Technology, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:26 am

What’s wrong with this statement?

Indeed, failure to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, would put the entire world back on the path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, which will lead to a warming of up to 6 degrees centigrade, a rapid rise in sea level, widespread desertification and countless other devastating impacts.

Climate change advocates don’t do nuance very well (nor, for that matter, do the deniers). Unless you believe in catastrophic warming scenarios, you are immediately branded a tool of industry and dismissed outright. Conversely, pushing the theory of global warming brands you as an enviro-nut by some who see a global conspiracy at work in the warming movement.

What has been lost in all of this is a healthy skepticism toward evidence in this debate from both sides - something that good scientists must have in order to maintain the proper perspective so that when contrary evidence comes along (and it always does) it can be evaluated rationally, logically, and free of personal bias.

Scientists, being human, rarely achieve such objectivity. But it is still a regimen that good scientists pride themselves on striving to meet.

The author of the piece I quoted from, Joseph Romm, is someone who wishes to advance his political views using science as a club. He is not interested in the facts. If he was, he would carefully label his bald faced statement that not signing a climate treaty will lead to catastrophe as opinion..

There is not one scintilla of scientific evidence to back up the notion that failing to come to an agreement on his idea of an emissions treaty will end civilization. In fact, there is no evidence - save perhaps common sense - that reducing emissions of green house gasses will solve the problem of climate change at all. How could there be when there is no data to support such a statement? We haven’t reduced emissions enough to create a model that could tell us with any reasonable expectation of certainty about the future.

There are some global warming believers among scientists who say it’s too late already, that even if we stopped emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere right now, catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Others advance the theory that a well managed reduction in emissions will lead to a smaller rise in temperatures and mitigate at least some of the harmful effects on the planet. Still others say the entire process can be reversed. They can’t all be right. All could be wrong.

The point being, climate change treaties like Kyoto are political by their very nature. As such, they will be negotiated and ratified based on the perception that they will achieve what they purport to address; namely, the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and their subsequent effect on rising temperatures. But the world community has a huge perception problem with emissions treaties because they refuse to to account for the number one polluter and emitter of CO2 on the planet; China.

There can be no long term reduction in green house gasses unless China is forced to act like a responsible world citizen and stop spewing CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate no western nation has done since the 1960’s. Burning high sulfur coal for electric power and to run its massive industrial base, China has overtaken America as the world’s emission scofflaw.

And yet, here’s Romme on China:

Talks with China over climate action will probably be the most difficult and most important negotiations in U.S. and world history. I have spoken to a number of experts on Chinese energy and climate policy, who say the leaders of the country understand the nature of the threat that climate change poses to them — including the loss of inland glaciers that provide water for the rivers on which hundreds of millions rely. They say that strong U.S. domestic action, coupled with strong U.S. international leadership, could move China to act. Others tell me China will not agree to emissions reductions anytime soon, since it sees itself as a developing nation with much higher priorities.

In fact, China is in a special category by itself. It has announced plans to spend more than half a trillion dollars on an economic stimulus and infrastructure plan. It is a hyper-developing country, with vast amounts of capital in key advanced technologies, including wind and solar.

China is in a “special category” only because people like Romme - and his views reflect the massive majority in the climate change political community - are too afraid to hold China to the same standard that they hold America on emissions. They know that any insistence on China’s feet being held to the fire on cutting their emissions by a reasonable amount would doom any climate change treaty. Hence, rather than deal with the problem, they seek to finesse it by getting at least one of the two major emission culprits to sign on the dotted line.

They are counting on scaring the American public to put pressure on their elected leaders to do their dirty work for them and force the United States to accept ruinous reductions in emissions while China - one of our biggest economic competitors in the world - gets off scott free. Never mind that such an arrangement would grant a decisive economic advantage to China. Never mind that such a flawed climate change treaty wouldn’t reduce the world’s emissions enough to make any difference whatsoever - not when China can build any old coal fired plant it wants to, massively increase the size of its domestic automobile fleet (without worrying about catalytic converters or fuel composition standards), and generally thumb its nose at every other rule, regulation, and environmental standard set by developed countries.

Why should they get a pass? Because, as Mother Jones explains, “they want to be like us:”

The catch is that China has become not just the world’s manufacturer but also its despoiler, on a scale as monumental as its economic expansion. Chinese ecosystems were already dreadfully compromised before the Communist Party took power in 1949, but Mao managed to accelerate their destruction. With one stroke he launched the “backyard furnace” campaign, in which some 90 million peasants became grassroots steel smelters; to fuel the furnaces, villagers cut down a 10th of China’s trees in a few months. The steel ultimately proved unusable. With another stroke, Mao perpetrated the “Kill the Four Pests” campaign, inducing the mass slaughter of millions of sparrows and a subsequent explosion in the locust population. The destruction of forests led to erosion and the spread of deserts, and the locust resurgence prompted a collapse of the nation’s grain crop. The result was history’s greatest famine, in which 30 to 50 million Chinese died.

Yet the Mao era’s ecological devastation pales next to that of China’s current industrialization. A fourth of the country is now desert. More than three-fourths of its forests have disappeared. Acid rain falls on a third of China’s landmass, tainting soil, water, and food. Excessive use of groundwater has caused land to sink in at least 96 Chinese cities, producing an estimated $12.9 billion in economic losses in Shanghai alone. Each year, uncontrollable underground fires, sometimes triggered by lightning and mining accidents, consume 200 million tons of coal, contributing massively to global warming. A miasma of lead, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other elements of coal-burning and car exhaust hovers over most Chinese cities; of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, 16 are Chinese.

The government estimates that 400,000 people die prematurely from respiratory illnesses each year, and health care costs for premature death and disability related to air pollution is estimated at up to 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Four-fifths of the length of China’s rivers are too polluted for fish. Half the population—600 or 700 million people—drinks water contaminated with animal and human waste. Into Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze, the nation annually dumps a billion tons of untreated sewage; some scientists fear the river will die within a few years. Drained by cities and factories all over northern China, the Yellow River, whose cataclysmic floods earned it a reputation as the world’s most dangerous natural feature, now flows to its mouth feebly, if at all. China generates a third of the world’s garbage, most of which goes untreated. Meanwhile, roughly 70 percent of the world’s discarded computers and electronic equipment ends up in China, where it is scavenged for usable parts and then abandoned, polluting soil and groundwater with toxic metals.

The idea that China is carrying out this environmental destruction in order to be “just like us” is typical liberal drivel. If they wanted to be “just like us” they would pass the kind of environmental protections we have been reluctantly but steadily putting in place for the last 40 years. It is has cost us much in the way of economic activity (ask Goodyear, US Steel, and the Big Three just how much) but what we have gained is measurably more important: Cleaner air and water than 40 years ago (not as clean as they could be but better than they were and infinitely better than China).

Romme tries to make the medicine about China’s “special category” status in any future climate change treaty go down easier by praising them for their research leadership in wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources. The problem is that implementing those technologies as a substitute for coal would, from China’s point of view, be foolish. All of them are more expensive and employ far fewer people than China’s stupendous coal industry - a fact lost on most China apologists (including Al Gore). Gore, when queried on a History Channel special on Global Warming about the little matter of including China in any emissions regime dismissed the problem saying that “if we set an example” China would follow.

Romme tries some similar sophistry:

The health and well-being of future generations rests on the United States and China ending their mutual suicide pact. China won’t act until we do, and we won’t act if they don’t. President Obama can lead this nation in breaking half of that self-destructive cycle with a strong domestic climate bill. He has repeatedly laid out the targets: returning to 1990 emissions levels by 2020 and then reducing them another 80 percent by 2050. And that’s on top of a major energy bill and green recovery plan that will jump-start the transition to a clean energy economy.

But domestic legislation alone will not make Obama a successful president, let alone a great one. Future historians will inevitably judge all 21st-century presidents as failures if the world doesn’t stop catastrophic global warming. If Obama wants to be a great president, he will not merely have to put this country on a sustainable path; he will have to help bring China and the whole world onto that path too. And that is almost certainly the single hardest task he faces as president.

He doesn’t make any bones at all about unilateral concessions by the US on emissions, does he? And this is supposed to so shame the gimlet eyed Reds in Beijing that they see the error of their ways and throw millions out of work in their coal fields just to make Obama look good?

Obama said many times during the campaign that he would meet with our worst enemies in the name of world peace. Climate change is a far graver and for more preventable threat to the health and well-being of future generations of Americans than any current national security threat.

During the transition period, Obama should appoint a high-level envoy — paging Al Gore — to engage in direct shuttle diplomacy with China and other key emitters. He should meet with Chinese leaders himself in the first half of 2009. His presidency — and the fate of humanity — depend on it.

If the world ganged up on China and punished it for its irresponsible behavior, that might just do a lot more good than simply handing them a decisive economic advantage on a silver platter in the cutthroat competition of international trade. China must be given a choice; either join with the rest of the world in reducing emissions or we will force the reductions by refusing to buy your manufactured goods. That will reduce emissions nicely - and all those idle plants (or the prospect of them) would focus the attention of the Chinese leadership on their responsibilities as a great economic power.

This would be a lot fairer to the US - which is probably why it will never be tried.

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