March 17, 2010 Corruption squared
March 10, 2010 Fixing Illinois
March 3, 2010 O My
February 24, 2010 Irony R I P
February 17, 2010 Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due
February 10, 2010 Healthcare Reset
February 2, 2010 Wrong Trial, Wrong Place
January 27, 2010 Pollution is the cure
January 20, 2010 Earthquakes and political shakes
January 13, 2010 Big, Front Page News
By Rich Trzupek
The jury is still out, bet there are indications that Barack Obama is gritting his teeth and doing what many conservatives believed he could never bring himself to do: executing a Clintonesque pivot toward the center. Many on the right doubt the conviction of Obama’s apparent conversion, but even among those who believe that the president is indeed veering away from his cherished far left path there is a stark difference of opinion on what that might mean. One school of thought maintains that the nation will be spared the worst consequences of implementing even more leftist policies and Obama’s pivot is therefore necessary and welcome. Another group of conservatives wishes that the president would stubbornly stick to his leftist course and thus drive the nation “out of the ditch” and over a cliff, thereby proving in no uncertain terms how dangerous and disconnected the progressive movement is.
Few issues so united the left in their conviction that George W. Bush was a lackey of the rich and powerful than Bush’s tax cuts. For years, progressives have blamed our current economic woes on those cuts and Obama himself embraced the theory. And yet, in the wake of a devastating rejection of his party last month, Obama not only extended the Bush tax cuts, his chief economic advisor said that it was vital to do so, unless we want to risk a “double-dip” recession.
The president was exultant after the package passed, saying: “…this proves that both parties can in fact work together to grow our economy and look out for the American people." What a difference an election makes. The “party of no” has now become half of the bipartisan formula Obama said he wanted to employ to bring America together. Perhaps one can do business with hostage-takers after all? Though it’s not certain that Obama will continue along the path to the middle, his willingness to work with his political enemies on this issue is at least a step in the right direction.
Obama’s hawkish stance on the war in Afghanistan is even more revealing. Nine years after U.S boots first hit the ground in Afghanistan to help the Northern Alliance oust the Taliban, war weariness in America has clearly set in. A Quinnipiac poll in November showed overall support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in negative territory for the first time, with 44 percent of the public supporting the U.S. role, and 50 percent opposing it. Nonetheless, in a recent surprise visit with troops serving on the front line, Obama spoke of taking the fight to the enemy, rather than defensively reacting to our opponents’ desires. "We said we were going to break the Taliban's momentum,” Obama told the troops. “And that's what you're doing. You're going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds.”
We’ve been here before. Bill Clinton toyed with the idea of using leftist ideology as a roadmap of governance when he was elected president in 1992. America decisively rejected such a dramatic shift in 1994, embracing the conservative principles that Newt Gingrich so articulately defined in the GOP’s “Contract With America.” From the Democrats’ perspective, the election of 1994 left their party and their causes in smoking ruins. But Bill Clinton, who has never hesitated to embrace a strategy that benefitted Bill Clinton, saw the writing on the wall and swung toward the center will a seemingly effortless ease.
Clinton abandoned “Hillarycare,” embraced welfare reform and – in large part if not in every detail – moved toward the middle in order to reap the benefits of the anti-leftist sentiments that were then sweeping the county. Bill Clinton was and is no ideologue. He did and continues to do whatever is necessary to advance the fame and fortune of Bill Clinton. He remains a hero on the left, even though his record demonstrates that he’s far less committed to the progressive agenda than he is to self-aggrandizement. No matter. With his administration and his progressive goals in deep, deep trouble, Barack Obama turned to Bill Clinton to rescue the current administration during a press conference last week. The result was a study in contrasts. The politically savvy ex-President effortlessly assumed the leadership role, fielding questions with typical grace and style, using his disarming public persona to put everyone at ease.
On the other hand, Barack Obama fled the podium soon after Bill Clinton started talking. While Clinton smoothly engaged reporters, the president of the United States escaped to attend a Christmas party that was apparently far more important than the nation’s business. The bottom line seems to be that Barack Obama wants to find a way out of the ideological cul-de-sac that he has driven his nation, but doing so galls him. His conciliatory words following the tax cut vote probably came hard for the President, but had he continued to publicly lash out at conservatives and progressive purists it would have only made him seem even more childishly petulant and bitter. If Obama is to continue moving toward the center, Republican’s will have to keep up the pressure. This deeply narcissistic president won’t like that a bit, but the citizens of the nation he is supposed to be leading will be much happier than they are at the moment.
The Liberal Crack Up
By Rich Trzupek
So much for the post-partisan presidency. Not that there was any chance that it would actually happen anyway. It would have taken a modern-day Solomon to bridge the ideological divide in America today and no one would confuse Barack Obama with the Biblical King. From the beginning of his term, Obama’s idea of bi-partisanship more closely resembled a mob racket than any kind of nuanced balancing of political and public interests. From the stimulus through government bail outs, from health care through trials for terrorists, the administration’s message has been unmistakably clear: we’ll all get along fine, so long as you do exactly as Nancy, Harry and I say. The administration thus alienated Republicans early and often and, as the 2010 election so amply demonstrated, millions upon millions of Americans as well. Now, the furor over the president’s proposal to extend the Bush era tax cuts to everyone has turned another faction against him: Obama’s base on the far left views the president’s tax-extension proposal as “proof” that Obama is in fact a money-grubbing Republican in disguised progressive clothing.
The far left and the elected officials representing progressives, like Speaker Pelosi, are rushing to put as much distance between themselves and Obama’s heretical proposal as possible. Centerist Democrats, like centrist Republicans, are willing to go along with a “framework” that neither group believes is perfect, but that each believes is necessary if we’re to avoid an even deeper recession. The right wing of the Republican party isn’t at all sure that it’s willing to swallow the bitter bill of additional spending that goes along with the tax cut extension in Obama’s proposal, but the jury is still out as to whether hard-core conservatives will vote against the deal or not. At the end of the day, my guess is that conservatives will hold out as long as they can for as much as they can, before joining the center of both parties to ensure that tax rates remain stable for everyone over the next two years.
While the Obama administration is not the first post-partisan presidency since George Washington, it is certainly the first post-ironic presidency. Obama’s entire economic demagoguery was based on the contention that the Bush tax cuts ruined the economy – a fantasy that corresponded directly with the delusions of his leftist base. So what does the president propose to do to keep the economy from tanking even further than he’s torpedoed it thus far? Extend the Bush tax cuts. The cognitive dissonance on the left must be shattering – either they were terribly wrong about economics all along, or Obama wasn’t the Chosen One they’d imagined him to be from the start. Actually, both are true, but their disillusionment is spectacular to behold.
Consider a few comments posted on the Daily Kos, the site that is always a harbinger of far-leftist opinion, shortly after the president announced his willingness to extend the Bush era tax cuts for all. “I’m just going to accept the fact that I was had and that Obama is in fact a Republican,” one commenter moaned. “Then I am going to move on. I am going to expect nothing at all from Washington and work very hard to elect progressive Democrats locally. I’m just going to start all over from the bottom up. Oh, and this. I will NEVER, EVER, EVER again give time or a dime or a vote to a blue dog Democrat. That includes the President.” Another complained about Obama’s defection in terms that could have been plucked from a McCain-Palin ad in 2008: “During the election, a Brit asked me: ‘What do we really know about this Obama character? Isn’t it a bit risky to choose a President with no experience?’ At the time, I responded as you might expect. ‘Saying all the right things’, ‘Energizing the country’, etc, etc. Crap, I should have listened to the guy. Obama turned out to be nothing but a suit with a great speech writer.” Finally we have this bit of sarcasm from a Daily Kosite who believes that allowing people to keep more of the money they’ve earned is morally equivalent to highway robbery: “The rich need our money more then (sic) we do, because they are better people. Obama knows this and doesn’t flinch from doing the hard things – like taking our money and giving it to the rich.”
If Barack Obama isn’t far enough left for the far left, the far left has nowhere to go. As painful as it may be for the president to knowingly alienate his loyal base, the alternative is far more painful. If the economy tanks any further, Obama has zero chance of getting re-elected in 2012 and he knows it. Extending the hated tax cuts are a vital measure towards fueling a recovery, and you don’t have to go any further than the president’s chief economic advisor Larry Summers to understand the truth of that statement.
When push comes to shove, a center-right coalition will likely approve the best deal it can wrangle from the president, simply to avoid any further economic horror. In doing so, conservatives will hand Barack Obama a gift he hasn’t earned: a path toward economic recovery that will provide Obama a glimmer of hope in the 2012 elections. Ultimately, Barack Obama will face a very odd situation when re-election time comes around. The base that idolized him will have abandoned him, even as his hated ideological enemies provide him with the tools to get America’s troubled economy back into motion.
By Rich Trzupek
When the Stuxnet super-virus was first identified in June by a Belarus security firm, cyber-security experts across the globe worried that the infection could have a global effect. But, as software engineers continue to study lines of code in the sophisticated malware, it’s become clear to most that Stuxnet was designed as a precision weapon with a single target in mind: Iran’s nuclear program. Yet, while the virus seems to have been successful in disrupting Iran’s nuclear ambitions for the time being, Stuxnet also represents a new kind of computer virus, one that some experts fear will be used to attack power plants and industrial facilities throughout the world. If terrorists were to get their hands on Stuxnet-like technology before the west develops effective countermeasures, the results could be catastrophic.
Computer security expert Ralph Langner described Stuxnet as being akin to “the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield.” Unlike most viruses, Stuxnet was not designed to infiltrate a network solely through the internet. The computers used in Iran’s nuclear program are not connected to the internet, so that would have been a futile exercise. Instead, Stuxnet hopped from computer to computer by any means possible, always looking for its target. Experts suspect that an unsuspecting individual involved with Iran’s nuclear program eventually introduced the virus via an ordinary flash drive. Once Stuxnet found that it was where it was supposed to be, the virus went to work.
A typical virus targets a computer, almost always a PC. Stuxnet went after the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) that controlled the thousands of centrifuges Iran installed to enrich uranium at its Natanz facility. The virus not only fooled the PLC into rapidly changing the speed of the centrifuges, it also prevented the PLC from reporting the change in speeds and it stopped the PLC from triggering any alarms. Operators were surely puzzled, for their control panels told them everything was running normally, but centrifuge after centrifuge was being wrecked by the severe changes in rotation speed. The result, many experts believe, is that thousands of the centrifuges were damaged over the course of the year that Stuxnet did its dirty work, undetected by anyone in Iran. These were high quality targets, for Iran needs centrifuges to refine the low grade uranium used for fuel into the high concentration, weapons-grade uranium.
Who did it? Most experts believe that something as sophisticated and complicated as Stuxnet could only be built using the resources of a rich nation-state. Israel and the United States are obvious candidates, but some believe that Russia and Germany may have participated in the project as well. Since the systems targeted were built by Siemens, a German firm, it seems likely that the company, the German government – or both – at least cooperated with the effort. If the reports of damage to Natanz are correct (Iran denies such reports of course) then the world owes whomever made the stealthy cyber-attack a debt of gratitude. Yet, there is another side to the coin. Now that the code is publicly available, it’s only a matter of time before a hacker with less noble ends in mind modifies Stuxnet for more nefarious purposes.
The nightmare scenario involves a clever programmer building a Stuxnet-like virus that would go after PLCs used in vital sectors of the west’s economy, facilities like power plants, oil refineries and industrial manufacturers. Such a weapon would be very attractive to terrorists around the world and it’s not hard to imagine a soulless hacker auctioning off that kind of capability to the highest bidder. Now there’s little danger of an Al-Qaeda programmer creating a weapon that destructive, even with Stuxnet to use as a blueprint. But would Al-Qaeda pay a clever infidel handsomely to provide them with the capability to wreak that kind of havoc? You bet.
Langner, who runs a cyber-security firm, says that he already has the capability to infiltrate and sabotage PLCs at industrial facilities. His firm developed proof of concept software “…that manipulates controllers without any insider knowledge. If we wanted to, we could implement a configurable controller exploit framework that includes Stuxnet’s more nasty attack technology within four weeks. We won’t do it. But others probably will. They may need longer, but we don’t know if they haven’t started already.” The interface for Langner’s software is frighteningly simple, allowing a user to select a process to target and then to disable alarms, kill the process, change process variables and change outputs – all without any knowledge of the process itself.
Like other cyber-security experts, Langner hopes to influence people to utilize his services by exposing their system’s vulnerabilities. However, the fact that someone is delivering a message out of self-interest does not mean that the message is wrong. Stuxnet took the computer virus to an entirely new level, moving them beyond mostly annoying, yet manageable, ways of disrupting personal computers and networks. Now viruses can be used to sabotage industrial facilities and processes and to do as much damage as a barrage of cruise missiles. The challenge for the west will be to refine this technology so it can be used to attack the enemies of liberty and freedom to an ever-greater degree, while we simultaneously ensure that this powerful new weapon cannot be used against us.
Oops! – Gore Admits A Mistake
By Rich Trzupek
Back in 1994, vice-president of the United States Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote that started us on the long road of taking American farms out of food production and converting them to fuel production. While conservatives and libertarians argued at the time that subsidizing ethanol production made no economic or environmental sense, Gore and his green allies were certain that bio-fuels would solve all the nation’s woes. Sixteen years later, Mr. Gore has apparently seen the light, admitting that America’s rush to embrace corn ethanol has been something of a mistake.
Here is what Vice President Al Gore had to say about his role in subsidizing ethanol, while speaking at the Farm Journal conference back in 1998:
"I was also proud to stand up for the ethanol tax exemption when it was under attack in the Congress -- at one point, supplying a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to save it. The more we can make this home-grown fuel a successful, widely-used product, the better-off our farmers and our environment will be."
Contrast that with what the vice-president is quoted as saying while he was attending a recent green energy conference held in Athens, Greece:
“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol," Reuters quoted Gore saying of the U.S. policy that is about to come up for congressional review. "First-generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small. One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president. The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first-generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices. The competition with food prices is real."
While it’s nice to hear that the hero of the environmental movement has embraced reality, Gore’s conversion has come far too late. When Gore cast his critical vote in 1994, the bio-fuels industry produced about 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol each year from less than fifty plants. Sixteen years later, as a direct result of government subsidies and tax breaks, over a hundred new corn ethanol plants have been built and the amount of ethanol produced in the United States has increased by almost an order of magnitude, topping 10.5 billion gallons in 2009. Private investors have invested tens of billions of dollars to build today’s massive corn ethanol infrastructure and the government has invested tens of billions more to ensure that it remains in place. Had Gore faced facts in 1994, the public and private sectors could have used those funds more wisely and more profitably elsewhere. But now? Having made this huge investment, the pain of admitting defeat, suffering our losses and walking away from corn ethanol may be too much to bear.
Congress has to decide whether or not to renew the current $7.7 billion corn-ethanol subsidy by the end of the year. On the one hand, it seems madness to prolong a fuel industry that – at best – can only generate a bit more energy than it consumes (and more often less), that takes cropland out of food and feed production and, as result, raises the prices and lowers the availability of food. A 2007 Department of Agriculture report clearly outlined the effects of subsidizing corn ethanol: a steady decrease in food production, concurrent decreases in agricultural exports and rising costs of food products.
As distasteful as it may be to bite the bullet and end corn-ethanol subsidies, the alternative may be even more unpalatable to Congress. Demanding that the corn-ethanol industry stand on its own two feet would result in the closure of dozens of plants, the loss of thousands of jobs, writing off billions of dollars of losses and finding new sources of petroleum to replace the billions of gallons of ethanol that Americans put in their gas tanks each year. Both options are painful, and while a free market advocate like me would advocate cutting our losses, learning a painful lesson and moving beyond ethanol, Congress may not be so inclined. The benefits of ending the ethanol subsidy are long-term and market-driven. Few politicians are motivated to action by that big a picture, particularly when the short-term damage can be so devastating to their careers. How can even the most staunchly conservative farm-belt Congressman face his constituents after voting to end ethanol subsidies? If and when subsidies end, farm income will drop, the property value of farms will plummet and thousands of workers employed in the ethanol industry will find themselves on the streets, looking for work in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.
The fact that Al Gore has finally come to grips with corn-ethanol reality is a remarkable development, but his conversion has probably come far too late to be of any real value. The policies that he promoted throughout much of his political career have come home to roost and the economic damage that those policies have done is undeniable. Gore – more than anyone else – helped to create the renewable energy monster that saps our nation’s resources and undermines our prosperity today. Having profited handsomely for those efforts, the ex-vice president’s belated mea culpa comes far too late in the game to have any practical effect.
The EPA’s Power Grab
By Rich Trzupek
When the Obama administration was unsuccessfully trying to push a cap and trade bill through Congress, the president and his USEPA administrator Lisa Jackson repeatedly warned policymakers that if the bill didn’t pass they’d regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act anyway. Given the tedious complexity of the Clean Air Act process, many (including this writer) believed that was a hollow threat. We were wrong. Last Wednesday Jackson released a document that will serve as the blueprint for a sweeping new power grab by her agency, one that neatly avoids the tiresome and time-consuming requirements that a piece of legislation duly passed by Congress like the Clean Air Act imposes on the USEPA. Under this new set of policy guidelines, bureaucrats charged with regulating the amount of air pollutants released into the atmosphere will be empowered to step away from the smokestack and into the boiler houses and board rooms of industries across the country.
Up to now, the authority of the USEPA and the state and local agencies that do the bulk of environmental work in the field has been limited to the “what comes out of the stack” universe. They could limit your emissions, in order to meet applicable standards, but they didn’t get involved in economic decisions or process details. Those days are over. In the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, USEPA is directing the state and local agencies that report to the feds to use “energy efficiency” as a permitting guideline. Jackson’s agency wants bureaucrats across the nation to begin dictating choices in equipment and the way that equipment is operated and maintained and to codify their judgments on the best way to operate a facility as permit conditions.
The document in question is entitled “PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases”. It was released to the public on Wednesday. The fact that it is a guidance document, as opposed to a formal regulatory proposal, is very significant. Regulations have to be proposed in certain forms, economic costs have to be considered and there is a long, detailed public process involved. Guidance, on the other hand, isn’t subject to any of these sorts of annoying requirements. Guidance is the USEPA offering its “opinion” on a subject and, when the criticism begins, Jackson will surely hide behind this accurate, but ultimately unimportant, detail. Few states outside of Texas will ignore USEPA guidance, for such a document is traditionally treated as Holy Writ by state and local agencies. After all, their permitting decisions are ultimately subject to USEPA approval. How can a state regulator expect to have a decision approved by the overseeing federal authority if he or she ignores federal guidance?
It’s a subtle, yet devilishly brilliant policy. Few people understand the legal distinctions that come into play and Jackson will be able to con much of the mainstream media into believing that industrial advocates like me are making a mountain out of a molehill. We’re not. For those readers not aware of it, I am an expert on environmental regulation in general and the Clean Air Act in particular. Helping industry deal with both has been my primary career for over twenty five years. Believe me: the implications of what Jackson is trying to do and the devious means that’s she’s using to accomplish it will have severe repercussions on our beleaguered industrial sector.
In this guidance document, USEPA acknowledges that the Holy Grail of greenhouse gas control, carbon capture and sequestration (i.e.; injecting carbon dioxide deep underground) is a long way away from being a cost-effective, reliable technology – if it ever will be. That’s a reasonable start, but it’s all downhill from there. When permitting large new industrial projects, or major modifications to existing plants, the agency is directing permitting authorities to require energy efficiency improvements in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, nobody is against energy efficiency and most everyone in the private sector is amenable to anything that reduces energy costs. However, when the USEPA decides that it should dictate energy efficiency measures by choosing equipment, influencing process design and turning what should be operational decisions into permit conditions, we’ve crossed a line. When government bureaucrats start making such decisions, we’ve moved even further afield from the free market into the type of benevolent socialism that this administration seems to be so in love with.
This intrusion into the private sector is all the worse when one understands just what kind of people in the bureaucracy will be making these decisions. There are a few notable exceptions, but for the most part the men and women who write permits fall into one of two categories: a) kids a few years out of college who know very little about any industrial process, or b) older folks who couldn’t hack it in the private sector because they don’t have sufficient talent, enough intelligence or both. In either case, it is a constant struggle for industry to make permit writers understand the relatively simple issues that involve what’s coming out of a smokestack. Asking these same people to grasp what happens in an entire manufacturing or power producing process is a recipe for chaos.
These same permit writers will also be asked to make a rather remarkable decision: whether to allow a facility to increase the amounts of “traditional” air pollutants like particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, if such an increase is the price to pay for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. This is another unprecedented development. For decades, environmental groups have fought against the very appearance of “backsliding” when it comes to air pollution emissions from industrial sources. Yet, praying at the altar of the false god of global warming, this administration has said in writing that backsliding can be OK, so long as greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. One can get a lot more energy out of a ton of Illinois coal, for example, but Illinois coal contains much more sulfur than the low sulfur, lower energy western coal that’s commonly burned today. Jackson’s guidance would seem to open the door to using the former, without worrying about pesky sulfur dioxide so much. Finally, according to Jackson’s guidance state and local agencies should consider increasing permit fees in order to cover the costs of implementing greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act. They have the authority to do so, the Administrator says, under the Act already, even though nobody has gone through any sort of formal rulemaking process with regard to greenhouse gases.
Ironically, even if you adhere to global warming alarmism, none of this nonsense is necessary. The US has reduced greenhouse gas emission down to mid-nineties levels. China is the big player in terms of greenhouse gases and will only get bigger. The combination of Renewable Portfolio Standards (which require utilities to gradually reduce their fossil fuel use over time) and regional cap and trade programs means that well over half of the states are committed to making drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Why does the USEPA need to step in to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when we are already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
It all sounds rather surreal, but there doesn’t seem to be much chance of stopping this hurtling train of environmental extremism. Because this policy is being implemented as guidance, Lisa Jackson isn’t required to solicit comments, much less respond to them. Nonetheless, she has agreed to a public comment period before USEPA finalizes its new policy. That comment period opened on Wednesday and closes on December 1st, a grand total of fourteen days that includes the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a move reminiscent of the Democrats rush to pass the healthcare bill so we could learn what was in it. It will be impossible for industry groups and free market advocates to digest the implications of this radical shift in policy, much less respond effectively to it. That’s undoubtedly exactly what Lisa Jackson wants. EPA regulation of greenhouse gases is scheduled to begin on January 2, 2011, a date that will mark the beginning of the last chapter in the once proud history of America’s industrial sector.
By Rich Trzupek
The name has changed and the empire is smaller than it used to be, but there’s less and less these days to distinguish the Russian Federation from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Saturday’s brutal beating of crusading journalist Oleg Kashin appears to be the latest example of the resurgent police state in Russia flexing its muscles to stamp out dissent, especially when it comes to journalists who refuse to follow the party line. A horrific video recently published shows Kashin being repeatedly beaten by two men who appear to be wielding pipes or some other blunt instruments. Kashin, a journalist for Kommersant, a Russian political and business newspaper, suffered multiple injuries and is currently in an induced coma as doctors try to save his life. Most significantly, the journalist who has written so much to anger and embarrass the government had all of his fingers broken. As messages go, they don’t get much clearer this: write things that we don’t like and we’ll make sure that you never write again. None of Kashin’s possessions were stolen by his assailants, which further reinforces the motivation for the assault.
The Russian authorities have naturally expressed their outrage over the crime and have vowed to find and punish the perpetrators. In a just world that kind of investigation would start at the top, with detectives questioning Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Eight journalists have been killed in Russia in this year alone and only one of those murders resulted in an arrest. "Russia's courts and the police do not have enough strength - or enough interest - to protect journalists," said Mikhail Kotov, editor of the Russian Gazeta online newspaper. With parliamentary elections scheduled to occur within the next eighteen months, efforts to suppress freedom of the press in Russia will surely get worse. The Russian edition of Newsweek, which has provided a strong voice of opposition in the country, appears ready to close its doors along with other media outlets that don’t play by Putin’s rules.
The west’s Cold War dream of a liberated, democratic Russia – a vision that appeared to be tantalizingly close to reality when the USSR dissolved nineteen years ago – now seems as distant and as unachievable as ever. As President, Putin was the most popular leader of any nation in the world, with approval ratings among Russians topping out over eighty per cent at times. The economic downturn means the Medvedev isn’t quite as popular as his mentor, but there’s very little to suggest that the majority of the Russian populace would want to change the way their country is run. Putin is widely seen to have restored Russian pride and he was fortunate to be at the helm when the fruits of the nation’s experiments with capitalism began to bear economic fruit. He’s a hero among much of the populace and that counts for a lot more than the fate of one big-mouthed journalist.
While markets in Russia might be more free than they were under Leonid Brezhnev, the resurgent power of the police state in the country today would make Stalin smile. But then the method of governing mother Russia through a thuggish ruling class has been a central feature of the nation since Ivan the Terrible first came up with the concept in the sixteenth century. Under Ivan, the secret police were the Oprichniki, who used torture and murder to root out and eliminate enemies of the government and who were, in turn, taken care of very well by the Tsar. Down through the centuries, Russian heads of state have continually emulated Ivan’s example. The names have changed, from the Okhrana under Nicholas II, to the NKVD, to the KGB and all of the incarnations in between. Today, the FSB has replaced the KGB, but apart from two consonants, there doesn’t appear to be much that separates the two organizations. Unless of course it’s that the FSB has more money to work with than its predecessor. The mission remains the same as it ever was: to ensure that the regime in power stays in power. The FSB seems to be accomplishing that all-important task with the same ruthless efficiency that its ancestors in this “state within a state” have displayed throughout Russia’s long, tragic history. In this case, the modern version of the Oprichniki are just looking after one of their own. Putin neatly bridges the gap between the KGB that he worked for in the USSR and the FSB that he led in the Russian Federation.
Like modern-day China, Putin seems to have digested the lesson that while free markets – or at least a near approximation thereof – are desirable, the other, more troublesome parts of freedom need not go along with it. Russians are relatively free to ply their wares, so long as the state and the mobs get their cuts, but freedom of the press, freedom of dissent and the freedom to have an opinion that conflicts with state policy are fast disappearing. After all, Oleg Kashin wasn’t an investigative journalist, he simply expressed his point of view, but that point of view was often critical of the ruling regime. For the crime of having an opinion, Kashin was beaten half to death and his life hangs by a thread. The old adage says that the more things change, the more they remain the same. In Russia today, that bit of wisdom remains as true as ever.
By Rich Trzupek
Well that was stupid. The rest of the nation repudiated a socialist agenda that, while ill-considered, was at least sincerely held by the leftists who have pushed it down America’s throats. Crabby conservatives like yours truly were certainly happy about that, but those of who live in this here state would have been a lot happier if voters of Illinois could have showed even a fraction of the good sense that most of the rest of the nation displayed on November 2, 2010.
The election of Pat Quinn and the continuing empowerment of the Madigan machine is all the more frustrating because, compared to the decision that people made on the national level, ours was a far easier choice. There was no ideology to vote for or against in Illinois, there was a group of blatantly corrupt goof-balls who have run the state into the ground on one side of the ballot, and a group of not-recently corrupt goof-balls who, back in the glory days of the 90s, actually ran the state rather well.
And, we chose the former.
By “we” I of course mean the Democratic machine in Crook County, because that’s what the state-wide election came down to. Have you seen the map of Illinois showing how each county voted for governor? It’s a sea of red, with three exceptions. One is basically East St. Louis, which is so desperately poverty-stricken that of course they are going to vote for the party of entitlement. The second is down by Cairo and I’m not sure they have indoor plumbing down there, much less access to the news. But it’s the third that mattered. It’s Crook County that got Pat Quinn elected and very nearly put a slime ball like Alexi Giannoulias over the top.
This election confirmed what many of us already knew: Illinois is a state run of Chicago, by Chicago, for Chicago. Worse, this election guarantees that it will continue to be so for a very long time to come. Illinois Democrats now have complete control of redistricting, which means that they will carve up the legislative map into some surreal picture that guarantees that they will hold onto their majority far into the future.
Now I get my fair share of angry, insulting letters and that’s fine. I have always believed that since I get my ink in 40,000+ newspapers, the least a reader who disagrees with me is entitled to is the opportunity to tell me what a jerk I am. As a rule, I don’t respond and on the rare exceptions when I do, I don’t respond in kind. Today, I’m making an exception. To those of you who voted to uphold this dictatorial, corrupt, irresponsible regime in Illinois I ask this question: how stupid can you possibly be?
There are people who believe that big government can fix everyone’s problems. I get that. But, in Illinois in 2010, how can anyone in their right mind vote for this kind of government? It’s impossible for government to fix anything when it itself is broken. Illinois is a train-wreck. We’re now $13 billion in the red and it’s just going to get worse. We’re bleeding jobs and employers. If Illinois were a nation, we would rank 8th in the entire world in public-sector employment. How long do you think we can stay on this course before the wheels come completely off?
To utilize the metaphor with which President Obama is so addicted, Madigan and his cronies drove the car that is Illinois into a ditch at one hundred forty miles per hour, flipped it over seventeen times and ruptured the gas tank. Now, the lemming-like voters of Illinois – and I’m talking to you idiot Illinois Democrats of Crook County – have not only handed them back the keys, you’ve lent them a Zippo lighter to finish the job.
The next General Assembly will make cursory budget cuts of course. They’re not completely brain-dead, but they don’t have convictions or principles to make the kind of deep, painful budget reforms that are necessary to pull Illinois away from the abyss of economic catastrophe. Instead, they’ll reluctantly, sadly announce that – gosh darn it - they’ve cut everything they can and it wasn’t enough. Sorry folks, but a tax hike is the only way.
This in turn will send more employers and jobs out of our state, toward states that are much more sane about their finances and that don’t try to bleed every last dime out of businesses and individuals. Texas comes to mind as a prime example. Recession or no, the Lone Star State has been doing fine and, as a result, Americans are migrating in mass to the jobs and prosperity that Texas offers.
Meanwhile, once great states like California, New York and – it’s so sad to have to admit this – Illinois are now battered hulks, fast on their way to becoming mere shadows of the economic powerhouses they once were. It’s a damn shame, but that’s where we are and, saddest of all, our children will pay most dearly for our dreadful mistakes.
More Corn For You
By Rich Trzupek
Last month, USEPA approved the use of gasoline containing up to fifteen per cent ethanol in vehicles built in 2007 or later. That’s an increase over the current limit of ten per cent and it is sure to make ethanol producers like agri-giant Archer Daniels Midland very happy indeed. Unfortunately, there’s not much in this decision for the average American consumer to celebrate. The new fuel blend, generically known as E-15, is likely to increase gas prices, increase food prices and to quite possibly damage vehicles, void warranties and increase air pollution.
One has to admire the deviousness with which USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson works the system to further the green agenda. In a press release announcing the E-15 decision, Jackson said: “Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.” Those two seemingly innocuous sentences have deep regulatory meaning. Back in March 2009 Growth Energy, a trade organization for the bio-fuels industry, and fifty four ethanol manufacturers petitioned USEPA to approve the use of E-15. Under the Clean Air Act, USEPA cannot approve the use of a “significantly altered fuel” – which E-15 unquestionably is – unless it can be shown that “…the new fuel will not cause or contribute to the failure of the engine parts that ensure compliance with the act’s emissions limits.”
Note the narrowness of the test here: USEPA can use its authority to circumvent otherwise applicable sections of the Clean Air Act and single-handedly approve a new fuel if it believes that “emissions limits” will not be exceeded. Will more ethanol in gasoline affect the performance of the catalytic convertor in your car’s exhaust system that destroys air pollutants? It will not. Will more ethanol affect the various sensors that optimize engine performance or the computer that controls it? Not likely. But, might higher ethanol blends prove to be incompatible with a variety of engine parts that in turn will degrade more quickly when exposed to more of this acidic alcohol? That’s absolutely possible and perhaps even likely. As an engine degrades, it runs less efficiently and generates more air pollutants, at some point producing enough that the various control systems that “ensure compliance” with emissions limits simply can’t keep up.
There’s nothing “sound” about this sort of science. Jackson caved into the ethanol industry’s demands by applying the narrowest possible definition to that part of the Clean Air Act that enjoins her Agency to ensure that air pollution emissions will not increase as a result of approval of a new fuel. This is rather another example of what has characterized Jackson’s EPA since she took over: selectively using science to further an agenda. Last year, the federal government mandated and provided subsidies for the production of 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol. That requirement will expand to 15 billion gallons by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022. Allowing the use of E15 is an important step toward realizing those goals. By the end of the year, USEPA is expected to decide whether or not to allow the use of E-15 in model years dating back to 2001.
Not that the model-year requirement matters all that much anyway. As E-15 hits the market, the only control that will be put in place to ensure that owners of 2007 and later model vehicles use that particular blend will be an USEPA-designed sticker on the gas pump. Call me a cynic, but are we really expected to believe that motorists driving older cars will avoid filling up on E-15 because a sticker tells them not to? If, thanks to government subsidies and incentives, E-15 is cheaper than “normal” gasoline, few drivers will pay the slightest attention.
From a chemist’s point of view (which I am) any increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline is cause for concern. In addition to ethanol being weakly acidic on its own, it also attracts water, which is more strongly acidic. By contrast, the hydrocarbons that make up the rest of gasoline tend to repel water. As you introduce more ethanol, you necessarily introduce more water into the fuel system and engine, and water is – as anyone who has owned cast-iron lawn furniture can attest to – quite corrosive. Automobile manufacturers understand this and most have designed, and most importantly warranted, their vehicles on the basis of the owner using fuels that contain no more than ten per cent ethanol. In the face of this recent EPA decision car makers are faced with a classic Hobson’s Choice: they can pay out on warranty claims that appear to be related to the use of E-15, or they can challenge such claims and incur the considerable, and considerably expensive, wrath of a resurgent federal bureaucracy.
Finally, there is this: the conversion of United States’ cropland from food production (directly, through the production of consumables, or indirectly, through the production of livestock feed) will continue as a result of this decision. Thus, as a direct consequence of Lisa Jackson’s latest edict, food prices in the United States will continue to rise. That particular consequence is not part of the “sound” scientific analysis that she has relied upon, but it is another example of the unintended consequences that Barack Obama’s USEPA doesn’t ever care to consider.
By Rich Trzupek
One week from now, we’ll know. The election will be over and the course that America will take, and that Illinois will take, will have been decided. This is an election that will tell us much about remains of the American character and thus the future of the world, because we remain today, as we Lincoln so profoundly observed a century and a half ago, the last, best hope of mankind.
Old Abe said that because he believed, as our Founding Fathers believed, that governments run by the working class – or, as he said, “of the people, for the people and by the people” – are ultimately more just, more effective and lead to more prosperous societies than governments run by a ruling class. In Lincoln’s day, the ruling class was epitomized in the ancient monarchies that still controlled much of the world. Today, the ruling class has become something else in America: the cancer of professional, career politicians who believe that dispensing favors in order to get themselves re-elected is more important than doing the right thing.
That attitude among the ruling class is more prevalent among Democrats than it is among Republicans, but the GOP is hardly guiltless when it comes to this vital issue. There are many Republicans who grow fat and happy in office and who thus try to find a way to appease the middle without taking any sort of ideological stand. The difference is that such an attitude is basically a requirement for Democratic candidates, while the GOP provides a refuge for contrarians who oppose business as usual in government.
In Illinois, there is hardly a Democrat who is running on the same side of the issues that he or she ran four years ago – assuming that the candidate in question ran for office four years ago. In 2006, the economy was chugging along, Rod Blagojevich was popular and Illinois’ mounting debt elicited hardly a yawn. Illinois Democrats positively swooned, anxious to convince voters how wonderful everything was and that electing them would keep the good times a-rollin.
Four years later, we’re hearing a very, very different tune from Illinois Democrats. They’re going to fix the economy (that they trashed, far worse than the nation’s economy). They voted to impeach Blago (only after a Federal investigation exposed the governor they supported for so long while he was a crook). They’ve got a plan to repay our massive debt (the very debt that they created). George Orwell would have approved. It’s like the previous eight years never happened. The Dems are going to fix Illinois, without ever bothering to acknowledge that they broke it in the first place.
And you know who’s the worst of the bunch? Not Blago. Blago is a vain, immoral, idiot, but he couldn’t have come to power and remained in power without the support of the Speaker of the House in Illinois: Mike Madigan. Blago is a fool, but Madigan is anything but. He knows, beyond a doubt, how state government should be run. When Jim Edgar was governor – as brilliant and ethical a chief executive as Illinois has ever known – Madigan cheerfully partnered with Edgar to get this state on the right track. We had balanced budgets, we paid down our debts and businesses flocked to Illinois. There is therefore no doubt that Madigan knows how the state should be run, but he abandoned any bit of responsibility and duty when Rod Blagojevich took office. He was a willing participant in our disgraced ex-governor’s schemes, using the powers of his office to ram Blago’s agenda through, time and again.
Madigan’s priority was to retain the Speaker’s post, a position that allows him to determine which bills will be considered and which bills will die. It’s also a matter of prestige, for his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, will have a much easier time getting elected so long as her daddy is too important. And so Madigan enticed erstwhile Republicans like Paul Froelich and Fred Crespo during the Dems’ salad days. There really wasn’t any need for guys like Forelich and Crespo to vote along party lines on a daily basis. Madigan had enough votes to allow such officials to vote however they chose, so long as they knew how to respond when the summons from on high ultimately came.
Which brings us to where we are today. Mike Madigan wants your vote. Mike Madigan demands your vote. Don’t believe me? E-mail any state house candidate and ask them to denounce – in writing – all of the things that Madigan has done over the last four years to damage our state. Ask them to commit to returning any campaign money that the Speaker has provided. Don’t hold your breath for an answer. There is nothing that Illinois Democrats want to talk about less than their cozy relationships with Mike Madigan.
By Rich Trzupek
It’s always a joy when Illinois Democrats inadvertently reveal the way that they real feel about their constituents. On October 14, Corrine Pierog, the Democrat running against State Senator John Millner in the 28th District, managed to insult the village of Wayne, Republicans and anyone who has managed to earn a few bucks while pursuing the American dream. Her offensive commentary on Facebook magically disappeared later on the same day, but we managed to grab it before it was officially disappeared. Here’s what Corrine had to say:
“This morning I was driving on my way to work, through the Village of Wayne. Wayne is a beautiful town reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell drawing. On a corner lies an old home occupied by a widow, her Midwestern independent spirit proudly displaces her Democratic upbringing in this staunchly Republican enclave. I had placed two campaign signs in her yard, next to that of Bill Foster, incumbent Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives. There we were five modest signs in a sea of red, white, and bigotry. For on this morning, I spotted this proud Democratic home surrounded by with dozens of oversized Republican campaign signs. I saw the widow and her son removing the intruders, and stopped to ask them what had happened. She explained to me that early this morning she witnessed a man putting her signs into the trunk of his Mercedes Benz, and in their place were the Republican signs. I could tell that she was upset, but she proudly stated that she had some extra signs and she was going to put those up. Such a brave and noble soul, although I could tell that she felt violated. Her right to free speech was compromised by a Republican in a Mercedes Benz. In today’s paper I saw an advertisement by the local Republican Party asking voters to vote Republican because they want to protect our families. On this October morning when a widow’s yard was debased with a clutter of Republican chauvinism, can this party honestly state that they will protect our families, when they intimidate an elderly woman? On my way home this evening I once again drove past her house wondering how she felt and there on her front lawn were three signs, one from my campaign and the other two from Bill Foster’s. This campaign has been tough on many fronts, but seeing those three little yard signs proudly displayed on a Wayne Township yard has given me enough courage to continue to fight for the right of this proud widow to be a Democrat.”
What does this tome tell us about the way that Democrat’s like Corrine Pierog think? For one, she’s obviously oblivious to the fact that “sign wars” are an unfortunate, and unfortunately ridiculous, part of Illinois politics on both sides of the aisle. She’s indignant because a presumed Republican driving “a Mercedes Benz” pulled her party’s signs, but she’s apparently blissfully unaware of the fact that her own party’s supporters do exactly the same thing time and again. Back in 2006, I personally confronted a Democratic Party activist – a union member as a matter of fact – who had been doing exactly the same thing. It’s childish and it’s stupid, but to claim that one party or the other is responsible for sign wars only reveals the depth of a candidate’s naiveté.
The most insulting portion of Pierog’s post was the accusation that residents of Wayne who dared to express their preference for Republican candidates were part of “…a sea of red, white, and bigotry.” We’re missing there is the color “blue” there, but only just. Clearly, Pierog believes that anyone who views the world in different terms than this life-long member of the intellectual elite just has to be a bigot.
She wants to represent Wayne Township, but she doesn’t have a clue about what Wayne Township represents. Wayne Township is chock full of boot strap Republicans, people who took advantage of the freedom of opportunity – that is, the freedom to succeed or fail – that this nation has traditionally provided its citizens. Clearly, Pierog wants government to continue to flex its considerable muscle to eliminate that latter freedom, the freedom to fail, in the belief that doing so will make life better for everyone. Life doesn’t actually work that way, but you can hardly expect a member of the Democratic, intellectual elite to understand that. It’s much easier to engage in class warfare.
Pierog’s opponent in the Senate race, John Millner, has done a tremendous job of representing the interests of his constituents and the interests of the state of Illinois than anyone. In Illinois, the Democratic Party has been all about retaining power at the expense to the people for far too long. Candidates like Connie Pierog make it clear that the Democratic Party in Illinois hasn’t changed, not one bit. She, and her party, are all too willing to demonize the people they hope to represent, which is all you need to know about Connie Pierog and her dysfunctional, degenerate patty in power.
By Rich Trzupek
Every time I think that politics in this state can’t get any dirtier, or any more ridiculous, Mike Madigan’s machine manages to do something new to surprise me. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the depths of depravity that Madigan and his political operatives will sink. The focus of the campaign that Madigan’s team is orchestrating on behalf of State Representative Fred Crespo isn’t about fixing the sorry state of Illinois economy, it’s not about figuring out a way to get out from under all the crushing debt they created, nor is it about bringing the jobs and businesses back to Illinois that they chased away through eight years of mismanagement. Focusing on such things would be too damned embarrassing to the people who got us here. So, instead, they’ve chosen to attack Crespo’s opponent, Streamwood Village President Billie Roth, over a contract that occurred twenty-three years ago, before she was ever elected as Village President, even though the corrupt the village manager was removed and never collected another dime from the village.
As campaign themes go, they don’t get more desperate or disingenuous than this. Madigan’s hacks are basically betting on the proposition that voters aren’t aware of Billie’s actual record and that these same voters will be too lazy to research the truth. Billie won her first election as Village President, despite determined and bitter opposition, because she promised to clean up the corruption that was then rampant in the village. She was re-elected five more times because she earned a reputation as a squeaky clean leader who never let politics get in the way of, as she so often says, her duty to “do the right thing.” Nothing has defined Billie Roth’s career as a public servant more than her commitment to open, honest, responsible and responsive government. The people who have lived in the village since before Billie was first elected Village President know the debt of gratitude that they owe this fine lady, yet such is Madigan’s desperation to hold onto the Speaker’s post that he would try to turn such an exemplary record on its head in order to retain another vote.
Veteran readers of this column know that your humble correspondent is an unrepentant and unapologetic admirer of Streamwood’s Village President. Indeed, I’m proud to call her my friend. There’s a good reason for that. I was The Examiner’s beat reporter in Streamwood for ten years and I quickly learned that the way that Roth governed the town was refreshing and unique. At that point in my life, I had grown cynical about the way that politicians operate, largely because of my interactions with the ruling class in my day job (as opposed to the part-time pleasure that writing for The Examiner quickly became). It became apparent to me, soon after I first started covering Streamwood, that Billie was the exception to the rule among politicians: she didn’t base her decisions on what was most likely to get her re-elected, but on what was best for the town that she so clearly loves.
Nothing that Billie has done or will do can compare to what she did when this determined lady singly-handedly took on the corrupt, arrogant political establishment in Streamwood back in 1989. She endured intimidation, character assassination and even threats against her family because she dared to take on the powers-that-were that were destroying her town. Every bit of slander only served to steel this iron lady’s resolve to “do the right thing” as well that the loyal support of her husband, Phil Roth, who has been such an unsung hero in Streamwood’s history. Billie and Phil not only endured, they actually won, because Streamwood residents could see all too clearly that they were determined to save their town, while the establishment at the time wanted only to exploit it.
Trying to trash Roth’s hard-earned reputation and accomplishments is beyond reprehensible, but this is the way that Madigan and his cronies operate. The blame for the sorry state of Illinois today is theirs and theirs alone and they know it. So, rather than accept the blame they so richly deserve, they try to distract the electorate by slinging as much mud as possible, no matter how ludicrous the charge. They want us to believe they bear zero responsibility for the disasters that plague Illinois today.
Think about this: I started writing about corruption and mismanagement in the Blagojevich administration back in 2005. And who am I? I’m a part-time journalist writing for a northwest suburban newspaper. I’m nobody. But, if even I knew what was going on, are we to believe that Mike Madigan and his crew didn’t have a clue? Are we to believe that Crespo didn’t know precisely want kind of devil’s deal he was signing onto when he joined Madigan’s cabal back in 2006? Give me a break. If Fred chose to blow with the political winds in 2006, that’s fine. Today, the winds have shifted in Illinois, as they damned well better. Rather than continuing to accept cash from Madigan and allowing the Speaker’s hacks to employ disreputable campaign tactics on his behalf, Crespo should have long ago manned-up and denounced his mentor. That, obviously, isn’t going to happen.
Billie Roth has provided a shining example of the way that leaders should lead for over twenty years. Anyone who knows her and her record knows that Billie is committed to honest government, responsible government and responsive government. The fact that her opponents would try to turn her honorable record on its head tells you everything you need to know about how desperate they have become and how despicable they are.
Department of Injustice
By Rich Trzupek
For a time, it seemed like the Obama administration might have dodged a bullet in the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter intimidation scandal, in which members of the party were filmed intimidating white voters outside of a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. The case mostly faded from public view after former Department of Justice official J. Christopher Adams testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in July. Adams claimed the DOJ routinely ignores civil rights cases involving white victims, with its decision to drop most of the charges in the NBPP case providing the most egregious example of this disturbing trend. Administration officials dismissed Adams’ allegations and leftists sought to portray him as a disgruntled ex-staffer with an ax to grind. What was a burgeoning scandal then seemed to burn itself out. The smoldering flames roared back to life when Christopher Coates, the former voting chief in the Civil Rights Division testified under oath before the commission two weeks ago.
The DOJ spent the better part of a year trying to prevent Coates from testifying and even ordered him to ignore a subpoena. It’s now clear why the administration would try to stop Coates from telling his story, for his is a damning tale indeed. Not only did the ex-ACLU attorney back up Adams’ claims that charges were dropped in the NBPP case for political (rather than legal) reasons, he outlined a disturbing pattern of behavior within the Department of Justice. Rather than representing an anomaly, Coates laid out a convincing case that the DOJ’s questionable behavior in the NBPP case is consistent with racially-motivated departmental policy that has infected the DOJ for years.
In order to put the NBPP controversy in context, Coates went back to a case he got involved in back in 2003: United States vs. Ike Brown et al. That landmark case, involving an election in Mississippi, was the first time that the Voting Rights Act was invoked to protect the rights of white voters who were subjected to racial discrimination by African Americans and other minorities. Despite the objections of some long-time DOJ staffers, Coates and others pressed forward with the case and the courts ultimately found Brown and his co-defendants guilty. According to Coates, Ike Brown and his allies engaged in “…some of the most outrageous and blatantly discriminatory behavior at the polls…” that he had witnessed in over thirty years as a voting rights litigator. Nonetheless, Coates testified that some career attorneys in the voting rights section didn’t want to take the case, believing that the Voting Rights Act should only be invoked if a minority was the aggrieved party. He added that one African American attorney who volunteered to help out in the Brown case was subject to harassment from some DOJ employees.
When he was appointed Chief of the Voting Section in 2008, Coates said that he made it a point to ensure that prospective new trial attorneys in his section agreed that enforcement of the Voting Rights Act should be race neutral. He asked each candidate if they were equally comfortable taking cases that involved alleged discrimination against white voter, as they were taking cases in which minority voters were pressing a claim. This reasonable, equitable inquiry offended the woman that President Obama appointed as Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in 2009: Loretta King. Coates said that Ms. King directed him to stop asking that question, because “…she does not support equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and had been highly critical of the filing and civil prosecution of the Ike Brown case.” He also referred to other potential Voting Rights Act cases that the DOJ has declined to prosecute, these involving elections in largely African-American communities in which all African-American factions were accused of discriminatory acts directed against opposing, racially-integrated factions. In one of these cases, a bank in which absentee ballots were stored was burned, apparently so votes favorable to the mixed-race faction could not be counted.
Given the discriminatory path the DOJ has chosen, its decision to dismiss most of the charges in the NBPP case – even though a default judgment against the defendants had been entered – should come as no surprise. Nor should anyone be astonished that the DOJ has continually stonewalled efforts to find out who was involved in making the decision to drop those charges. The DOJ has refused to produce background documents, ignoring requests from the Civil Rights Commission and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the watchdog organization Judicial Watch. In the latter case, the DOJ did produce a Vaughn Index of the 122 documents (over 600 pages) dealing with the case that it is refusing to release. A review of the “to,” “from” and “subject” fields contained in the index shows that several e-mails about the case were sent to or sent by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and the Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, the second and third ranking officials at the DOJ. The subject lines seem to show that both political appointees were deeply involved in the case, despite DOJ’s protestations to the contrary. For example, the subject line of on e-mail from Perrelli is entitled: “Where are we on the Black Panther case?” while Ogden offers his “current thoughts on the case” in another.
With Adams and Coates both testifying that there is something very rotten in the Department of Justice when it comes to race and voting rights, as well as two affidavits to that effect in the hands of the Civil Rights Commission, it’s going to be very difficult for Obama and his leftist allies in the media to defend the DOJ much longer. In choosing to withhold documents from Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, the DOJ continually invoked the excuse that doing so would “…have a chilling effect on staff who in the future would be reluctant to express their opinions…” Thanks to whistle-blowers like Christopher Coates, the American people are starting to realize something far more chilling: that the Department of Justice is more interested in political correctness than equitable, color-blind defense of the rights of all Americans.
Crazy Man, Crazy
By Rich Trzupek
The United Nations played host to the latest version of the President of Iran’s road show last week, entitled: “The Many Faces of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” This was a subtly different Ahmadinejad than we’ve seen addressing world leaders in New York heretofore. His trademark mixture of insufferable smugness and blustering defiance was on display to be sure, but this speech was more about the former than the latter and that’s something of a change. It appears that there’s no need to spew much vitriol at the President of the United States any longer, for the leader of the Great Satan has rendered himself all but impotent without much Muslim assistance. Why would Ahmadinejad waste his breath denouncing or threatening the paper tiger currently occupying the White House?
Instead Ahmadinejad used the global stage that the UN is every ready to provide in order to show the world that nobody understands the problems confronting humanity better than him. Religious scholar, champion of the poor, master of geo-politics, economic guru – these are but some of the many facets that define the President of Iran, and if you have any doubt about that, just ask Mahmoud.
Ahmadinejad, if not quite declaring Islam victorious, seems more confident of the final outcome than ever. He said that the era of capitalism is coming to an end, after “one hundred years of domination”. Thus selling Adam Smith short by a couple of centuries, Ahmadinejad would – in typical fashion – later contradict his confused understanding of world history by asserting that the western powers were responsible for ravaging the rest of the world through colonialism and slavery. The fact that colonialism and slavery were features of western societies before the “one hundred years of domination” that the Iranian President grudgingly afforded the west seemed to be entirely lost on him.
The solution to the world’s problems, he declared, was to turn to God, a sentiment that tens of millions of Americans would agree with in the broadest of terms. But of course when Ahmadinejad speaks of God, he’s really referring to the only acceptable version of the Deity that Islam tolerates. He parroted the Quran’s assertion that the people who refuse to accept the God of Muhammad deny the most obvious of truths because of selfishness and greed. Every prophet was confronted by similar unbelievers, were they not? Moses had Pharaoh and Jesus had the Pharisees. What’s the analogous group when it comes to Muhammad? Well, that would be us: we stubborn, egotistical westerners who can’t bring ourselves to understand that God appointed a succession of prophets and that it is our duty to keep up with the program.
He asked the UN to proclaim 2011 the year of nuclear disarmament, and even helpfully provided a slogan: “Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none.” The first half of that couplet has a certain attraction, especially in the third world countries desperate for cheap power. But, it makes no sense in a nation like Iran where the billions that Ahmadinejad has invested in his nuclear program could have provided so much cheap power if it were used to turn its vast oil supplies into domestic electricity and gas. The Iranian President is as comfortable with the Big Lie as any Democrat and he repeated it once again: his nation has no interest in building nuclear weapons. The sanctions that the UN has imposed as a result of his nuclear ambitions clearly chafed however, no matter how ineffective those measures have been. Ahmadinejad chided the UN for maintaining its five nation Security Council and mused about how much more effective the body would be if only Iran had veto power too.
Though he tried very hard to appear statesmanlike, Ahmadinejad couldn’t help but lapse into being Ahmadinejad, which is to say that the crazy bubbled over at times. Talking about the 9-11 attacks for example, he declared that there was little evidence that Islamic terrorists were involved. Instead, he revealed his version of the true nature of the attacks:
“…some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.”
The supposition that the American economy was in decline in 2001, or that toppling the Twin Towers, attacking the Pentagon and crashing an airliner into a field in Pennsylvania was the formula to fix our supposed fiscal ills is certainly a unique view of history. How those attacks strengthened our position among our tenuous allies in the Arab world, or how 9/11 “saved” Israel are two equally mysterious concepts. The events of September 11, 2001 emboldened Islamic fanatics rather than cow them. And the only people who benefitted economically from the attacks were those Muslims “in the know” who sold short on United and American stocks. The rest of us dealt with a recession.
The “plight” of the Palestinian people is never far from the Iranian President’s aggrieved heart, and he once again cried crocodile tears over their fate before the UN. Ahmadinejad doesn’t care about Palestinian refugees any more than he cares about the tens of millions of his countrymen wallowing in poverty in Iran while the mullahs live like royalty. Palestinian refugees are however useful pawns that can be played as he pursues his ultimate goal of destroying Israel. He said that Palestinians are being “…deprived of food, water and medicine in their own homeland,” although he did not complain that Hamas or Hezbollah lacks for AK-47s, mortars or RPGs. Ahmadinejad rather stuck to the script, even if he didn’t call for the outright destruction of Israel this time. Instead, he said that Palestinians should be awarded jurisdiction over their “homeland,” which sounds a little nicer than “nuke Israel,” even if it achieves the same result.
Ahmadinejad’s true feelings and motivations were revealed on the cover page which accompanied the official transcript of his remarks. This quote appears on it: “Oh, God; hasten the arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his rightfulness.” Shia’ Muslims believe that Al-Mahdi is the legendary “twelfth Imam” who has been in hiding for over a millennium, but who will reappear to lead the righteous to victory over evil when the world is in chaos. Appealing to Al-Mahdi is therefore to wish for chaos – a world in flames which only the ultimate holy-warrior can rescue. Ahmadinejad is a fanatic who can taste that kind of righteous victory, but his contradictory, disturbing and delusional remarks before the UN have revealed once again that he yearns for the chaos that must proceed Islam’s ultimate triumph.
Running on Empty
By Rich Trzupek
So, here we go.
The election cycle, having running full course, should result in a Republican ascendency in November. On the national level, there’s little doubt that this will be true. The only real question for Democrats is whether the 2010 elections will merely be a fiasco, or a full-fledged disaster. But, while the forecast is decidedly stormy for Dems nationally, Illinois has its own weather, politically speaking, and the rain-maker to end all rain-makers in the Prairie State – Mike Madigan – is going to pull out all the stops.
Make no mistake about it: whatever name actually appears on the ballot, every candidate for the House in upstate Illinois with a “D” behind their name is effectively Mike Madigan. The Speaker runs as tight a political ship as we have ever seen in Illinois – which is really saying something – and given the stakes for him personally and his party in particular, Mike is sure to use every political tactic in his playbook to preserve his position and to retain the kind of influence he needs to get his daughter elected governor in 2016.
Madigan and his army of clones obviously can’t run on their record. They have no record. They have a decade of mismanagement, a mountain of debt and a state economy gasping for breath to answer for. So, if you’re Mike Madigan and you desperately want to hold onto the Speaker’s post, what do you do? The answer should be obvious to anyone familiar with the Chicago-style politics at which Madigan is so adept: you go on the offensive, which means slinging as much mud around as you possibly can.
The days between now and the election are sure to feature more filth flying around courtesy of the Speaker than you’d see at the World Mud Wrestling Championships. Flush with cash and with no other cards to play, Madigan’s candidates will pull out all of the stops. Placing the Speaker in the role of Richard III, one pictures Madigan stumbling about the political battlefield in Illinois, crying: “Some dirt! Some dirt! My kingdom for some dirt!”
We’re already seeing the “Madigan effect” and we’re not even close to the traditional period during the last three weeks of the campaign when all of the nasty, negative pieces hit the mail. Attacks in the 101st District (Decatur) and the 44th District (Streamwood, Hoffman Estates) provide a glimpse into what the Speaker and his tame minions have in store.
In the 44th, incumbent Fred Crespo, the Republican turned Democrat from Hoffman Estates, attacked his GOP opponent, Streamwood Village President Billie Roth in a recent press release. The basis of the attack was effectively that Roth – whom has always understood the need to secure a strong industrial and commercial tax base – supported Cook County’s (i.e., Democrat’s) program designed to stop industry and jobs from fleeing to the collar counties.
Yeah, you’re reading that right. Everyone in Cook County is brutally over-taxed – and Madigan surely knows that – but the Speaker is happy to play up to voter ignorance by painting Cook County’s 6B Program as a “tax break” instead of what it actually is: tax reality. There is no way that Cook County would have anything like the industrial base that it has (inadequate as it is) but for the 6B Program, in which the county adjusts industrial property tax rates down to the same level as that charged in surrounding, business-friendly counties. Now I like Fred Crespo on a personal level and he knows the score as well as Madigan, but in this year of Democratic desperation, Fred has little choice but to follow the Speaker’s marching orders if he expects to keep the money the Speaker controls flowing in.
Down in the 101st, a Democrat mailer accused Republican candidate Adam Brown of “politics as usual” for accepting a whopping $250 contribution from a firm that won a couple of city contracts in Decatur. (Brown sits on the Decatur City Council). Notwithstanding that $250 is a couple of zeroes short of the sort of pay-to-play contributions that were the hallmark of Democratic politics in Illinois for the last eight years, would you care to guess how much Madigan’s horse in this particular race accepted from the very same contractor? And the answer is: $2,000.
Expect to see more – much more – of the same in the remaining weeks. It is often said that voters are sick of dirty politics, even though it has long been a rule of thumb that negative campaigns move poll numbers. It would seem that Mike Madigan and his cronies are about to put those competing theories to the ultimate test. For, when it comes to letting the mud fly, you ain’t seen nothing yet folks.
By Rich Trzupek
There’s no doubt that Discovery Channel gunman James Jay Lee was mentally unstable, but it should be equally clear that Lee is far from the first person – and surely not the last – to take their cues from an environmental movement that grows more delusional with each passing day. Does that mean that we should blame Al Gore for Lee’s actions and death? No. Gore is far too savvy a huckster to endanger the green gold-mine that he helped create by encouraging violence among his followers. He would much prefer that the James Jay Lees of the world save the planet by making a substantial purchase of carbon credits on the CCX. That said, Gore, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and all the rest of today’s self-proclaimed environmental champions surely share the blame for creating the atmosphere of fear and dread that permeates America’s attitude about our relationship with nature. It is the misguided notion that human beings are an infection on planet Earth, a feeling shared by millions of Americans, that provided James Jay Lee with an outlet for his paranoid delusions, just as it did for Ted Kaczynski thirty years ago.
Environmental advocates have continually upped the ante when it comes to doomsday rhetoric, to the point that they are now “all in.” They have progressed from the bird extinction delusions that Rachel Carson chronicled in Silent Spring to a crises they claim is so acute, so immediate, that all forms of life on earth are in grave danger. Is it any wonder that some people might take them at their word and act accordingly? A mentally unstable man like James Jay Lee wielding a bomb might grab the spotlight for a few days, but he is hardly the only example of someone taking the green movement’s message to its logical and extreme conclusions.
Consider the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement for example. Proudly proclaiming “may we all live long and die out,” VHEMT says that “phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense.” Members aren’t inclined to hasten the process along by blowing fellow human beings up, but their goal is indistinguishable from James Jay Lee’s: once humans stop procreating, the world returns to pristine purity. Less subtly, the Church of Euthanasia ask visitors to “Save the Plant: Kill Yourself” and instructs followers to abide by its “four pillars” of faith: suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy. Are these two extreme examples? Sure, but theirs are hardly isolated points of view. A James Jay Lee would feel right at home commiserating with like-minded souls who belong to organizations like VHEMT or the Church of Euthanasia. Such organizations may have counseled Lee against violent means, but they surely would have sympathized with his ends.
The Earth First! Movement proudly proclaims that it’s growing in size and importance. The radical organization urges people concerned with the fate of the planet to use any tactic, legal or illegal, to save the planet. Earth First! Journal describes their mission thus: “Earth First! formed in 1979, in response to an increasingly corporate, compromising and ineffective environmental community. It is not an organization, but a movement. There are no "members" of EF!, only Earth First!ers. We believe in using all of the tools in the toolbox, from grassroots and legal organizing to civil disobedience and monkeywrenching. When the law won't fix the problem, we put our bodies on the line to stop the destruction.” The term “monkeywrenching” is of course code that covers a variety of offenses, from spiking trees to burning down subdivisions, all in the name of making the earth a better place to live.
At first blush it may seem ironic that radical groups and ideas like these could sprout up in a nation that has made such incredible strides in cleaning up the environment over the last forty years. Yet, upon closer inspection, it makes sense. America has dedicated billions and billions of dollars in both the public and private sector toward environmental protection and restoration. Congress has passed law after law that requires cleaner air, water and soil. No matter. The tenor and substance of the message that people like Al Gore and organizations like the Sierra Club has not changed, no matter how much time and money we invest and how much progress me make. In fact, they never admit that we have made any progress all. In this circumstance, a committed environmentalist can only conclude that government is incapable of fixing the problem, either because politicians are incompetent, or because corporations are too powerful, or both. The people that ardent environmentalists trust – like Gore and the Sierra Club – assure them that the planet is in worse danger than ever today. Government solutions have failed. So what’s left? Clearly, for folks like those represented by VHEMT, the Church of Euthanasia and Earth First! radical solutions are the only thing left. Nothing else has worked.
James Jay Lee is an extreme example of an illness that permeates American culture. While “mainstream” environmentalists and environmental groups may not condone his methods or his words, most are wholly committed to his goals. Environmentalists worry about over-population and civilization encroaching on wildlife habitats. James Jay Lee translated that into: “Saving the Planet means saving what's left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies!” Environmentalists wag their fingers and lecture that humans are responsible for pollution and so we must do more to clean up this dirty planet. James Jay Lee expressed that idea more succinctly: “Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures around and are wrecking what's left of the planet…” Environmentalists wring their hands about endangered species and supposedly-endangered species (like polar bears). James Jay Lee took that message to heart: “Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.”
Environmental apologists on the left have attempted to condemn any attempt to link Lee to their movement, claiming that doing so exposes the hypocrisy of conservatives who complain about attempts to link violence and racism to the tea party movement. These two examples bear no practical resemblance to each other. The tea party movement’s focus is overwhelmingly on making a difference by working legally within our system of government. To wit: by exercising the movement’s power at the ballot box. The environmental movement has continually sent its followers the message that government has not and, by inference, cannot solve the global ecological “crisis”. Additionally, while there are incidents of politically-motivated violence on the right, it would be very surprising to learn that such incidents outnumber those involving leftist-inspired violence. In the case of political causes, in other words, both sides are equally infected by extremists. But, when it comes to the environment however, extremism and violence is a one way affair. There is no group analogous to Earth First!, VHEMT or the Church of Euthanasia on the skeptical side of the environmental movement. There is no one analogous to James Jay Lee or Ted Kaczynski. The strongest voices aligned against green extremists are lawful, non-violent think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heartland Institute. While organizations like Heartland receive death threats from time to time, they don’t issue them and, more important, nothing they say or do would inspire their followers to believe that such violent measures are necessary. Environmental groups can’t come close to making the same claims after decades of overblown hyperbole and scare-mongering. Al Gore and his cohorts, in other words, may not have pushed James Jay Lee over the edge, but there is no way that troubled man would have gotten close to his particular precipice but for Gore and his disciples.
Peace Talks, or “Piece” Talks?
By Rich Trzupek
It’s been nearly two years since Palestinian representatives and Israelis sat across a table from each other to talk about peace. As the latest round of talks got under way last week, it’s hard to imagine that the results this time will be much different than any other time. Has anything changed that might lead to a different outcome? Gaza is still being run by Hamas. The “moderates” sitting across the table from Israel – Fatah, Egypt and Jordan – refuse to do to take any action that would delegitimize the group of terrorists who rule Gaza. The much vaunted “two state solution” can hardly work when half of the proposed Palestinian state refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, sneers at peace talks involving their enemy and, just to emphasize their contempt, carries out terror attacks two days before those talks commence.
Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II won’t talk about Hamas. Ignoring the terrorist organization and its goals is the accepted strategy among those hoping to create a new Palestinian state. But Hamas and what Hamas represents cannot be ignored, if only because they refuse to be ignored. If it were possible to placate aggrieved Palestinians, step one would have to be isolating and marginalizing Hamas. As long as the organization to remains in place, it serves as a lightning rod for disgruntled, angry Muslims in the Middle East. How better to demonstrate that they truly represent a moderate alternative than for Abbas, Mubarak and Abdullah to condemn Hamas and call for all Palestinians to reject the terrorist organization and its agenda? But, rather than taking that step, the trio – along with President Obama – instead fall back on condemning violence in general. Not only do such tired platitudes serve to deflect attention from the real problem, they also serve to reinforce the conception that there is a kind of equivalency between unprovoked attacks on Israel and Israel’s response to such attacks. It’s self-apparent that committing random acts of violence in order to terrorize a nation is far different than employing targeted acts of violence to deter such attacks.
These are supposed to be “peace talks,” but history tells us that any discussion between Israel and those representing Palestinian interests are better characterized as “piece talks,” since the objective always seems to be taking away another part of Israel. Having given away the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza strip, as well as effectively ceding control of the West Bank to Fatah, Israel is no nearer to mollifying their enemies than ever. And what does Israel have to show for its sacrifices? A very tenuous relationship with Egypt and Jordan and not much else.
Yet, once again, international pressure has been used to force the sovereign state of Israel back to a bargaining table where it is supposed to agree to even more concessions. This is a death by a thousand cuts, which will serve Israel’s enemies just as well as anything that murderous fanatics like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can come up with to eliminate the state they loathe. It is hard to envision a true, lasting peace in the Middle East given the ideological divide that separates Judaism and Islam. Still, if there is any chance at all that a Palestinian state and Israel could co-exist side by side in harmony, that theoretical relationship shouldn’t require Israel to do anything more or promise anything more than it has already done and promised. What is vitally needed is for “moderate” Islamic leaders to officially recognize that terrorist organizations like Hamas are misguided malefactors pursuing a reprehensible agenda. Leaders like Abbas, Mubarak and Abdullah won’t take that step, either because they quietly sympathize with Hamas’ goals, or – more likely in my opinion – because they are afraid of the violent consequences that would follow if they condemned the organization.
Palestinians and their apologists understand all too well how this particular game is played. So long as they continue to assume the role of an oppressed, aggrieved minority, they can continue to pressure Israel into making concession after concession that effectively threaten to put the nation’s existence in more and more jeopardy. For the most part, the world sympathizes with the Palestinian cause. The most significant and powerful exception has been the United States, at least until Barack Obama took office. Now, Israel’s many enemies have been emboldened by the sort of American president they have always hoped for: a man who pays lip-service to the importance of Israel, but who simultaneously sends signal after signal that he sympathizes with Israel’s opponents.
Fear of the Truth
By Rich Trzupek
While it is the view of many scientists, including this one, that research behind the global warming scare has and continues to suffer from a lack of integrity as think tanks, universities and environmental groups continue to funnel dollars to scientists who will provide them with desired conclusion rather than produce unbiased results. But, it’s not just in the sphere of climate change research that the scientific method has been undermined, for environmental science in general suffers from the same condition. UCLA recently fired James Enstrom, an epidemiologist who has worked at the UCLA School of Public Health for 34 years, for daring to publish results that were not in step with the school’s official “sky is falling” philosophy, an incident that clearly illustrates how generating propaganda is far more important to many environmental scientists than the purity of the scientific method.
A recent column by Lois Henry, writing at Bakersfield.com, describes the lynch-mob mentality that drove the decision to sack Enstrom in disturbing detail. Among other things, Henry details how Enstrom was “...dumped by a secret vote of the faculty in the Environmental Health Sciences Department. Their official reason for not reappointing him is "your research is not aligned with the academic mission of the Department," according to a July 29 letter sent to Enstrom notifying him that his appeal of an earlier dismissal letter had been denied and his last day would be Aug. 30.”
Enstrom’s purported sin was doing shoddy research, a claim that both he and many of his colleagues vigorously deny. The real reason appears to be that Enstrom’s work concluded that the risk to human health and the environment posed by “fine particulate” air pollution is much less than other researchers and – most nobably – the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have decreed. CARB is in the process of crafting new rules to cut emissions of pollutants that contribute to fine particulate formation and thus Enstrom’s work undercut the state’s initiative and was embarrassing to the university as well.
The reduction of fine particulate matter, also known as PM-2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter) is a case of natural evolution in the regulatory world. When the Clean Air Act was first published in 1970, the EPA was charged with reducing total particulate emissions of all sizes. Industry responded with a wave of controls that met the Agency’s targets, so the EPA then dialed the standard down to focus on PM-10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter). Those goals have been met as well, with a few scattered exceptions. Neither regulators nor environmental groups seem able to acknowledge a job well done and close the book on a pollutant, so the “need” to regulate an even smaller fraction of particulate evolved. Thus the push to create PM-2.5 standards was born, despite the fact that – when first proposed – USEPA didn’t even have a reliable method of measuring such emissions from industrial sources.
Industry has called the need to establish draconian PM-2.5 standards into question, but industry’s protests are easily ignored. It’s quite a bit more difficult to dismiss the work of a respected epidemiologist with 34 for years of experience. Rather than considering Enstrom’s contrarian work in the context of the skeptical tradition of the scientific method, the UCLA Environmental Health Sciences Department opted for the simpler, time-honored method of dealing with uncomfortable reports: they shot the messenger.
Amazingly, one of the voting members of UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department is a fellow named John Froines. Froines used to be a member of California’s Scientific Review Panel (SRP), an organization that reviews so-called toxic contaminants. Members of the SRP are appointed for three year terms. Enstrom found out that Froines had been continually sitting on the SRP for over 25 years, with only a couple of official reappointments early on. Follwing Enstrom’s revelations, Froines was booted off of the panel. Froines is also the head of the Southern California Particulate Center, which conducts studies of the effects of particulate pollution using taxpayer dollars. Given that Enstrom had outed Froines with regard to the SRP and given that Enstrom’s research could potentially derail Froines‘ government-funded gravy train, how could any fair-minded person allow him to help decide Enstrom’s fate?
Enstrom is also the founder of the Scientific Integrity Institute. That organization describes its philosophy in terms that the members of the UCLA Environmental Health Sciences Department might do well to consider the next time they are tempted to sack a colleague who dares to question orthodoxy:
“The pursuit of truth is so important, because it is the only way that scientific advances can be made. New research on a particular scientific issue must not be inhibited or compromised, because a consensus about the issue currently exists. Science is not about consensus, but about accurate findings that can be independently verified. There are many instances where the truth on a scientific issue has evolved over time. For example, Albert Einstein made a major contribution to the evolution of scientific knowledge, when he discovered the special theory of relativity. The classical laws of motion, set down by Isaac Newton in 1687, stood as correct for over 200 years. In 1905, however, Einstein showed that these laws are not valid at velocities approaching the speed of light, although they are essentially correct for ordinary, non-relativistic motion. It is vital that the pursuit of truth in all areas of science continue, unimpeded by non-scientific considerations such as popularity and politics.”
By Rich Trzupek
Ms. Marianne Iannarelli offered some interesting thoughts in Letters to the Editor this week. As always, we appreciate the comments, but Ms. Iannarelli’s views reflect some of the common talking points that defenders of the current administration employ and thus provide a convenient jumping-off point to rebut some of things that our friends on the left are saying in the “hope” of convincing voters to support two more years of “change”. Let’s take a closer look at liberal defensive measures, shall we?
On jobs, Ms. Iannarelli states that: “…studies done by independent economists agree that the stimulus package has saved or created more than 1 million jobs and will likely create another million or so in 2010.”
This is what’s known in the trade as a meaningless statistic. Putting aside the dubious nature of those jobs created or saved (a figure that will include over 400,000 temporary census workers in 2010, for example) the important point is not how many jobs were created, but how many people are actually employed in sum. It means little to create a million jobs if millions more are lost at the same time. Fortunately, we have a metric that measures the net effect of job creation vs. job loss: it’s called the unemployment rate.
Obama’s stimulus packages were sold to the American people as a necessary measure that would do more to reduce unemployment than doing nothing – that is, than letting the private sector deal with the recession versus minimal government intervention – would do. In January 2009, two of the incoming administration’s leading economic advisors published a paper entitled “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” a study that the president used to justify stimulus spending. In it, the authors said that the stimulus would result in an unemployment rate of a little over seven per cent by the third quarter of 2010, while doing nothing would see an unemployment rate of about nine per cent in the same time frame.
As of July, the employment rate in the United States was nine and one half percent, far higher than what the administration said it would be after hundreds of billions in stimulus spending and even higher than the “do nothing” option. It shows no signs of dropping anytime soon and the “real unemployment rate” (adding in people who have simply stopped looking for work and no longer file for unemployment) is likely closer to fifteen per cent. Few people bother to claim that the stimulus worked any more. It was an enormous waste of money; an ill-considered move that exacerbated our economic woes instead of solving them.
Presumably defending Obamacare, Ms. Iannarelli goes on to say: “Although it feels patriotic to claim that our health care system is the best in the world, we actually rank 37th, right above Slovenia.”
I’m not at all sure what patriotism has to do with health care, but in any case I assume that our gentle reader is referring to the World Health Organization’s Health Care Ranking system in which the United States is indeed ranked 37th, which is – as she says – right behind Slovenia. (Being of Polish descent I am not as offended by as Ms. Iannarelli appears to be by being closely associate with a Slavic nation, but perhaps that’s just me). If the WHO actually ranked the health of citizens of a given country, or how well cared for they are, that statistic might mean something. Unfortunately, WHO rankings have as much more to do with politics as they do with medicine.
Over sixty per cent of the WHO score is based on three factors: “health distribution,” “responsiveness distribution,” and “financial fairness.” None of these factors have anything to do with the quality of healthcare received, but deal rather with the equality of the care available and are thus purposefully designed to score nations that offer socialized medicine higher than those that do not – regardless of individual outcomes. “Health distribution,” for example refers to how evenly spread out your health care resources are among the populace. Perhaps your medicine consists of burning incense and sacrificing goats, but that’s OK as long as everyone has access to the same amount of incense and goats. (I’m exaggerating, but only a little bit folks).
When you look at actual, relevant medical statistics, it’s clear that the United States has one of the best – if not the absolute best – health care systems in the world. Consider, for example, that the United States has the highest survival rates on the globe for thirteen of the sixteen most common forms of cancer.
Finally (and the amount of ink available limits me to three responses in this column) Ms. Iannarelli comments on the illegal immigration issue and the administration’s response to same: “…more non-US citizens were deported during the first nine months of the current fiscal year than any similar period during the previous administration, specifically 279,035 under President Obama to 254,763 in 2008 under President Bush. The President is sworn to uphold the Constitution and the Arizona law seeks to subvert it.”
Using the Bush administration’s non-enforcement of immigration laws to justify the Obama administration’s non-enforcement of immigration laws is a dubious strategy at best. During the Bush administration, government enforcement against employers who hired illegals dropped off to almost nothing, a policy that many conservatives, including this one, roundly criticized. If Obama deported 24,272 more illegals than Bush, kudos to him, but we’re still on the wrong side of an equation that sees more than 300,000 illegals crossing our borders every year, adding to the crush of 15 to 20 million illegals already living here.
As to whether the Arizona law “seeks to subvert” the Constitution, that’s an issue that the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately will likely decide. There is no question that illegal immigration is – er – illegal. There is no question that the federal government has the right to enforce immigration laws. The only question is whether a state has the legal power to step in and do what the feds have largely refused to do: enforce immigration laws. It’s a question of jurisdiction, in other words, not of the intent or intended effect of federal law.
For over two centuries of our country’s existence, the right to live in the United States has been largely defined in the same way that it was in most of the rest of the civilized world: you had to be either a citizen, a naturalized citizen or in possession of a valid visa to be here. The federal government has abandoned that policy more and more over the last two decades. The states on the front lines, states like Arizona, are trying to restore sanity within a system that is very much broken. I, for one, salute them for having the courage to do so. But for Arizona, would we even be talking about this vital issue in the terms we are today? I think not. The Arizona law that makes illegal immigration illegal may or may not stand up to judicial scrutiny, but governor Jan Brewer has already rendered America an invaluable service, by refocusing the nation on an issue that threatens our survival.
Saturday In The Park
By Rich Trzupek
If you missed it, you missed it. Between three hundred and four hundred people didn’t, as the Tri County Teas gathered together in downtown Bartlett Saturday afternoon to talk about what ails us and how to fix it. Given the blisteringly hot weather, it was a remarkable and inspiring turn-out, serving as yet another indication that many, many people are deeply concerned with the direction that our nation is headed in.
Liberals are terrified of the tea party movement and they constantly struggle to find sinister motives to attach to it. That’s not surprising, since libs have perfected the practice of coding their preferred result within carefully crafted messages. When you deal with double-meanings on a routine basis, you naturally see hidden messages everywhere.
Thus, when tea-partiers talk about “small government”, the left naturally translates that into “anti-government.” Actually, we have a word that defines people who are against government in principle: anarchists. The left never, ever employs that word, preferring the less slightly less offensive term “anti-government” smear because calling conservatives anarchists would sound silly.
It is truly disappointing that liberals refuse to define the tea party movement in terms of the issues that actually concern the overwhelming majority of people who are a part of it: fiscal responsibility and small government. Instead they resort to name-calling, chiefly the “anti-government” label and the charge that the tea-party is a racist movement. That’s so intellectually lazy. Once you hang the “racist” label on a group, then you don’t have to think about what it actually stands for anymore. Unfortunately, that particular slur is pure bunk, and more and more people know it.
That is not to say that there might be a few within the tea party movement – and we’re talking a very few – whose primary motivation for protesting the policies of this administration has to do with the color of the president’s skin. So what? There are racists lurking within every political movement, including the Democratic Party.
Senator Harry Reid amply demonstrated that just last week, when he insulted the intelligence of Hispanic Americans by saying that he doesn’t understand how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican. If that’s not classic rich white-man paternalism on display, what is?
Saturday’s tea party was a microcosm of what the tea party movement has been across the nation. Given the horrible shape that Illinois is in right now, the messages resonated all the more loudly. People are finally beginning to understand that we can’t continue down this same torturous path of more, more and yet some more.
Government is out of control, addicted to the narcotic “more”: more spending, more control, more taxes, more programs and more debt. As several speakers pointed out on Saturday, the Republican Party is not without guilt in creating this mess, but Democrats are the hard-core junkies when it comes to the dangerous drug “more.” If anything, the tea party movement represents an intervention, one that is long overdue.
Lawmakers are going to have to make some tough decisions in the next couple of years, both nationally and in Illinois. It is not going to be easy. People love their goodies and they don’t react well when those government baubles are taken away. Once the cuts start – and they will – we’ll start to hear the cries of anguish and the gnashing of teeth. It is important for legislators to understand that we know a return to sanity in government will be tough on everyone, including us, and that we are ready to bear that burden. The tea party movement helps deliver that message too.
There are people who are and who will continue to look at the tea party movement with fear. That’s too bad. Based on what I saw and heard on Saturday, you couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people to help fix what ails our nation and our state.
By Rich Trzupek
Most everyone’s political focus is on the election in November, but there’s another battle brewing, one that we haven’t seen the likes of for one hundred and fifty years: the fight for states’ rights.
Unlike that little dust up that occurred in the 1860s, this one doesn’t involve bullets or secession, but law suits and elections. The states are (finally!) reasserting themselves, pushing back after decades of increasingly assertive and invasive power grabs by the federal government.
When Missouri voters overwhelmingly repudiated Obamacare last week, it was the latest shot across the bow of the federal juggernaut, but it won’t be the last. A lawsuit opposing the healthcare bill, filed on behalf of twenty states (Illinois, predictably, is not among them) and small business organizations, will move forward after a federal judge refused to grant the administration’s motion to dismiss the case without hearing it.
Fans of the healthcare bill – an ever-dwindling minority in the nation – pooh-poohed both events. The seventy-one per cent of the Missouri electorate who voted to reject the government’s mandate to purchase insurance don’t really represent Missouri’s “true feelings” they said, because more Republicans turned out to vote than Democrats.
So let’s get this straight: residents of the Show Me State secretly want Obamacare very badly, but not so much that they’d actually go to the polls to make their feelings known? That’s the kind of silly illogic that could only be hatched in the mind of a liberal.
The lawsuit doesn’t matter, the administration and its supporters assure us, because the insurance mandate is clearly constitutional. Nothing to see here! Government can force people to buy auto insurance, so – obviously – they can force people to purchase health insurance too.
The difference is that nobody forces anyone to drive a car. If you choose to do so, then you have to get a driver’s license, register your vehicle, get tags for it and purchase some minimum level of insurance coverage. All of those costs are the price that government exacts for the privilege of operating a motor vehicle. Don’t like it? Don’t drive.
In the case of Obamacare, however, people are forced to buy a product simply because they are an adult citizen of the United States. That’s unprecedented. If the federal government can force you to buy this product, where does it stop. What other essential goods and services might big brother force us to spend our hard-earned money on, once we’ve established this precedent?
Most Americans, like your humble correspondent, choose to buy insurance and most of us aren’t happy about sky-rocketing premiums. But most Americans also don’t believe that the way to fix the problem is to employ the heavy hand of big government to strip away an individual’s right to make their own purchasing decisions. At least twenty states formally agree with most Americans and it’s gratifying to see them reassert their rights on behalf of their citizens.
The state of Texas weighed in on another federal usurpation last week, declaring that it will not be regulating greenhouse gas emissions in the Lone Star State beginning in 2011, despite USEPA’s insistence that the states do just that.
In a letter signed by the Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Bryan W. Shaw, Texas told USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to take her greenhouse gas regulation and shove it. OK, they were a little more polite than that, but only a little. Texas laid out the case – one that yours truly has been making for over a year, by the by – that USEPA has no authority to modify the Clean Air Act for its own purposes in order to regulate greenhouse gases, or to circumvent the Clean Air Act process of promulgating new rules.
As states like Texas continue to flex their rediscovered muscle, it will be harder and harder to dismiss opposition to the Obama agenda as a fringe reaction by few extremist, racist and probably violent right-wing nuts. As the months pass and Obama’s approval rating sink slowly into sunset, it’s becoming increasingly clear that America isn’t getting the kind of “change” that it once “hoped” for.
Looming Disaster For Daley
By Rich Trzupek
When Richard M. Daley was elected mayor the first time, way back in 1989, a lot of people who lived or grew up in Chicago breathed a sigh of relief; leadership of the city was back where it belonged, in the hands of the Daleys. For a while, Daley performed the job admirably. Six terms later, with the city teetering on the brink of financial disaster, the mayor’s legacy – once so very bright – is likely to be tarnished beyond recognition.
In the beginning, Daley did some very good things. When he took over, the Loop was a mess, like the downtown sections of so many other big cities. Now, it’s a jewel and the lakefront is magnificent. Tourism swelled and Daley helped bring new businesses to the city, landing Boeing’s headquarters for example, as well as nurturing a booming film industry.
That’s a lot of good stuff, but just underneath that glossy veneer of accomplishment, the foundations of city government were slowly rotting and the decay has now become plain to see. Daley is, after all, a pro-abortion, anti-gun, big spending, big taxing liberal at heart. Big government in a big city costs money and you can only write promissory notes for so long.
In order to stave off the day of reckoning, Daley sold off city assets, like parking meter concessions and the skyway. Those moves filled the gaps for a few years, but now it’s 2010, the president he supported hasn’t done anything to pull us out of the Great Recession and thus city revenues are as flat as ever.
Last year’s solution – tapping the rainy day fund and forcing city workers to take a slew of furlough days – won’t come close to filling a shortfall that the city projects at $640 million, or roughly ten per cent of the total budget. The city officially blames the shortfall on declining revenues, but that’s not really the point, is it?
Just about everyone, in the public sector and private sector alike, has had to come to grips with declining revenues. When you’re dealing with your family budget, there’s really only one response: tighten your belts and make do with what you have. Government, on the other hand, sees nothing wrong with running up the credit card.
Does Chicago’s plight matter out here in the wilds of suburbia? Sure it does. Not only because so many of us (your humble correspondent included) grew up there and still have deep emotional ties to the City of Big Shoulders, but because eventually the condition of the central city will affect all of a metropolitan area. While one is far better off living in a suburb of Detroit than in Motown itself, for example, it’s not nearly as good in the Detroit suburbs as it was before that city started to spiral into ruin.
Moreover, the sad tale of Richard M. Daley’s mismanagement of Chicago is a microcosm of what his like-minded political allies have foisted upon the state as a whole and are trying to do to the entire country. The populist, neo-socialist politics of the Obama administration – the assumption that government can and ought to do it all, and that we should be happy to pay for it – traces its roots directly to the Daleys. The strong arm tactics that the White House employs and the slick spin-doctoring it uses so well are pure Chicago as well.
There was a time when people used the phrase “The City that Works” to describe Chicago and there was a touch of admiration in their voice. Perhaps democracy in Chicago was a little less democratic (although much more Democratic) than in other towns, but – hey – they got things done by the shores of Lake Michigan.
Almost nobody uses the phrase anymore. In its place “Chicago style politics” has become a universal, despised short-hand used to describe political chicanery and gross mismanagement. It’s a shame it came to this. So many had such high hopes for the younger Daley when he took office in 1989. And now? Now Richie has to watch as the city with whose name with which family has been synonymous for almost half a century teeters on the edge of disaster.
By Rich Trzupek
As climaxes go, they don’t get much more anti-climatic than the Blagojevich trial. It’s as if Gone With the Wind ended with Rhett Butler telling Scarlett: “Frankly my dear, I’d rather not talk about this right now,” or Luke Skywalker using the force to take aim at the Death Star – and missing, or finding that the big ship only had scratched a bit of paint when it hit the iceberg in Titanic. We waited so long for that one moment of high drama with Blago and Governor Big Hair wimped out. What a loser.
Ever since he was arrested, Blagojevich has been telling anyone who would listen, and plenty of people who were sick of listening, that once he got to tell his side of the story everything would be different. He would be vindicated. The thieves and charlatans who were responsible for his downfall would be exposed. He knew where all the bodies were buried. He knew which palms were greased. Once he told all, we’d be begging for Blago to come back and grace our fair state with his benevolent, insightful leadership once more.
Not that we ever truly appreciated his munificence. As we learned from listening to the tapes, the citizens of Illinois are a bunch of ungrateful ingrates who don’t appreciate the “free” rides that Blago provided for our grandmothers on public transportation, or the “free” health care that the kids of Illinois – OK, most of them don’t actually live in Illinois, but does that really matter? – got thanks to the governor’s generosity.
Nonetheless, Blagojevich was going to show his enemies (aka: practically everyone who lives in the state of Illinois) just how wrong they were about him. He was going to prove that he was a victim, his sterling reputation tarnished by the thieves and liars surrounding him. His only mistake was in trusting them too much, but in Blago’s mind that was always his tragic flaw: he believed the best in people and now he was paying the price. It was like a Greek tragedy, when you think about it, except this one would have a happy ending. The accused, abused hero would turn the tables on his oppressors. All he wanted, indeed all he needed, was a chance to tell his side of the story.
And so, after the long months of whining, complaining, talk show appearances, reality show appearances and generally doing everything he could to feed his insatiable need to make Rod Blagojevich the center of the universe at all times, this insufferably arrogant, egomaniacal man finally got a chance to do precisely what he had always claimed he wanted to do and what happened? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
The moment of the climactic battle arrived and Rod Blagojevich turned tail and ran. It was his D-Day and rather than storm the beaches, he turned around and sailed back to England. It was his Gettysburg and he ran away to hide in the fortresses surrounding Washington. It was his Midway and he ordered the Enterprise, Yorktown and Hornet back to Hawaii before Yamamoto got in range. “Gutless” doesn’t cover it. “Coward” doesn’t cover it. A popular vulgarism that refers to an exclusively female part of human anatomy doesn’t cover it.
I don’t for a minute think that Rod Blagojevich stood a chance of holding up under cross-examination. Neither, I’m sure, did his attorneys. And, in the final analysis, neither did Rod Blagojevich apparently. Perhaps witnessing how prosecutors tore his brother to shreds made him realize what would happen if he took the stand. Perhaps he finally came to grips with the all of the damning evidence against him and how impossible it would be to explain away. No matter. When you’ve talked smack for so long and so loudly, you don’t back down when the moment of truth comes just because you’re sure to lose – not if you have any self-respect anyway. Blago could learn a thing or two about the subject by watching Paul Newman’s epic and ultimately hopeless battle with George Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke.
It’s always a matter of some pride for me to note that I had publicly pegged Blago as an egotistical, grandstanding, self-promoting fraud even before he was elected governor the first time. By the time he was impeached, over ninety per cent of the people in Illinois had come over to my way of thinking. If you think that sounds a bit arrogant on my part, you’re wrong: it’s insufferably arrogant. But that’s the flip side about making a point over and over and over again: when you’re proven right, you get to enjoy being a righteous, arrogant jerk. To quote Nelson from The Simpsons: “Hah-hah!”
On the other hand, if you’re Rod Blagojevich and you’ve made the same claims over and over and over again, and when the moment of truth comes you crawl into your 5th Amendment hidey-hole in order to shut up rather than put up, you’re no longer a righteous, arrogant jerk, you’re just a run of the mill jerk who has proven for all time that you’ve got a couple of serious deficiencies in the manhood department.
It’s Going To Get Ugly
By Rich Trzupek
We’re a few weeks away from the time when election season starts to heat up. Right now, political strategists are poring over poll data, looking for their opponents’ weak points and deciding how to best refine their message. It’s the lull before the storm, but soon we will once again be inundated with commercials, phone calls and mailers.
In Illinois, this is a time of both hope and worry for Republicans. They’re sure to make some gains in Springfield, but how much? If they can’t make significant inroads against the Democratic majority this year, does the GOP have a future in Illinois? 2010 represents the perfect storm for Republicans, much as 2008 meant the same thing to Democrats. Massive unemployment, crippling debt and a disgraced ex-governor on trial for corruption represent just some of the wreckage of eight years of Illinois Democrats running the show, strewn about the landscape of the Prairie State.
Yet, what ought to be a Republican cake-walk is likely to be anything but. The biggest reason? Money. As of the last reporting period, Illinois Dems had about three times more cash in the bank than their counterparts on the other side of the aisle. That’s a significant advantage in this modern era, when campaigns are usually decided by marketing, not issues.
How, one wonders, will Mike Madigan and the rest of that Democratic brain trust spend their dough? With no record to run on, the universe of available messages is fairly limited. I mean, what do say? “We gave you All Kids and – aren’t you proud Illinois? – three quarters of the people using it to pay for their health care aren’t residents of the state, or even residents of the country!” Somehow, I don’t see that one resonating with the voters.
Perhaps this would be better: “Illinois is in the top ten… for unemployment!” Maybe not. Again, I’m no political strategist, but it seems there are some negatives that cannot possibly be spun into a positive. What other possibilities are there? “It only took us seven years to get rid of Blago!” “Our pension funds are in marginally better shape than Social Security!” “No Illinois Democrats have been accused of wrongdoing for thirty days – and counting!”
All of the above, of course, more closely resembles the likely Republican message than anything the Illinois Dems are likely to say. So we return to the central question: what will Madigan and his cronies do? There’s a tried and true answer: when you don’t have a message yourself, then you might as well shoot the people delivering messages that make you look bad. That’s another way of saying that the 2010 campaigns in Illinois are likely to involve more mud being tossed about than you’d see at a bikini wrestling training camp. This one will be ugly.
Voters continually claim that they are sick of negative campaigning, but the unfortunate truth is that nothing moves poll numbers as much as attack-dog tactics. When a candidate assures voters that he’s going to exercise fiscal restraint, it might move numbers a point or two in his or her favor. But, if the same candidate comes up with evidence, justified or not, that his opponent cut a sweetheart deal with a contributor, or skirted the rules, or just might have a mistress, shifts in support can be dramatic indeed.
In a way, that kind of reaction is understandable. Nobody wants to be represented by a candidate of questionable moral character, no matter how much a voter may agree with the candidate’s positions on the issues. The flip side of that equation is that slick marketing can create the impression that candidate so-and-so did something terrible, when in fact – upon a little closer examination – such accusations often turn out to rest on foundations even more shaky than Illinois Democrat’s continual claims that the state budget was balanced (as is required by state constitution) during the Blagojevich years.
The trick then is to avoid the “closer examination” part, which is why most mud-slinging occurs during the last two to three weeks of a campaign. Timing is everything, so if you make the attack at just the right point in time, your opponent won’t have the time to repair the damage.
Both parties do it, for both parties know that these tactics work. The difference in this election cycle is that the Dems are in a much better position to sling more mud – relative to their Republican opponents – than we have ever seen flung before, thanks to their far deeper pockets. Moreover, going as nasty and as negative as they possibly can is their only hope to counter what should be a Republican tsunami in Illinois. This one will be ugly folks. Perhaps not quite as ugly as the manner in which we have been governed by the Dems in this state over the last eight years, but voters have short memories and that’s pretty much what Mike Madigan and his buddies are counting on.
The Entitled Generation
By Rich Trzupek
So King LeBron is off to South Beach to party with his posse. Bulls fans who thought there might have been a chance of him coming to Chitown are a little disappointed, but that’s nothing compared to the anger and righteous indignation in Cleveland. Cavs fans feel cheated, betrayed and used by their former favorite son and it’s hard not to empathize with them.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert posted a scathing letter on the team’s website soon after James announced he was heading to Miami. Calling LeBron “a quitter” and “disloyal,” Gilberts sounded for all the world like an angry parent scolding a wayward child. Indeed, that’s the analogy that fits, because LeBron James is typical of all too many members of his generation. And, like Dan Gilbert, it is we – the parents of the entitled generation – who have enabled our children’s behavior.
Like most baby-boomers, I could not have imagined, much less expected, my folks buying me a car, paying for my insurance or even funding college. Dad did shift-work in the steel mills of Gary and labored mightily to put food on the table for me and my five siblings. The shadow of the Great Depression loomed heavily over the household and, through my mother and father, we kids learned what it was like not to know where your next meal was coming from.
It’s natural, of course, to want your kids to have it better than you did. Like most boomers, I did my best to ensure that my daughter had an easier go of it. But, while my kid has a damned good head on her shoulders, there are many members of her generation that take all of the goodies for granted. Of course they deserve the I-Pod and the car and the tuition. That’s a parent’s job, isn’t it?
Like most fellow boomers, I cannot imagine looking down my nose at a job when I was growing up. I started earning money when I was twelve – delivering papers – and have been steadily employed ever since. Some jobs have been more fun than others, but enjoyment has always been an afterthought. You work to support yourself and those you love, not because you want to be entertained.
Contrast to so many members of the entitled generation who believe that some jobs, like flipping burgers or stocking shelves, are somehow beneath them. Many an employer has complained about how hard it is to hire kids today, because a disturbing number of them think they are entitled to the best job and best pay and shouldn’t be required to prove their mettle by performing hard work. They just deserve it all.
In that context, LeBron’s embarrassing, self-centered behavior shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, least of all Dan Gilbert. It was Gilbert who was “the King’s” primary enabler throughout James’ tenure with the Cavaliers. LeBron demanded jobs for his buddies with the Cavs. Gilbert complied. LeBron insisted that his posse travel with the team. Gilbert obeyed. By all accounts James was a decent sort of fellow when he joined the NBA straight out of high school and became an instant millionaire. He’s obviously a hard worker too, for you don’t play basketball at that level without a lot of practice. Yet, in the end, LeBron showed himself to be as infected with entitlement disease as anyone of his generation.
It has been reported that he biggest reason James refused to sign with the Bulls is that Jerry Reinsdorf – bless his soul – refused to cow-tow to the King’s demands. Reinsdorf is one of the few sports owners who still believes that character creates championships as much as talent and his record of success suggests that the chairman is on to something.
One shouldn’t begrudge James for cashing in on his talent. In today’s topsy-turvy world of sports entertainment, the money is there for the taking if you’re good enough and LeBron is more than good enough. It’s not what he did that is so troubling, it’s how he did it: the soap opera, the hour long special on ESPN to make the announcement and the way he ultimately thumbed his nose at the home town franchise that acceded to his every whim in the vain hope that doing so would somehow secure his loyalty.
But James obviously never gave a second thought to loyalty. In his mind, all of those perks and concessions were richly deserved. LeBron James used to one of the NBA’s most valuable commodities. After last week’s fiasco, he’s become nothing more than a poster boy for the entitlement generation.
The Myth of Renewable Energy
By Rich Trzupek
President Obama’s attempt to turn the Deepwater Horizon disaster into an advertisement for alternative energies and cap and tax was so offensive that even Senator Diane Feinstein was forced to observe that “…the climate bill isn't going to stop the oil leak.” In a June 15 column published by the New York Times, Peter Baker took that analysis a bit further, declaring: “The connection to the spill, of course, goes only so far. While (Obama) called for more wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, neither fills gasoline tanks in cars and trucks, and so their expansion would not particularly reduce the need for the sort of deepwater drilling that resulted in the spill.” This entirely reasonable and technically accurate statement enflamed the president’s cheerleaders over at everyone’s favorite ultra-liberal website: Media Matters For America. MMFA’s Fae Jencks took Baker to task, declaring:
“While wind and solar energy may not fill cars' tanks, it will power their batteries. What Baker fails to acknowledge is that by ensuring that "more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power," Obama would ensure that those vehicles are powered with clean energy rather than with electricity produced by fossil fuel plants.”
Those two sentences summarize the green nirvana that the president is trying to foist upon America. It’s a utopia that’s entirely unachievable, because of a number of technical and economic realties that lie just below the surface of simplistic analysis. It’s not surprising that a technically-illiterate blogger who posts at a site devoted to echoing this administration’s progressive agenda would make such an assertion, but it’s quite disturbing that the man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world would utter such foolishness. Presumably, there ought to be somebody close to Obama who has the technical expertise to tap him on the shoulder and say: “Excuse me Mr. President, but that’s just nuts!” Both wind power and solar power are more expensive – incredibly so in the case of solar – than either fossil power or nuclear power. Neither would exist, or could exist, without government subsidies, which means you pay the added costs through your tax bill instead of your electric bill. Worse, you can’t count on either wind or solar as a reliable source of energy, since the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Accordingly, for each megawatt of wind and solar capacity we develop, another megawatt of back-up power, typically powered by fossil fuels, has to be in place. This redundancy adds to the already unacceptable cost of “green energy.”
Even if we ignore the economic aspects and accept the progressive proposition that the government has an infinite supply of money available to spend, the idea that the wind and sun can power our cars makes no sense. The reason that our vehicles use gasoline is that gas is a very efficient means to store energy. A gallon of gasoline, which weighs a little over six pounds, contains far more useful energy than the six pounds of the best batteries on the market. So, before you factor anything else in, gasoline’s weight to power ratio makes it the better choice in terms of energy efficiency. Will batteries improve over time? Sure they will, although modern, high-capacity batteries typically involve using materials that come with their own environmental hazards. Still, no battery that exists or that is contemplated comes close to matching the energy storage capacity of gasoline.
Next, we move on to the unavoidable inefficiencies of the electric transmission system itself. America’s power grid is a wonder of modern technology and it’s obviously necessary to distribute the power we need to run our refrigerators and computers, light our homes and keep the pumps and motors that industry depends on turning. Yet, electric power distribution is hardly the model of efficiency. A significant portion of the energy generated by power plants is lost in distribution, due to voltage drops, resistant heating and other line losses. In many cases, moving energy around the nation via a network of thousands of miles of metal cables represents the best way to transmit power, but it’s hardly the most efficient way to do it.
When we consider motor vehicles, by the time we work our way through all of the inherent, expensive and unavoidable inefficiencies of generating, transporting and storing so-called green power in the vain effort to fuel our transportation needs, we are left with the unavoidable conclusion that doing so would create more of a demand for power, not less. Or, to put the president’s proposition another way, if America somehow transformed itself into a nation in which the transportation sector was fueled entirely by electricity, we would be significantly less energy efficient than we are today. We can, and should, continue to develop hybrids, for that technology provides even more bang for our fossil fuel buck, without pretending that the ultimate source of power – crude oil – isn’t our best energy option. Ultimately, if we can figure out a way to use as-of-yet undiscovered solar-powered catalysts to produce hydrogen inexpensively, we may ultimately free ourselves from the tyranny of fossil fuels altogether. Yet, as technology proceeds along those paths, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted by a panacea. The disaster in the gulf is a tragedy, but the president’s official, self-serving reaction to the spill last month was embarrassing. If America is to continue to be a player in the growing global energy market, than the president of the United States should spend a lot more time describing what needs be done, instead of musing over his latest unattainable green dreams.
McChrysal or Perhaps “McHustle”
By Rich Trzupek
The irony of the situation in the post-ironic age could not be more delicious. President Obama dismissed his hand-picked commander, a man who was reported to have voted for Obama’s hopey-changey vision, and whom was directing operations in the war that the president said we have to win. But wait, there’s more! Who did the president pick to replace his now-disgraced, once fair-haired boy? Why it’s the general who devised the strategy that stabilized Iraq – the strategy that then-senator Obama said could not possibly succeed – the strategy that moved Obama’s leftist supporters to accuse said general of treason. If a novelist proposed this sort of plot line, every publisher in America would laugh the author out the door. Yet, here we are.
It should be noted that the most damning information that appeared in the Rolling Stone article that would ultimately result in General Stanley McChrystal’s dismissal were not direct quotes attributed to the general himself, but second-hand quotes from staffers. That doesn’t mean that the general wasn’t guilty of an error, but it puts the magnitude of his mistake into proportion. McChrystal wasn’t insubordinate himself, he failed to control the insubordination of the soldiers under his direct command. In our system, that’s a venial sin, not of the mortal variety.
Still, McChrystal had to go if the Obama administration was to preserve some degree of illusion of competence and vision when it comes to fighting the war against Islamic extremists. That’s not a criticism of the president, it’s rather simply an observation. If a system that values civilian authority more than military expertise is going to work, then the former must always trump the latter. When George S. Patton observed, at the conclusion of World War II, that we were going to have to fight our Soviet allies sooner or later, there can be no question that Patton was absolutely correct. No matter; Old Blood and Guts was relieved as commander of the Third Army soon after uttering that opinion. Patton surely expected no less.
According to Rolling Stone McChrystal voted for Obama. Sources close to the general say that he is left of center (unusual enough for a military sort) to the point that he didn’t allow Fox News to appear on television sets at his headquarters. On the other hand, McChrystal is also a guy who believes in the ancient axiom that it’s important to lead from the front. Time and again, the general accompanied his troops on dangerous missions so that he could have a better understanding of the dangers and challenges they faced.
McChrystal would thus appear to be the ideal military leader in the Obama era; a committed liberal who is personally courageous enough to fight the liberal-approved good war. And yet, this supporter of the liberal ideal, who occupied a position that allowed him to do something about it, was so frustrated by the president’s attempts to turn progressive dreams into reality that he – either deliberately or negligently – allowed his frustration to made public.
When Obama decided to cut McChrystal loose, there was only one real option in terms of choosing a replacement. General David Patraeus did what liberals had deemed impossible to do in Iraq: he stabilized the country and neutralized the radicals. It was as remarkable a military accomplishment as Sherman’s March to the Sea, and no less daring. Yet, when Patreaus was in command in Iraq and the surge – which is to say the surge that everyone now agrees was successful – was underway, president Obama could hardly be counted among the general’s supporters.
In an interview he granted at the time, Obama said that the surge could not possibly work, declaring that it didn’t matter how many additional troops we sent to Iraq; the situation could not possibly get better. When the progressive activist organization MoveOn.org published an ad that slandered Patreaus, calling him “General Betray Us” the United States Senate voted to condemn the slur. Then Senator Barack Obama didn’t see his way fit to join the chorus of condemnation, choosing to vote “present” when the motion came to the floor.
Yet, here we have the president who was at best indifferent and at worst disloyal to the general who finalized victory in Iraq, now appointing this very general to a position that the Obama hopes will ultimately make this administration look a lot better than it has so far. Professional that he is, there can be little doubt that Patreaus will do his best to pull Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire.
As far as MoveOn.org is concerned, General Patreaus’ supposed disloyalty has suddenly ceased to exist. Thought they’ve proudly feature their “Betray Us” ad for years, MoveOn pulled that piece from their website within two days of the change in command. Whenever principles are involved, integrity and loyalty only go so far.
Stewart Gets A Clue
By Rich Trzupek
I like Jon Stewart, which is not the same as saying that I watch his show, but I do like the guy even if I usually don’t agree with him. Unlike the thoroughly despicable Bill Maher, Stewart is both witty and intelligent. He wants the same things most of us want, no matter our differences in political philosophy: peace, equality, prosperity. Those of us on the right disagree with Stewart on how to get there, but that’s OK.
During the 2008 campaign, Stewart went “all in” on the hopey-changey promises that Obama offered. Now, based on his reaction to the president’s horrible speech last Tuesday night – a speech so out of touch that even Diane Feinstein noticed – it appears that Stewart is taking his chips off the Chosen One’s table. Stewart skewered the president, not so much for the speech itself, but for abusing presidential power in general. In fact, in Stewart’s view, Obama has made a power-grab that makes George W. Bush’s supposed executive transgressions pale by comparison.
I appreciate Stewart’s integrity in taking “his” president to task, and perhaps that intellectual honesty will someday lead him to Dennis Miller’s side of the comic fence. (Hey, I can dream…) But, for me, the first question that came to mind when I watched Stewart go off on Obama was: “Jon, what did you expect?”
Obama’s campaign featured two diametrically-opposed themes that may broadly be defined as: 1) he would fundamentally alter the face of America, and 2) he would scale back the power of the executive branch after eight years of Republican “abuse”. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that you can accomplish one or the other, but not both. If you were familiar with Chicago politics, you knew what was coming long before Obama took the oath of office. But, the president’s naked abuse of presidential power has come as a shock to guys like Stewart who is, in his heart of hearts, an idealist after all. If George W. Bush represented an imperial presidency to Stewart, he’s starting to figure out he traded in for a tyrannical presidency.
Presidents should be strong of course, for the office was designed with leadership and decisive action in mind. But, as every elementary school student learns in civics class (or at least used to learn – I don’t know about today’s craptastic educational system) the founders drew a line between decisive and dictatorial actions, and Congress patrols that line, acting as a check on presidents who would be kings. Some presidents, most famously Lincoln and FDR, flouted Congress and the Constitution itself, but most tend to excuse their actions. Both exceeded their legal authority when exercising executive power, but both did so during wars that gravely threatened our nation and our way of life. I think Washington, Madison and Hamilton would have approved. (Not so sure about Jefferson though…)
We are engaged in another war that gravely threatens our way of life, so I don’t begrudge Obama using the power of the presidency to protect and defend America against its enemies, even if some of those actions raise Constitutional questions. You do what you got to do. But, like most of us on the right and an increasing number of those on left, this president’s penchant to disregard Congress, the American people and the constitution itself to press forward with his personal agenda is becoming more and more disturbing. Extorting $20 billion from BP (and yes Joe Barton, you spineless idiot, “extortion” IS the right word) and then taking personal control of that cash is just the latest example of a president acting in a way that suggests that he thinks he is God, or maybe even the Mayor of Chicago.
A Chance, and a Risk
By Rich Trzupek
The war in Afghanistan fundamentally changed last week, but how this stunning development will alter the course of the conflict depends on – and will likely define – the way that each side responds. We’ll get to the “what happened” part in a minute, but first let’s review Afghanistan’s two basic problems.
First, there’s the Afghan economy. The nation is dirt poor, with an annual Gross Domestic Product of about $12 billion. That’s less than the state of Illinois’ total public debt. Most of that money comes from growing opium, a vital raw-material in the drug trade.
While the United States and our allies cannot officially approve of the opium trade, nor can we do anything to stop it. You can hardly tell a bunch of farmers living in primitive conditions, in a nation with no prospects, no wealth, no industry – no anything – that they have to give up their only conceivable source of income. So, by definition, we’re fighting a war in which we are trying to win the hearts and minds of people who are engaged in, as far as we are concerned, a criminal enterprise. This is the kind of logical conundrum that made HAL the computer freak out in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This situation is what makes Afghanistan such a great haven for the Taliban. The Muslim fanatics don’t give a damn what drugs the Afghans grow, so long as they sell them to us infidels. It’s easy for the Taliban to present themselves as the protectors of the only industry that Afghanistan actually has, while we have to deal with our conflicted priorities by pretending that the issue doesn’t exist.
Still, we’ve made remarkable progress with Afghanistan’s populace in every region of the country but one: along the southern border that it shares with Pakistan. This is the home to the roughly 30 million Pashtuns who live in both nations. The Pashtuns are overwhelmingly Sunnis, the branch of Islam that gives rise to most (but not all) fundamentalist, Islamic terrorists.
The vast majority of the violence in Afghanistan today occurs either: a) in the Pashtun region of the country, or b) in Kabul (the capital), as a result of Pashtun-led attacks. While it would be incorrect to say that every Pashtun is a member of, or supports, the Taliban, one may accurately observe that most all Afghani Taliban are Pashtun.
Thus Afghanistan presents a complex, multi-faceted challenge involving economics, religion and tribalism. The Soviets couldn’t brute-force their way through these issues, and our attempts to combine finesse and strength have resulted in what can be described – at best – as a stalemate. Establishing and maintaining stability in Afghanistan would require the long-term commitment of a great deal of money, in terms of economic aid, or in terms of paying for a strong military presence, or some combination of both. It’s clear that the United States and our allies don’t have the desire or will to expend those sorts of resources to support a nation half a world away.
The ideal answer would be to find a way for Afghanistan to stand on her own, without involving the power or pocketbook of the west at all. Such a circumstance would make our struggle to help the Afghans govern themselves moot, because with prosperity comes the factor that our Founding Fathers believed would always lead to peace and prosperity: enlightened self interest.
The people of a prosperous Afghanistan would have choice to make: to enjoy the fruits of their labor, or to support those divisive ethnic, religious and extra-legal pursuits that mean nothing but more misery. History tells us that people choose the former course, at least when they are given the freedom to choose, in overwhelming numbers.
Which brings us back to last week, when it was announced that United States’ researchers have found nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, in the form of huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium. Indeed, it was reported that Afghanistan may be the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” an element that is essential to the production of high-efficiency batteries that our green world demands.
These discoveries change everything. If we do it right, Afghanistan will become a wealthy, reliable ally, a nation that will grow rich and that will help us increase our riches. If we don’t, some other nation like Russia or China will step in to help the Afghans cash in on this find, which would be a damned shame after all the work we’ve done there and all of the Americans who have died in Afghanistan.
The worst case, of course, would be for the Taliban to win the war and to control such riches. That would be a disaster, one that we cannot afford to let occur.
The Heroes of Pointe du Hoc
By Rich Trzupek
Sixty six years ago this Sunday, young men from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and France stormed the beaches of Normandy, securing an Allied toehold on the occupied continent and handing Hitler a two-front war that he could not win. Among the tens of thousands of soldiers who jumped off of landing craft on June 6, 1944 were 225 Rangers, charged with climbing the sheer cliffs of Pointe du Hoc and disabling large artillery pieces that could play hell on the beaches.
Using long grapples and ropes, along with long ladders, the Rangers climbed up those cliffs, in the teeth of enemy fire. Some would make several attempts, because the German soldiers atop the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc cut ropes and pushed over ladders. Rangers tumbled onto the beach. Rangers were wounded. Rangers were killed. And still: they came.
The Rangers took Pointe du Hoc, found the gun emplacements, but the guns were gone. Nobody felt the need to cry “Eisenhower lied – Rangers died!” Instead, they pushed on. Eventually they found the guns, which had been moved to escape Allied bombing and naval bombardment, and the Rangers put those guns out of action. It was one of the most compelling and heroic actions on a day full of heroism.
Forty years after the fact, president Ronald Reagan stood atop Pointe du Hoc and paid tribute to those remarkable men. It was a speech for ages. This is how Reagan began:
“We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.
Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them here. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air singed with your honor.”
The attack on Pointe du Hoc was a gamble on a day that was a helluva gamble, on both sides. Hitler had invested a tremendous amount of time, resources and labor into fortifying the coast of France – time, resources and labor that could have been used to build armaments, construct fortifications on the eastern front, produce oil from coal, etc. If the Allies could breach that wall and hold the breach, der Fuhrer’s huge investment would be rendered worthless in an instant. If they couldn’t, the Allies would be licking their wounds for quite some time and many of the divisions sitting idle in France would be free to head east, where Uncle Joe’s hordes were slowly pushing the Wermacht further and further back.
But the thing had to be done and, back then, we had the will do it. It was an audacious undertaking, assembling the thousands of ships, aircraft and men that would be needed to do it, and somehow coordinating all the movements needed to pull the thing off. There were so many heroes, on the battlefield and off. Men like Norman Cota; Teddy Roosevelt Jr., who made the fateful decision to take advantage of the quiet section of Utah beach where the first elements of the 4th Division landed; Dick Winters, whose exploits were chronicled in Band of Brothers; and all of the Rangers who scaled Pointe du Hoc. Cornelius Ryan’s classic, The Longest Day (the book on which the movie was based), tells so many of their amazing, personal stories.
Today, in the midst of another deadly war against a fanatic enemy, we’re a house divided. Some of us would give our men and women in uniform everything they need to carry the fight to that enemy, some of us refuse to acknowledge that there’s even a war going on. Sixty six years ago, it was a different world – a simpler world I guess – and what our fathers and grandfathers achieved on June 6, 1944 will stand for the ages as one of the west’s shining moments.
Charge It! - June 2, 2010
Illinois passed a budget last week. Not that you or I would recognize as a budget per se. It’s more in the nature of yet another huge charge that will appear on the state’s ever-expanding credit card bill, but the General Assembly calls it a “budget,” so we’ll go with that.
Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, in a rare moment of candor, admitted that the budget isn’t balanced. The budget hasn’t been balanced for years of course, but the Democrats in Springfield have always claimed that they were. It’s a rather important point, since the Constitution of the State of Illinois says that the budget has to be balanced and that both the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate certify that is so. Thus we have the speaker telling Illinois’ beleaguered citizens that our representatives have produced a budget that isn’t actually legal.
Hemmingway told the tale of a famous bullfighter by the name of Gallo, who would sometimes forgo the privilege of dispatching a bull if the beast stared at him in a certain way. “You take him Paco,” Gallo would say to a fellow matador. “I don’t like the way he’s looking at me.”
Last week’s budget vote casts Illinois’ Democrats in the role of Gallo, frozen into inaction by the sullen glare of increasingly disenchanted voters. Rather than dealing with the mess they created, they borrowed some more and put off the day of reckoning a little longer. The best thing that could happen to Mike Madigan and his cronies would be for Bill Brady to get elected governor. Brady would have to clean up the mess and would thus take the blame for the inevitable backlash against the cuts to come. “You take care of it Bill,” Madigan said if effect last week. “I don’t like the way the voters are looking at us.”
The budget features another $4 billion in borrowing in order to keep the state’s pension fund solvent, despite the fact that doing so only piles more debt on a fund that is already a mess. Who lends a state like Illinois $4 billion anyway? If a homeowner tried to borrow $50,000 to pay the mortgage for a year and explained to the bank that he needed the money because he was $250,000 in debt and didn’t have the income to pay that off, I’m pretty sure that said homeowner would be laughed out of any financial institution on the face of the earth. But, I digress.
It’s all about politics, as it always is in this state, not about fiscal responsibility. A few Dems in marginal districts – those districts where the polls say they are in danger of losing a seat – actually voted against the budget. They have that luxury, for the Dems control enough safe districts that few located in shaky ones can afford to have a sudden crisis of conscience.
The one Illinois Dem who gets a pass from this analysis in my book is Jack Franks, state representative from Woodstock. Franks was one of the few members of his party to take on Blago long before it was fashionable to do so and has been one of the few voices in the party to argue for some sort of fiscal sanity.
As far as the rest of these clowns are concerned: spare me. The 2011 budget is déjà vu all over again: more borrowing to paper over the yawning chasm that describes the difference between what we owe and what we bring in.
The argument that we ought to raise the state income tax, because Illinois is “one of the least taxed states” in the nation, hasn’t gotten any traction, thankfully. That Illinois has a relatively low personal income tax rate is undeniable, but when you add up the total tax burden that you and I deal with – including sales taxes, property taxes, business taxes (that get passed on to us) and all the rest – it’s pretty clear that Illinois picks its residents pockets as well as anybody.
Eventually, the General Assembly is going to have to figure out how to make do with less. Actually, they should have figured out how to do that many years ago. But, the day of reckoning is drawing ever nearer, no matter how much our elected representatives are trying to bury their heads in the sand.
Notes from the Heartland - May 26, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
I was privileged to attend the Heartland Institute’s Fourth International Climate Change Conference in Chicago last week. Most people haven’t heard of it, partly because the mainstream media does their best to ignore it, but it’s an important and impressive gathering of scientists and policy-makers who look at the issue of global-warming through eyes far less jaundiced than those who attend the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change events.
There are a variety of reasons that the mainstream media ignores the Heartland conference. The Heartland Institute is a front organization for big oil, they say. Likewise for the organizations that sponsor the conference. And, of course, that goes for the scientists too. Everybody, it seems, is the pocket of Exxon-Mobil. When, I can’t help but wonder, do I get my check?
None of these excuses holds up to any scrutiny. The Heartland Institute isn’t funded by big oil, the organizations that sponsor the conference don’t pay the institute anything (it’s often the reverse – Heartland funds their attendance) and I’ve yet to find a skeptical scientist who has gotten a dime from Exxon-Mobil or any other energy company.
But, if you’re the mainstream media, you’ve got to come up with some reason to ignore an event that features some of the most respected, accomplished climatologists from around the world, guys like Dr. Richard Lindzen from MIT, Dr. Roy Spencer from the University of Alabama at Huntsville and Dr. William Gray from Colorado State.
What is refreshing about listening to these scientists is that it’s very clear that none of them have any agenda beyond discovering the truth, which is what science is supposed to be, and largely used to be, before the IPCC stuck its political hand into the game.
Because these scientists are real scientists, rather than paid publicists, they actually disagree, about a whole number of points. There’s no “consensus” at the Heartland conference and there shouldn’t be, at any gathering of actual scientists, especially when it comes to a field so enormously complex and poorly-understood as global climate.
Well, let’s take that back. There is one thing that virtually every skeptical scientist at the Heartland conference did indeed agree on: that emissions of greenhouse gases emitted as the result of human activity has an effect on the climate of the planet.
Despite what you may read in some media outlets, skeptics (or “deniers” as we are called in some quarters) don’t argue the above point. The question is not whether greenhouse gases created by man can affect the climate, the real question is: how much?
Scientists like Penn State’s Michael Mann and the University of East Anglia’s Phil Jones believe – quite sincerely I believe – that relatively weak greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane alter a delicate balance, by “forcing” more water vapor (a very strong greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere and that leads to catastrophic warming.
Other scientists, like Spencer, Lindzen and Gray don’t think so. For one thing, we don’t see alarming increases in the temperature of the atmosphere, as we should if Mann and Jones were correct. The only relatively large, but not unheard of in historical terms, temperature increases that we see are attached to the surface temperature record. This data is quite suspect, as the pioneering work of meteorologist Anthony Watts has shown, and really doesn’t matter nearly as much as the atmospheric temperature record anyway.
For another thing, the climate models that the alarmists use don’t address the importance of cloud cover. Spencer has shown, and satellite data increasingly demonstrates, that clouds have an important, moderating effect on climate. Yet, in the rush to cry “wolf!” the alarmist set has largely ignored this important piece of the climate puzzle.
Some people on my ideological side of the aisle have suggested that global warming alarmism is a scam that has knowingly been foisted upon us in order to further a liberal agenda. I respectfully disagree. Rather, I think that we’re looking at two separate things here.
We have a group of scientists who legitimately believe that their research is correct, important and deserves more funding. Instead of creating that point of view, liberal politicians and policy makers have exploited it. They’ve disproportionately encouraged this – relatively small – group of scientists to the exclusion of all other opinions.
The Heartland Conference represented an important alternative to politically correct science. Kudos to them for doing what the mainstream media will never do: questioning conventional wisdom and keeping an open mind.
Radical What? - May 19, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
Last week’s exchange between Attorney General Eric Holder and Congressman Lamar Smith during a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee sums up the Obama administration’s struggles with today’s foreign policy realities pretty darn well:
"In the case of all three attempts in the last year, the terrorist attempts, one of which was successful, those individuals have had ties to radical Islam," Congressman Smith said. "Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam?"
"Because of... ?" Holder replied.
"Radical Islam," Smith repeated.
"There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions," Holder said. "I think you have to look at each individual case."
Smith tried again: "Yes, but radical Islam could have been one of the reasons?"
"There are a variety of reasons why people..."
By all accounts, Smith is normally a mild-mannered guy, but he was starting to get a little cranky, asking the same question for the fourth time: "But was radical Islam one of them?"
"There are a variety of reasons why people do things," Holder said. "Some of them are potentially religious..."
"Okay," Smith said. "But all I'm asking is if you think among those variety of reasons radical Islam might have been one of the reasons that the individuals took the steps that they did."
"You see, you say 'radical Islam,'” Holder protested. "I mean, I think those people who espouse a – a version of Islam that is not..."
"Are you uncomfortable attributing any actions to radical Islam?" asked Smith. "It sounds like it."
And so it went. At the end of the dialogue, Holder finally allowed himself to use the words “radical” and “Islam” in the same sentence, albeit not actually next to each other. Can’t be too careful about these things.
I don’t think that the Attorney General would hesitate to place the words “right-wing” and “extremist” adjacent to each other, if some loony longing for the glory days of the Third Reich tried to blow something up. I also rather doubt that he would use the adjectives “radical” and “fundamentalist” in front of the noun “Christian” if somebody who believes themselves to be the avenging hand of God blew up an abortion clinic.
As a right-wing kind of guy and as a Christian, I would not be offended in the least in either case. In fact, I would expect Holder to use just such terms and I would want him to, if for no other reason than to make it clear that there is a difference between the “right-wing” and “right-wing extremists” and between Christians and radical, fundamentalist Christians. So why all the pussy-footing around in this case?
Is the administration trying to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities? Please. How can a sensible Muslim be offended if the Attorney General of the United States points out that fanatics whom everybody – with the apparent exception of Eric Holder – knows are acting in the name of their religion are in fact “radicals?”
More likely, this is part of the Obama administration’s continuing effort to de-Bush itself. Yeah, they’ll fight the war on terror, but now it’s an “overseas contingency operation,” which has the singular effect of sounding ludicrous to pretty much everyone on both sides of the political spectrum. But calling it the “war on terror” is much to W.
Holder’s latest tap-dance sounds like more of the same. Using the words “radical Islam” would make him sound just like that right-wing lunatic from Texas and God knows we can’t have that. Who knows what motivates somebody who spends five months in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan to try and blow up Times Square after all? It could be just about anything. Perhaps, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hilariously suggested after the Times Square bomb plot was discovered, it was the result of discontent over health care.
Granted, you’d never hear George W. Bush, or anyone in his administration, offer such a patently transparent equivocation, but the same could be said of Bill Clinton and his gang. Does Holder understand how silly he sounds? Probably not, for this administration doesn’t seem capable of putting campaign-mode behind it.
Of course, conducting a campaign is the one thing that Obama and his cronies do very, very well. Leading a nation and dealing with religious fanatics who are trying to destroy western civilization? Not so much.
Failing to Address Failure - May 12, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
There’s a run on winter-wear in hell today, because I find myself in complete agreement with the Chicago Tribune. A May 6 editorial in the Trib chided House lawmakers for failing to pass a vouchers bill that would have allowed parents to get their kids out of some of the worst schools in the state and into a school of their choice. In a typical Mike Madigan tactic, the vote wasn’t recorded, but the enterprising fellows at Capitol Fax took a photo of the tally board before it could be officially disappeared.
Among your representatives in Examinerland, only Tim Schmitz (R-St. Charles) voted for the measure. Democrats Fred Crespo and Paul Froelich, along with Republican Randy Ramey all voted against and everybody should remember those votes.
There are a couple of reasons, neither of them good, to vote against voucher programs. One is, as Democrat representative Kevin Joyce observed with surprising candor, is that this is a “union issue.” By that, Joyce of course means it’s a teacher’s union issue. If parents can get kids out of failing schools, the teachers at those schools are going to have to find other employment.
Obviously, we can’t have that. Protecting teachers’ jobs at schools that don’t work is far more important than, you know, the kids they actually teach, or creating jobs at schools that do work courtesy of freedom of choice. The Democrat-preferred solution to Illinois’ educational woes, as it is to every problem, is more money. Just a few more bucks and everything will be both hunky and dory.
But you know what? That won’t work, because it hasn’t worked. We’ve got over three decades of experience of pouring more and more money into public education in this state and our kids fall farther and farther behind. Yes, public schools have had to cut back of late and that has hurt, but we still spend far more – in terms of real dollars – per student today than we did thirty years ago for public education and far more per student than infinitely more successful private institutions of learning. Isn’t it about time we gave choice a chance? Isn’t it about time we give kids a chance?
While “protecting union jobs” logic, such as it is, explains the votes of the forty-four Democrats who voted “nay,” I’m baffled why an otherwise reliably conservative lawmaker like Ramey and twenty one other Republicans would vote against vouchers. There is an argument that vouchers are an added expense – you’re essentially funding public and private educational systems for a time – but it’s not really an expense, it’s an investment.
Yes, the failing public schools will stumble along for a while on the taxpayer’s dime, but after a while they’ll be forced to either: a) clean up their acts, or b) close up shop. Either way, the tax-payers and most importantly the kids win in the long run. If GOP lawmakers voted against this investment on account of cost, they’re being terribly short-sighted. If they were courting the teacher’s union vote, they should turn in their party credentials.
Don’t assume that the twenty-two Democrats who voted for vouchers are actually in favor of vouchers either. By and large, they represent “safe” districts that are, have been and probably always will be controlled by Democrats. They’re not going anywhere, so it doesn’t matter if they annoy the unions or not.
The cynicism that percolates through Springfield is mind-boggling. One wonders how legislators can look themselves in the mirror each morning, much less face their constituents. That’s why there’s a tsunami heading downstate in November and everybody knows it.
It would be a mistake to view Republican gains in Illinois this election cycle as mere repudiation of Democrats. It’s more than that. Voters are sick of politics as usual here and it’s pretty clear that we haven’t been governed properly since Jim Edgar left office. If the GOP in Illinois is given the chance to govern in November, they better heed that message or they’ll soon find themselves on the outside looking in – again.
The Bills Are Coming Due - May 5, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
Last year, the Civic Federation, a non-partisan organization that watches government spending, supported the idea of a state tax hike in order to close the state of Illinois’ massive budget gap. Actually, “gap” isn’t a good enough word. “Chasm” describes the difference between revenue and spending more accurately. But, I digress.
Anyway, having argued for a tax hike last year, the Civic Federation pulled back from that position this year for one very good, and very simple, reason: they don’t trust the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to rein in spending. The more that you feed the beast that is big government, the hungrier the beast gets for more tax dollars. Kudos to the Civic Federation for pointing that out.
The organization came to this conclusion in their report analyzing Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed 2011 budget. The first three paragraphs of the Executive Summary are worth repeating:
“The Civic Federation opposes Governor Pat Quinn’s $52 billion FY2011 recommended operating budget for the State of Illinois because it is unbalanced and does too little to address the State’s fiscal crisis. The Governor’s recommended budget borrows billions to pay for operations while continuing to ignore the massive backlog of unpaid bills, which will make the State’s financial condition worse.
Although the Civic Federation is encouraged that Governor Quinn has signed significant pension reform legislation and recommends some reductions in spending, we cannot support his FY2011 State of Illinois operating budget because it does not effectively stabilize state finances or substantially reduce the State’s $12.9 billion deficit going into FY2011.
The Governor’s FY2011 budget recommendation would create a $10.6 billion deficit, consisting of an operating deficit of $4.7 billion and a carry forward deficit of $5.9 billion from the prior year. The recommended budget proposes borrowing $4.7 billion to close the operating deficit. Even after borrowing to pay for the operating deficit, the State will end FY2011 with the same carry forward deficit of $5.9 billion.”
And it goes on from there. Quinn and the Dems are trying to apply a band-aid, when major surgery is called for. One cannot help but wonder if Mike Madigan and his allies in the capitol secretly hope that Bill Brady beats Quinn in November. That would have the effect of dumping this ugly mess into the lap of Republican governor with the unspoken directive: you figure it out.
Whatever the next governor does, the solution is sure to be deeply unpopular. We’ve already seen how state employees react to the suggestion of budget cuts and it’ll only get worse if a governor proposes the deep, meaningful slashes necessary to restore sanity.
The alternative – tax hikes – would make state employees and those who depend on entitlement programs very happy indeed, but would really annoy the rest of us who work for a living. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of decision, so why not let the other guy deal with it? It’s not like Mike Madigan and his Chicago cronies have to worry about their jobs or anything.
In a way, you’re already feeling the effects of tax hikes, or you likely soon will. The state has already reduced the share of the state income tax that it returns to municipalities and Quinn wants to cut that back even further. Under the governor’s proposal the amount of state income tax returned to municipalities would drop by nearly a third, from ten per cent of what residents pay the state, to seven per cent.
Municipalities are struggling in this economy as much as anybody and, by and large, these small units of government are already running as lean as they can. When the state reduces the amount of money – your money – that it returns to communities, towns across the state will have little choice but to raise taxes or cut services that are actually essential, like police, fire and water. Most of the time, I would be willing to bet, municipalities are going to look at that Hobson’s choice and – albeit reluctantly – conclude that it’s better to ask residents for more money than it is to imperil those functions of local government that they need.
It’s a shame that Illinois is in the position it’s in, but it’s not like we couldn’t have seen this coming. If a humble scribe like yours truly could have seen this coming eight years ago, our representatives in Springfield should damned sure have known. But, when it comes to those senators and representatives with a “D” behind their names, it’s clear that either: a) they didn’t know, or b) they didn’t care.
In the first case, the best one can say is that they’ve been negligent, if not downright stupid. In the latter case, they’ve failed to do their job of representing the people in order to get themselves elected. Either way, it’s pretty clear that they should no longer be entrusted with the future of the people of Illinois and, come November, here’s hoping that the people take action and throw the bums out.
Hate Speech Just Ain’t What It Used To Be - April 28, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
Sometimes those anti-government protesters go too far. Take this quote, for example, that was uttered in front of a frenzied crowd that roared their approval:
“They can run, but they can’t hide. We’re gonna be over there this afternoon, and we’re gonna find you. And if you try to leave town without doing your job, we’re gonna chase you. And when you come back home, we’ll be there.”
Surprising, isn’t it, that a quote like that didn’t get a lot of play in the mainstream media? That’s just the sort of inflammatory rhetoric that they are constantly accusing the right of spouting and the kind of sound bite that they desperately scour tea-party rallies in search of, almost entirely in vain. So why wasn’t this bit of anger called out by CNN, MSNBC and the like?
Perhaps it has something to do with who said it: Henry Bayer, director of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union. Bayer and thousands of AFSCME members rallied in Springfield last week in order to urge lawmakers to – can you guess? – raise taxes.
Mind you, I don’t have an actual problem with what Bayer said. I rather have a problem with the double-standard that the mainstream media employs when it comes to rhetoric like this. Sarah Palin tells conservatives that it’s time to “reload” and the paranoid left, with the full cooperation of their pals in the MSM, decides that the ex-Alaskan governor was issuing a call to arms, when it should be patently obvious to anyone with an IQ above fifty that Palin was talking about political battles, not those involving firearms.
Bayer promised legislators that “we’re going to chase you” and “we’re going to find you,” which – if taken literally – sounds pretty darned ominous. Imagine if someone from the right had employed the same words with regards to Nancy Pelosi or president Obama. The left would be hysterical, certain that violence was nigh.
Surely, Illinois legislators don’t have to worry about their safety following Bayer’s angry words. For one thing, Bayer and his followers are Democrats and are therefore both afraid of guns and also unlikely to expend the energy necessary to chase somebody, particularly if doing so might cause them to miss an episode of “Two and a Half Men.” Still, the blatant hypocrisy of the mainstream media is a sight to behold, ain’t it?
The rally itself was remarkable in its own right. One can only assume that AFSCME members and Bayer have been living in a cave for the last year. Illinois is bleeding jobs and red ink and their self-serving solution is a tax hike? What planet do these people come from? Not only do state legislators know that they will get their butts booted out of office so fast that their shoes wouldn’t catch up for two weeks if they approved a tax hike, the mood of the people – who have been taxed dry – is plain to see.
Illinois doesn’t need more cash, it needs to manage the cash it has like responsible adults. Don’t take my word for it. Instead, consider the words of a Democrat: state senator Jack Franks who said this in a letter published in the Chicago Tribune:
“Illinois doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. State revenue this year is at the third-highest level in the history of Illinois. We have more money than we had in 2007… Those who see an income tax increase as the only solution do not understand the problem… We have to shrink the size of government through better accounting and restrained spending.”
Let’s be clear on this, since experience has shown that some of the Cheap Seats’ more liberal readers can be a little slow on the uptake. Illinois doesn’t have a revenue problem. When you compare state revenues in 2010 to revenues in 2000, you will find that the state takes in fifty per cent more bucks into its coffers today than it did a decade ago. The reason – the only reason – that this state is massively in debt, can’t pay its bills and borrows like mad to make up for ever-increasing shortfalls is out of control spending that is entirely the responsibility of the Democrats who have been in sole control of state government for the majority of the decade.
Kudos to Franks, who said what needed to be said. He is something of an exception among Dems – a guy who doesn’t mindlessly toe the party line, a la senator Mike Noland. Franks called out Blago over questionable state purchasing practices long before it was fashionable to do so and he spoke to the truth when it comes to spending. In certain circles, Franks has the reputation of being something of a gadfly. I don’t know the man, so I’m not qualified to comment, but it doesn’t really matter. If more Illinois Dems were willing to call out the obvious failings of their leadership, instead of mindlessly following the commands of “Chicago First” politicians like Mike Madigan, Prairie State conservatives like me would have a whole lot less to complain about.
Grab Bag - April 21, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
- Not sure which is more remarkable: the flurry of radical proposals that USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is churning out on an almost monthly basis, or the way the mainstream media is completely ignoring what she’s been up to. In little more than a year, Jackson has developed new air quality standards that will make it just about impossible to build a new fossil-fuel fired power plant in this country, set up an Ocean Policy Taskforce that will prove more effective than anything at stopping off-shore drilling and is steadily working on a rewrite of storm water regulations that will impact the cost and availability of a whole new host of consumer products previously untouched by EPA’s grasping hands.
If they are seen through to fruition, all of these initiatives will be costly to consumers and drive even more jobs overseas to nations that don’t have a similarly dazzling array of well-intentioned, but ultimately pointless, rules. Veteran readers of the Cheap Seats know that your humble correspondent does battle with the EPA in the day job on a daily basis, so I have certain, well-earned bias against that particular agency. But, Jackson’s EPA is a bureaucracy on steroids. Privately – very privately – many EPA staffers have been shaking their heads in disbelief as well, for they understand that if Jackson has her way, there’s going to be very little industry left for them to regulate.
- Last week Trey Parker and Matt Stone, aka: the last two guys in Hollywood with any guts, took a shot at radical Islam. No, that’s not right. In the April 18 episode of South Park, Parker and Stone were merciless in exposing the cowardly hypocrisy of those who enable the intolerance of the jihadists out fear of violent retribution. The response from the jihadis was predictable. How dare Parker and Stone attack Islamic intolerance and violence. They must be killed! The situation might be termed ironic, if it wasn’t so pathetic.
And how has Hollywood reacted? You know, the Hollywood chock full of “courageous” celebrities ever-ready to defend freedom of expression, diversity and creativity? Nary a word. Oh sure, George Clooney can make a film that goes after Joe McCarthy and that’s gutsy, because Tailgunner Joe has such a legion of admirers fifty-three years after his death. But a couple of their own go after a violent, hateful ideology and the silence is deafening.
- The images of Streamwood police officer James Mandarino beating a motorist were truly horrific and it’s hard to imagine any circumstances that would have justified Mardarino’s actions. I never met him while I was covering Streamwood, but, by all accounts, Mandarino was an exemplary, well-liked cop, which makes this incident all the more puzzling.
There’s plenty of justifiable outrage to be had but, unfortunately, cop-haters will also use this incident to paint with a very broad brush. Among those who should not be tarred nor feathered is Al Popp, Streamwood’s Police Chief. I’ve been privileged to know Al for a lot of years and have watched both him and his department at work more than – I’m sure – anyone who is not employed by the village. Popp is a public servant in every sense of the word, as honorable as anyone I have known and a stand up guy to boot. Knowing the kind of department that Popp runs, I’m sure that he was as shocked to see that film as anyone and, to his credit, he didn’t hesitate to do the right thing. Al will weather this storm and he doesn’t need me – or anyone – to defend him or his department. But, he’s had the backs of the residents of Streamwood for a lot of years, in countless ways that most people don’t even realize, so it’s only right for somebody to have his back now.
- Former President Bill Clinton trotted out the ghost of Timothy McVeigh to warn everyone about the dangers of something called right-wing extremism, which includes soccer moms coming out to tea-party rallies to protest big government, apparently. This is, of course, just another way of telling conservatives to shut the hell up.
It may be useful to look back on how the Clinton administration privately reacted to the Oklahoma City bombing. In his 1999 memoir “Behind the Oval Office” Clinton advisor Dick Morris reprinted the agenda for a White House meeting held four days after the tragedy. Here are the top three items on that agenda:
A. Temporary gain: boost in ratings -- here today, gone tomorrow
B. More permanent gain: Improvements in character/personality attributes -- remedies weakness, incompetence, ineffectiveness found in recent poll
C. Permanent possible gain: sets up Extremist Issue vs. Republicans
The last is the most significant, in the context of Clinton’s remarks. Liberals love the idea of right-wing violence, because it naturally distances people from conservatives. The tea-parties have been peaceful protests against swollen government, unmarked by violence. So, in the absence of any real violence to fuel fear and outrage, Clinton is more than happy to make some up. Lovely.
Socialism? You Bet - April 14, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
I love letters to the editor. This week we got a great one, in which the author quite sincerely, if dubiously, decries the fact that so many Republicans and conservatives want to hang the “socialist” tag on Barack Obama, his administration and his allies in a Congress controlled by fellow Democrats. That charge, our correspondent says, is wholly unfounded, mean-spirited and inflammatory. The president is simply investing in America. This is, of course, the kind of argument that a great many of the president’s supporters make all of the time.
Obama has spent money and increased national indebtedness to a degree that knows no parallel in American history outside of the monumental effort that was World War II. That’s deeply troubling, especially when we consider what it means for our children’s futures, but government spending in and of itself does not create socialism. Socialism is a matter of institutions; who controls those facets of a society that allow it to function: private individuals and enterprises or government? If the answer is predominantly the former, then you have a nation based on individual liberty and capitalism. If the answer is mostly the latter, you’re part of a socialist system, whether you’re willing to admit it or not.
After America and the Allies won World War II, the country was left with a massive debt, but it was a debt burden that Americans willingly shouldered because the investment was dedicated toward a specific, one-time only purpose and because it did not create any permanent institutions that would hinder or control free enterprise in the long run. In 1941, there is no way that Americans would have invested in the war, or would have approved of taking on massive debt to fight the war, if they believed that doing so would have created more dependence on government. The independent, “frontier” spirit still ran strongly through the veins of the average American back then.
The debt obligations that the Obama administration is happily creating are secondary, albeit troubling, issues. The larger problem is the fact that Obama is forcing government dependency upon the populace on an unprecedented scale. The healthcare bill is the most troubling, but hardly the only, example of the neo-socialist state Democrats are creating. One sixth of the United States economy is now under the control of the federal government. That’s stunning. That’s unprecedented. The faceless, soulless bureaucrats from the IRS who administer the tax code are both feared and despised. But, the IRS bureaucracy is nothing compared to the kind of bureaucracy that the health care bill creates. And, once a bureaucracy is entrenched, it’s almost impossible to dislodge. Republicans can make noise about repealing the healthcare bill – and nobody would be happier to see that happen than I – but it’s hard to see how that could happen at any point in time, much less while Obama is president.
The GOP may win a majority in one or both chambers of Congress in November, but it won’t be a veto-proof majority. That means that healthcare is here to stay through at least 2012. That’s quite enough to time to establish the kind of dependence that will make it impossible to get rid of, just as happened with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and host of other government programs that provide government goodies. They become “indispensible” in the public’s eyes and therefore untouchable politically, and thus our ability to make choices for ourselves slowly erodes in favor of nanny-state socialism.
Am I pessimistic? You bet. It was recently revealed that about half of the population of the United States not only pays no net taxes, they actually get more money back from the government than they put in. We’re not talking about returns in terms of programs, assistance and all the rest, we’re talking about actual cash money. If you’re one of those people, what’s not to like? Effectively, you’re not paying taxes, you’re getting a nice subsidy courtesy of the rest of us suckers. If the government can do that for you, why wouldn’t you want more government?
General Motors and Chrysler, in a free market, would have declared bankruptcy, restructured their crippling debt obligations (chiefly caused by unsustainable pension programs) and moved on. Instead, the US government took them over and taxpayers became responsible for their past and future red ink. Yeah, that kind of sounds like socialism to me.
There are nations that prefer socialism, like Sweeden for example. Perhaps that’s America’s destiny now and, if it includes the equivalent of the Sweedish Bikini Team, there may be an upside. But don’t be fooled about what’s going on. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. Obama and the Democrats can protest all they want about the way that their actions are being portrayed by crabby conservatives like me, but the evidence is plain to see. The government runs your life more than it ever has, and we’re not even halfway through the Obama era.
Amnesty – The Game Changer - April 7, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
President Obama has done what many believed was impossible: he rammed a health control bill down the throats of the American people despite their objections, in seemingly complete disregard for the consequences, which would seem to include massive Republican gains in the House and Senate come November. Obama is a political animal, groomed for office in that most partisan of political zoos, the state of Illinois. How can this move possibly make any sense for the president or his party?
It may, but in only one circumstance: if Democrats obtain access to a heretofore unknown and uncounted voting bloc that can tip the balance of the electorate in their favor, no matter conventional wisdom circa 2010. There are, by best estimates, about eleven million illegal aliens residing in the United States today. By and large, those illegal aliens are poor and relatively uneducated. They desperately want to be citizens of the United States, so as to reap the undeniable benefits of citizenship in this great nation. As citizens, they would fall under the protection of the government, which – as we all know – won’t do a single thing that might let a single citizen fall through the safety net that we are obliged to provide.
Democrats understand this. Eleven million new voters dependent on the tender mercies of government are Democratic voters, by definition. The Dems will use charges of racism and claims of equity to push their immigration agenda forward, but the stakes here should be clear. If the Democrats get those voters, they will establish a dominant presence that will take decades to undo, if it can be undone at all.
Barack Obama has openly declared his position on the issue. As part of his immigration plan, the president said that he would support “…a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."
As of today, the president has put immigration on the back burner, but how long is it likely to stay there? All that stands in the way of amnesty for eleven million illegal aliens residing in the United States is a single Republican vote in the Senate. It’s unlikely that one of the forty one Senators from the GOP is going to be suicidal enough to cave in on the issue, but that assumes that there will continue to be forty one Republican Senators in Washington all the way through November.
If the Dems are going to get this game changer, somebody has to go. Obama and Axelrod are Chicago politicians and they know that when somebody gets in your way, the best way to get what you want is to get rid of them. Just look at the current make up of the Chicago city council. Almost forty per cent of the alderman sitting in the council today have been appointed by Richie Daley.
All it will take is one trumped up scandal to make the right Republican Senator resign and Obama is back to a filibuster-proof Senate. But it’s got to be the right Republican: one who represents a state where a Democratic governor or a state legislature controlled by Democrats can name his successor. Don’t you believe for a minute that David Axelrod and his minions aren’t looking very, very carefully into the lives a few, potentially-vulnerable Senators. The prize at the end of this particular rainbow is far too tempting for these thugs in the White House to leave any stone unturned.
Fox News pundit Ralph Peters has called immigration policy the most important issue that we face today. He’s absolutely right. As bad as health care reform was, amnesty for eleven million people who broke the law in entering the United States and who continue to break it by living here would be infinitely worse. Injecting that many government-dependent, sure to be Democratic voters into the electorate would change the two party system and the nature of our Republic forever. This is not about race, color or perceived prejudiced. This is about the rule of law and a healthy balance of power. Whatever your party affiliation, you have to realize this is just plain wrong. We can only hope that our representatives in Washington understand that too.
Redistributing the Wealth - March 31, 2010
By Rich Trzupek
It’s nice to hear a Democrat congressman speak to the truth, even unwittingly. Talking about the healthcare bill last week, Montana Senator Max Baucus got straight to the point: “Too often, much of late, the last couple three years the mal-distribution of income in America is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind. Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America. This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”
Time to redistribute the wealth, in other words. “Mal-distribution,” if it’s a word, is an interesting choice of words. “Mal” has Latin roots. It means “evil.” Assuming that Baucus actually understood what he was saying – and that’s admittedly a stretch when it comes to Democrats – Baucus believes that the accumulation of money and other assets, the capitalist system in other words, is inherently evil and needs to be reformed. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Baucus had made this position clear before he cast a vote in favor of Obmacare?
When conservatives described the health care bill in terms identical to those Baucus used, they were vilified in the mainstream media. How dare anyone accuse the president and his party of socialism! The bill would make the health care system better, not redistribute wealth through government fiat. The truth, which should have been blindingly obvious to anyone this side of Nancy Pelosi, was that conservatives were spot on. The American people knew it and, it would seem, so did an empty Democratic suit like Max Baucus.
It’s worth noting that Baucus doesn’t have much to personally worry about when it comes to this whole wealth redistribution thing. He was born into money and, thanks to his position as a member of Congress, he is shielded from the worst effects of the expensive health care tsunami to come. When you plot to rob from the rich and give to the poor, it’s much more convenient when other peoples’ monies are involved.
There’s more to come of course. There always is. A “Value Added Tax” (VAT) is likely in our future, because it’s obvious to everyone that the country can not continue to run up debt at this rate without causing a complete economic meltdown. Spending cuts would be nice, but that’s not going to happen under this administration. A corporate tax increase perhaps? Already done. (That was one of the hidden gems in the healthcare bill). The VAT sounds reasonable, because it’s distributed over, well, everything. The VAT is sort of a national sales tax, but it’s really much more. Government will assess the VAT on every transaction, not just – as is the case with a sales tax – on the finished product. Government will be there with its hand out every step of the way in manufacturing process, taxing every good, every service – darn near everything.
The net effect is to make the goods that Americans buy and the services Americans use that much more expensive, but since those costs are loaded on behind the curtains, the politicos figure that few will notice for very long. When fighting for the VAT, Democrats will undoubtedly bring up the fact that some conservatives have supported that means of taxation in the past. True enough, as far as that statement goes. The rest of the story is this: conservatives have championed the VAT as an alternative to the income tax, not as another tax piled on top of the income tax.
When will this come down? After the elections in November of course. Democrats are hurting politically right now and they’re not suicidal enough to pass a tax increase before the elections take place. Expect that the White House’s “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” will make that recommendation, thus giving the Obama administration cover. If there is one thing this president is very good at, it’s hiding behind committees that always seem to recommend exactly the kind of action that he wanted to take anyway. And when will the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issue its report? In December, silly. That’s one month after the election and, sadly, that’s also business as usual in our nation’s capital.
Greek Fire - 03.24.10
By Rich Trzupek
Chaos in the nation of Greece, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the European Union, ought to give thoughtful Americans pause. The economic mess that the Greeks have gotten themselves into, which is nearly as bad as the economic mess in that the General Assembly and Democratic governors have gotten Illinois into, serves as an object lesson as to what happens when legislators create government mandates and entitlements that are simply unsustainable.
In Greece, the government can no longer ignore all those past due notices, as will happen in the United States down the road, and the citizens of that ancient nation can not bear with the thought of losing all the government-provided goodies they have gotten used to.
Part of the problem the Greeks have is an aging population. There are less productive young people to pay for the government programs that support increasing numbers of retirees. In Greece, you not only get to retire in your fifties, you are guaranteed a comfortable pension for the rest of your life when you do.
That model is not unlike what has been happening in Illinois, by the by. A compliant, short-sighted series of General Assemblies have gleefully created generous pension programs for some public employees and forced municipal units of government to fund the same kind of programs for others. Those of us in the private sector, who are in charge of our own retirement plans, are thus forced to set money aside for own golden years and those of an increasing number of public sector employees.
Pension woes are not all that ails Greece of course. Greeks became addicted to government over the decades and, as inevitably happens, government grew in size, power and, most of all expense. Sure, you can make the productive people pay more taxes in order to pay for all the great things that big government does, but eventually that becomes counter-productive. At some point, people get fed up working their butts off to pay for a growing class of freeloaders. Why bother? The well runs dry and government wakes up one day to find that there is no money left to pay for all the programs that it has put into place.
That’s where Greece is today. The European Union pooled its resources to bail the Greeks out, but reasonably asked for certain economic reforms as a condition of providing the cash. Without such reforms, Greece would be back aboard the same sinking ship in no time. The EU’s conditions were not only unacceptable to the freeloader class in Greece, those conditions were positively insulting. How dare anyone demand fiscal responsibility! The freeloaders went nuts, starting rioting and generally made it clear that they were entitled to every last bit of largesse that they wanted.
In a way, the Greek response is rather similar to the way some college students reacted when they learned that tuitions were going up at state colleges in Illinois, less the rioting of course. But, the pious sense of outrage and moral justification were there all the same. Not that this was surprising, considering that the youthful set voted overwhelmingly to elect a president who has spent his life sucking off the public teat and whose wife was indignant about having to actually pay off her student loans, despite the fact that she was earning $300,000 a year in some made-up job at the time. Entitlement is in. Personal responsibility? That is so 1980s.
And so here we are today, with government debt spiraling out of control. Since Reagan left office, every administration has increased entitlement spending, with the consent of Congress. Clinton managed to do so while creating a surplus, but that was the result of the “peace dividend” that America realized as national defense was downsized following the end of the Cold War. Clinton’s record on entitlement spending is no better than any of the rest.
Liberals and Democrats, along with the president himself, continue to blame our current sorry state of affairs on George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq has been expensive, but that’s not the real problem. America can afford to fight a war. The problem with George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama is that all of them, without exception, signed onto the proposition that government can, and has the obligation to, solve every problem of every individual in the United States. They signed bills that created huge obligations for future generations, and did little to fix programs like Social Security (although, to his credit George W. Bush did make the effort) that are doomed to fail.
What Barack Obama has done, and what he promises to do, will hurtle this nation farther down the road toward being Greece, faster than any other administration in history. An aging baby-boomer like me may not live to see a Greek-style crisis in America, but I’ll guarantee that – unless things change dramatically and soon – our kids sure will.
Corruption squared - 03.17.10
By Rich Trzupek
It’s hard to believe that anyone could pick worse candidates than the party that gave Illinois gubernatorial candidates like ex-governor/current convict George Ryan and the unbearably bland Judy Barr-Topinka, but Illinois Democrats are giving the GOP a run for their money this year. First they gave us disgraced former lieutenant governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen and now comes troubling revelations about their Senatorial candidate, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. One has to wonder: does anybody check a candidate’s background these days?
Giannoulias is a protégé of the current president, which should have set off an alarm bell or two. When you’re tied into the Obama/Axelrod crowd, the chances of having a few skeletons hanging out in your closet rise exponentially. In 2006, Obama had this to say about Giannoulias:
"He's one of the most outstanding young men that I could ever hope to meet. He's somebody who cares deeply about people."
When somebody tells you that an Illinois Democrat “cares deeply about people,” you are well-advised to check to make sure that you still have your wallet. Giannoulis is no exception. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Giannoulis stands to make $10 million off his role as owner of Broadway Bank, even though that bank is almost certainly about to go under.
The president throws a hissy fit every time some Wall Street banker receives a bonus that the White House finds unseemly, even when the bank in question has long-since repaid taxpayers and is actually turning a profit. So do we hear similar howls of outrage when Giannoulis is poised to pocket a $10 million even as his bank slides down the dumper? The only sound to be heard from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW is that of crickets chirping.
Giannoulias was the senior lender at Broadway Bank from 2002 through 2006. Among the people that he approved for loans was one Michael "Jaws" Giorango, a fellow Giannoulias would describe as a “colorful character.” Giorango is colorful indeed, with a long police blotter that includes multiple convictions for bookmaking a running a prostitution ring.
Perhaps we can give Alexi the benefit of the doubt. He can’t be expected to check the criminal record of everyone he loans money to – some $11.8 million in the case of Jaws and his associates – right? Giannoulias said as much to the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune recently. However, if he figured that the Trib’s progressive sympathies would lead to journalistic memory failure, he was to be sorely disappointed. Tribune columnist John Kass picks up the story:
“With the Tribune's editorial board, Giannoulias was asked how his relationship with Giorango developed, and at what point did he learn that Giorango, whom he described as a "colorful character," had a criminal background. "I learned of it primarily when I was running for the office of state treasurer (in 2006)," Giannoulias said. "I mean, I don't remember the exact date, whether it was during the primary or during the general. I think it was during the primary." He was promptly reminded that on April 27, 2006, during his campaign for treasurer, he told Tribune reporters that he had discussed Giorango's criminal past with him. The discussion took place as Giannoulias worked on millions of dollars' worth of bank loans for Giorango. It was years before Giannoulias' entry into politics.”
As always, it’s useful to employ the “Bush test” when considering the way the mainstream media has, or in this case mostly has not, covered a story. On its face, the tale of Alexi Giannoulias would seem to have all the makings of a spectacular, national scandal. Consider:
Friend of the president? Check.
Big businessman making huge personal profits while screwing the public? Check.
Questionable dealings with shady characters? Check.
Lying to the public? Check.
If the above described a buddy of a George W. Bush, is there any doubt that the mainstream media would be lathering at the mouth to take such a candidate down? The only thing that keeps the Giannoulias story from getting more press is the fact that he owes allegiance to the political party that the old media is convinced is saving the nation. Sure, they’ll happily look the other way. After all, Giannoulias is merely a greedy, incompetent liar who lends millions to criminals. It’s not like he’s a Republican for Christ’s sake. That would be more than the MSM could stand.
But, Illinois being Illinois, it probably doesn’t matter. Giannoulias has the support of the Chicago machine, so he’d probably have a better than even chance of getting elected even if the MSM was carrying this story every hour, on the hour. Clout matters, not integrity or performance. That’s the Chicago way.
Fixing Illinois - 03.10.10
By Rich Trzupek
The “Party of NoTM” unveiled a few badly-needed common sense solutions to fix what ails one of the worst state economies in the nation, which, given the state of the nation’s economy in 2010, is saying a lot.
House Republicans, in conjunction with the Illinois Policy Institute, announced a proposed program that, while it can’t fix everything that ails the state, is at least a good start. Among the features of the plan:
- Holding the line on spending, which has increased by more than thirty nine per cent over the last decade (adjusted for inflation) while Illinois population has increased by less than seven per cent. Clearly, the days of the big-spenders in Springfield are drawing to a close. We can’t afford their largesse any longer.
- Reforming the state’s regulatory structure. Once one of the most business-friendly states in the union, Illinois has become one of the most difficult places to start up and maintain a business, owing to all of the regulatory impediments introduced during the Blagojevich years.
- Requiring a supermajority before any tax and fee increases can be passed in the General Assembly. Past history has shown that Illinois citizens can not trust either party if that party has been comfortably in power for too long. This measure would ensure that the loyal opposition has the ability to rein in the entrenched power structure.
- Curbing the power of the Rules Committee. Speaker Mike Madigan has, for a very long time now, used the Rules Committee to bury any bill he doesn’t like or that he believes runs contrary to his party’s best interests. Under the GOP proposal, any bill that has at least one third of the house as co-sponsors would have to come up for a vote, no matter how badly somebody like Madigan might want to kill it.
State Senator Chris Lauzen went even farther, taking on some of the state’s most troubling issues head on, political correctness be damned:
- Lauzen correctly noted that “…one out of every two babies born in Illinois are now paid by taxpayers and we still have no citizenship requirement for routine healthcare for illegal immigrants, often provided in the most expensive emergency rooms.”This ridiculous, untenable state of affairs was created by Blago’s pie-in-the-sky dreams and fully supported by his Democrat allies in the General Assembly. The result has been a Medicaid program that runs farther and farther behind in paying its bills, which makes health care all the worse for everyone. It’s time for Illinois to control our health care spending.
- Rather than using federal “stimulus” money for “shovel ready” make work projects, Lauzen suggests that Illinois be allowed to use some or all of those funds to address the state’s crippling budget. On its face, that proposal makes sense. Unless someone can prove that investing federal money elsewhere can generate more jobs and revenue for Illinois, using stimulus dollars to get our economy in order seems like a good idea.
- It’s time to reform the state pension program. There is no way on God’s green earth that the state of Illinois can continue to promise and pay incredibly expensive pensions to everyone who works for the state, and – hoping to return to the blessed sanity of the Edgar years – nobody should be allowed to rob pension funds to pay for other programs. The state pension structure, along with Medicaid, represents two huge albatrosses hanging around the neck of Illinois taxpayers.
Contrast that to the neat side-step that Senator Mike Noland executed last week. Asked about the budget crises that even he can no longer ignore, Noland promptly, and predictably, tried to push off the blame into the laps of the party that hasn’t had an ounce of power in Springfield for the last eight years, claiming that it was the GOP who created the problem.
"So these roosters have been coming home to roost for a long time," Noland said. "This is not something that happened just over the last seven or eight years like [Republicans] would like you to believe."
Nice of you to finally notice the budget crisis Mike. But, how to reconcile that incredible statement with the Mike Noland of 2006? At that time, Noland was engaged in a campaign with Streamwood Village President Billie Roth. Roth, who has earned a reputation as a fiscal guru, made the state budget her biggest campaign issue, warning again and again that Illinois’ economy was heading for disaster. The 2006 version of Mike Noland dismissed Roth’s warnings as pish-posh, declaring that Illinois budget was “balanced.”
Noland’s opponent in the 2010 state senate race, Steve Rauschenberger, was an even more vocal critic of what was happening in Springfield. When Blago, with the full contrivance of a compliant Democrat General Assembly, began raiding the state’s pension funds in 2002, Rauschenberger made the rounds, clearly explaining how the Democrat’s plans were unsupportable and how they would inevitably result in the kind of crisis that we find ourselves in today.
In 2006, as in 2010, it’s pretty clear that Noland merely parrots the talking points that his Democrat handlers feed him, hoping that no one will notice the absurd inconsistencies in his rapidly-evolving positions. As many Senators from both parties privately admit, Noland is one of the most embarrassing and most roundly-disliked legislators in Springfield.
It’s time for a change in Springfield. Having been out of power for so long, Illinois Republicans are anxious to get back in the game. After eight years of Democrat-inspired foolishness and irresponsibility, it’s time they were given another chance. The Ryan years are long gone and the most bitter taste in the mouths of Illinois voters can be traced back to Governor Big Hair. Here’s hoping that the Illinois GOP continues to develop solutions that actually make sense for Illinois.
O My - 03.03.10
By Rich Trzupek
You know what you don’t see around so much anymore? The Seal of the President of the United States. Oh, we’re not quite ready to put the Great Seal on the endangered species list or anything, at least not yet, but it’s use has been somewhat diminished over the past thirteen months.
Use of the Seal dates back to the 1850s and the Millard Fillmore administration, with the current design (absent a few later modifications) having been adopted during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes in the 1870s. It has been a symbol of the power of the Chief Executive and the democratic foundations of the office for decades. Presidents come and go, but the Seal endures as an emblem of the highest elected office in the land.
Then, soon after Barack Obama took office, a very odd, most unprecedented event took place. The White House began substituting the Seal with another, powerful symbol: the ubiquitous red, white and blue stylized “O” that was the trademark of the Obama campaign.
“Branding” is the term of art and Obama’s strategists did a first-rate job of branding their candidate in 2008. The O was everywhere, a new, hip symbol of a new, hip candidate – a bright sun rising on a stylized field of red and white rows that replaced “amber waves of grain.”
Every candidate tries to create a powerful symbol during a campaign. George W. Bush’s “W” was an easy way to distinguish father from son, for example, in order to establish George W. Bush as his own man, rather than a prince in a political dynasty.
But, once the campaign is over and the electorate has made their decision known, those brand symbols are normally tucked away in a closet until the next election cycle. Not so with Barack Obama. The O is as omni-present as ever, sometimes in official government web-sites and literature. It has been said that the Obama administration has been in perpetual campaign mode since the president took the oath of office. The way that the O has stuck around suggests this is so.
Were it only that, the fact that the O is still overwhelming might merely be a source of amusement, but there’s more going on here. This administration, more than any other that your humble correspondent can think of, is based on a cult of personality.
Before he ever set foot inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Barack Obama was acclaimed as the best, smartest, smoothest, most empathetic president in the history of the Republic. He was going to transform not merely the United States of America, but the world. How? Nobody spent a lot of time sweating the details. The details didn’t matter. Obama assured his followers that it would be so, and they had no doubts. Barack Obama would be the president who transcended petty politics, greedy capitalism and American self-interest. They knew it would happen, because he said it would.
Over a year later, the best that one can say is that nothing much has changed. The worst one can say, on the other hand, is that things have gotten worse. The latter assessment arises, for different reasons, from both the right and the left. Conservatives and many in the middle lambast Obama for out of control spending, trying to appease rogue states like Iran and increasing the power and reach of big government. Many liberals are fed up with the president because of all the unfulfilled promises he made. American troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, cap and trade languishes in the Senate and government-run health care (the so-called public option) is dead.
All we are left with is the O, which is looking more and more hollow with each passing day. In the absence of achievement, would-be leaders turn to entitlement and that, I’ll submit, is why the O is still around.
It’s a common tactic employed by dictators. And no, I’m not suggesting that Barack Obama has aspirations of dictatorship, but rather observing that when you try to lead solely through the cult of personality, than the symbols of that cult become disproportionately important to the leader in question, whether said leader is elected to office or seizes power. When you can’t point to substantive accomplishment, the natural fallback position is to resurrect those feelings to trust – and dare we say: “hope” – that put you in power to begin with.
It’s also a dangerous tactic for Barack Obama and his party. The O still elicits positive feelings among his supporters, but support is fading. There has been a dramatic shift in the way key groups view this president, particularly among young people who have been deserting the Dems in ever-increasing numbers. In a year’s time, maybe less, the famous O may go from being a symbol of hope and change to being a target of scorn and ridicule.
If that is the way it goes, perhaps.the Presidential Seal may not seem so bad after all.
Irony: R.I.P. - 02.24.10
By Rich Trzupek
Irony is dead. The word no longer has any meaning. Irony is defined as the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning, in an entertaining context. In 2010, reality trumps irony. Exhibit A: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
Sunday, Quinn was quoted as saying: “"Most people when they hear somebody say something that's from the governor of Illinois, they believe them." Unless the reporter inadvertently left out the word “don’t” in between “they” and “believe” at the end of that quote, we are forced to conclude that irony has passed through this veil of tears into the great beyond, where irony will happily romp through the Elysian Fields along with other dearly-departed terms such as “enlightened liberal” and “good government.”
R.I.P. irony. You will be missed.
Pat, we – the voters of Illinois – just have to wonder: where have you been for the past ten years? You think that most people believe the governor of Illinois? Are you kidding? Are you on medication? Are you treating yourself for glaucoma? What?
Ever since Jim Edgar hung it up, the reaction of the average Illinois resident when our governor says something is to: A) check to make sure we still have our wallets, and B) try to figure out what the governor is trying to pull this time. “Believe” an Illinois governor? It would be more reasonable to believe that Sammy Sosa never, ever used steroids, cross his heart and hope to die.
The guv delivered his remarkable quote as part of a Herald story that put a lie to Quinn’s famous habit of flashing his Super 8 VIP discount card as “proof” of his fiscal responsibility. Turns out that the card has not been valid for six years, which is less than half as long as the last time since Illinois had a governor its citizens could actually trust.
But, that kind of pious, hollow declaration is par for the Pat Quinn course. Quinn burst on the political scene in the seventies, as an aid to governor Dan Walker, the guy who walked across Illinois to get himself elected, then later walked into prison on a federal rap in the grand tradition of Illinois governors.
Quinn tried to nurture his image as a reformer when he served under Walker. In those days, all that meant was painting yourself in hues slightly less stark than that of the dominant power in the state of Illinois: the Chicago machine, led by Richard J. Daley. Quinn tweaked the Daley tiger’s tail, but did that make him a reformer? Let’s consider the words of a contemporary and fellow Democrat, from almost forty years ago, Rep. Michael McClain (D., Quincy).
"Pat Quinn was one of the most personable, clearly gregarious people in the Walker administration," McClain said. "His only problem was that he loved power and was vicious in doling out patronage and taking it away. He is not politically naive. The stuff he says now doesn't jive with the stuff he said then. He's a guy you'd love to have a beer with and in charge of your own patronage, but he would not get the most Christian guy of the year award, by any means."
Today, some allege that Quinn was a bagman for Walker, handling pay-offs in exchange for political favors. True or not, it’s clear that the governor has done little – if anything – to support efforts to reform Illinois politics. As ever, Pat Quinn is more than willing to talk the talk till the cows come home, but when it comes to actual “walk the walk” action: not so much.
As long as Illinois has a governor who’s a Democrat and as long as the Illinois General Assembly is dominated by that party, meaningful reform is never, ever going to happen. That’s not the same as saying that reform will definitely happen under a Republican administration in this corrupt state, but at least there’s a chance.
The newspaper that used to be the Chicago Tribune – finally! – noticed that, under House Speaker Mike Madigan, the House Rules Committee could effectively kill any bit of legislation that gave the Speaker and his cronies heartburn. Last week the Trib, in a fuming editorial, denounced this practice because it got in the way of reform – a cause célèbre among that publication’s elite – not because it’s an entirely undemocratic way of running state government in general.
Had the Trib’s editorial board been paying attention for the better part of the last decade they might have realized that killing legislation by manipulating the system long ago became the norm in Springfield. We have humbly pointed this fact out once – twice – perhaps a dozen times – here in the Cheap Seats. But then, if you’re criticizing government while occupying the Cheap Seats, you’re more than likely a right-wing nut job, and what do they know?
Pat Quinn wants the people of Illinois to trust their governor. Mike Madigan would have you believe in our legislature. They have all demonstrated that none of them deserve even a modicum of trust. They don’t appear to have a clue why that should be so, and they are obviously more than willing to manipulate their records if only to secure one more vote. It’s time to get rid of them all.
Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due - 02.17.10
By Rich Trzupek
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden (finally!) acknowledged that the men and women fighting in Iraq have been victorious in the war on terror. Hurrah! However, Biden attributed their success to a most incredible source: the Obama administration.
Last week, the Hair-Plug In Waiting had the audacity to say this: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”
Really Joe? How exactly does that work? How can an administration led by two guys who steadfastly opposed the increased commitment of American troops in Iraq – aka: “the surge” – claim credit for a victory that those leaders did everything in their power to avoid?
When the surge was first proposed, then Senator Barack Obama vigorously opposed the move, saying that the move had no chance of establishing stability in Iraq. In an interview held in 2007 Obama said:
“We can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops – I don’t know any expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to privately that believes that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.”
Actually, 30,000 more troops made a very substantial difference on the situation on the ground. Those extra troops allowed United States military forces to establish safe havens within Iraq, which, in turn, provided the stability that gave the sheiks controlling tribal regions the confidence to oppose the reactionary Taliban elements that were trying to destabilize the nation. In 2008, Presidential candidate Barack Obama apparently forgot everything he had said a year ago:
“I had no doubt and I said at the time when I opposed the surge that given how wonderfully our troops perform that if we place 30,000 more troops in there then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.”
If Obama’s contradictory reactions were disingenuous, given his history, then the way that Biden claimed victory was positively surreal. Not only did Biden strenuously oppose the surge, he was also the author of an alternate strategy that would have ripped Iraq into three pieces, an idiotic proposal that put our troops on the ground in more danger.
When Biden called for division, in 2006, the biggest problem was Sunni militants, who are most prevalent in the center of Iraq. The north is dominated by Kurds and the south by Shiites. The big oil fields are in the north and the south.
So, what Biden’s proposal did was to further enflame Sunni militants who saw it as a way to cut them out of Iraq’s oil revenues. Biden would later claim that wasn’t his intention at all, but it really didn’t matter what his intention was. What mattered was how the proposal would be perceived by the Sunnis, and – in that context – it played on their worst fears.
The only thing that Obama and Biden did was to not screw up the military and political strategy that had been put in place under the Bush administration. It’s a measure of the President’s performance when one can be grateful when he manages not to screw something up.
And, less we forget, Obama did not follow through on his plan to bring home a brigade a month from Iraq. Nor will he fulfill his pledge to have all of the troops out of Iraq within sixteen months of his assuming office. Kudos to President for not throwing away victory. That is something of an “achievement” I guess.
What Obama has done, and what he will hopefully continue to do, is to follow the plans that his predecessor and military leaders put in place. This includes the troop draw down that is set for August, which was part of the agreement that Bush signed with the Iraqi government.
Victory in Iraq is one the great achievements of an administration. The problem here is that Joe Biden doesn’t seem to understand which one.
Healthcare Reset - 02.10.10
By Rich Trzupek
The President appears to have surrendered on health care, finally acknowledging what everyone else has figured out: that Congress simply doesn’t have the votes to pass a health care bill in anything like its current form. During his State of the Union address, Obama somewhat petulantly complained that he hadn’t done a good enough job of explaining the two thousand plus pages of legislation, as if that would have made all the difference.
Aside from those who hang out on the far left, Americans instinctively distrust big government and a giant, unexplainable health care bill is about as scary a prospect as one could imagine. Poll after poll showed that Americans didn’t want anything close to what the Democrats were proposing.
Looking deep into their two-page playbook, liberals immediately blamed their failure to pass a health care bill on Republicans. “They’re the party of no,” they cried, a description that, while not altogether accurate, does have some relevance.
The GOP has never said “no” to health care reform, they’ve just said “no” to what would effectively be government control of our health care system. In this case the Republican party undoubtedly reflects the will of the majority of the American people, who have been yelling “no” louder and louder since this debate began.
It’s also disingenuous to blame the GOP for this debacle, as several pundits on the left have been honest enough to admit. Until last month, the Democrats enjoyed absolute control of the executive and legislative arms of government, including a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Republicans could shout “no” until they were hoarse, but until Scott Brown was sworn in as the junior Senator from Massachusetts, there was nothing they could do to stop Democrats from passing any damn thing they want.
So to those wringing their hands over the demise of Obama-care, or Pelosi-care, or Reid-care, don’t blame us over on the right. You had a year to make your dreams of socialized medicine come true and you couldn’t do it.
Where do we go from here? There are problems with our health care system, but it’s high time that we acknowledge the fact that we can’t have it all if we’re going to fix what’s wrong. A basic flaw in every program the Dems presented was that their plans purported to make health care both: a) more accessible, and b) more affordable. The fact is that you can’t have both, unless you define “affordable” as creating an even bigger pile of public debt that our children and grandchildren will be expected to pay off.
We often hear there are 46 million uninsured Americans. This figure, while accurate in a sense, doesn’t actually mean very much. Included in that 46 million number are millions of illegal aliens, millions who are wealthy enough to forgo insurance and millions of young people who could afford insurance, but choose to spend their money on fun stuff, counting on the resilience of youth to make health care unnecessary.
When you subtract all of those groups, you’re left with somewhere between 10 and 12 million citizens who want insurance, but can’t afford it. And, let us not forget, those 10 to 12 million are not denied health care. They get it, but they are forced to go to the emergency room for treatment, where they can’t be turned away. This is not the best, nor the most cost-effective, means of treating those 10 to 12 million uninsured, but it’s something.
The overall picture, therefore, is not as horrifying as political rhetoric would lead one to believe. The biggest issue, for the vast majority of Americans, is cost-containment. If Congress is going to take another swipe at health care, they should focus solely on reducing costs. Universal coverage is a separate issue, and it’s one that can – and should – wait until another day.
There are things we can do to reduce health care costs. We can, and should, encourage more competition by allowing insurance carriers to sell their wares across state lines. We can, and should, reform Medicare, which effectively sets the prices – often outrageously high prices – for treatment programs, drugs and a host of other aspects of our health care system.
The President has expressed a willingness to sit down with Republicans and listen to conservative ideas about reforming health care. Here’s hoping that he really listens and doesn’t use this as another opportunity to bash the opposition for saying “no.”
America has rejected socialized medicine. It’s time to chart a new course.
By Rich Trzupek
The decision to try 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City was ill-considered to begin with. Now that everyone from Congress to the Mayor of New York is piling on to criticize, it’s time for the Obama administration to make some tough decisions.
There are all kind of problems with holding the trial in New York and just about everyone, with the prominent exception of the administration, seems to understand that. Start with the estimated cost, $200 million, which prompted Senator Evan Bayh (D – Indiana) to observe: "If there's somewhere we can try them without spending that money, why spend the money? We've got a lot of other fiscal problems.”
Happily there is such a place: Gitmo. But, the President seems bound by his promise to close Gitmo – er, eventually – so that sensible location would appear to be out of the question.
But hey, what’s $200 million in this age of multi-trillion dollar government spending? $200 million is background noise. The security nightmare that would surround this trial were it held in New York should be obvious to everyone. It would be a circus in New York, with the star performer being the guy who planned the World Trade Center attacks. Think that might draw the attention of other terrorists? You might as well draw a bulls-eye on New York and send engraved invitations to Al-Queda.
Reversing course, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg now says he doesn’t want his city to host the trial, and – acting in the bi-partisan spirit that the President demands – members of both parties have made it clear that Congress will not fund a New York trial. For all practical purposes, the Big Trial in the Big Apple is dead. Good riddance to a stupid idea.
But will Obama come to his senses and not just relocate the trial, but abandon his absurd notion that terrorists are entitled to the protection of the Bill of Rights? In other words, will he choose – as presidents have before him – to seek justice in front a military tribunal, instead of a civilian court?
The left spent the better part of George W. Bush’s term in office demonizing military tribunals, basically because they spent the better part of George W. Bush’s term in office demonizing everything he did. But, utilizing military tribunals to deal with irregular combatants is hardly a new idea. Most famously, when Nazi spies were caught on American shores during World War II, Franklin Roosevelt had no qualms about hauling some of them in front a tribunal and having them summarily executed.
Mohammed is not entitled to Constitutional protections because: a) he is not an American citizen, and b) he has waged war against America. Nor is Mohammed entitled to the protections afforded by the Geneva Convention, because he and his fellow terrorists don’t abide by the Geneva Convention, as the widow of Daniel Pearl (the reporter who was beheaded by Mohammed’s fellow terrorists) could probably explain to the President. Legally and morally, Mohammed is fair game for whatever we might choose to do to him. A military tribunal, given the scope of Mohammed’s crimes, is not only the appropriate venue, one could argue that it’s gives this monster more legitimacy than he deserves.
Speaking on CNN, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs assured America that Mohammed would be punished by a civilian court – kind of. "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker," Gibbs. "He will be brought to justice and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of."
We can be sure that he is “likely” to be executed. Well that’s comforting. The possibility exists – no doubt about it!
The larger danger, in addition to the real possibility that Mohammed might not receive the punishment he so richly deserves once the cumbersome American legal system swings into action, is the damage that will be done to our security systems and intelligence networks. Procedural rules and constitutional guarantees demand that Mohammed face his accusers and have a chance to refute the evidence placed in front of judge and jury.
Are there mechanisms to protect sensitive evidence? Sure there are, but we know – from bitter experience – that those mechanisms are not foolproof. Furthermore, deciding what is sensitive and what is not largely falls onto the shoulders of a judge, who can hardly be expected to be a national security expert. The government will argue that wiretap transcript X should be treated as sensitive information. Mohammed’s lawyer will argue that it should not. Some of the time, Mohammed’s lawyer will win that argument and the media will gleefully publicize the latest and juiciest tidbit.
Insisting that Mohammed be given the rights of an American citizen is the inevitable result of this administration’s curious combination of arrogance and naiveté. Obama is playing to the far left, even though much of the far left has abandoned him already, while leaving mainstream America, and more importantly mainstream Americans, to fend for themselves.
Pollution is the cure - 01.27.10
By Rich Trzupek
One great thing about global warming is that it causes everything, including cooling according to many environmental groups, and earthquakes, according to Danny Glover. Another great thing about global warming is that you can use it as an excuse to do, or not do, just about anything. Case in point: global warming serves as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) latest excuse for not disinfecting waste water entering the Chicago River.
There is an old adage in the world of environmental science: dilution is not the solution to pollution. We now have the MWRD corollary: pollution is the solution to pollution.
Now I can not say whether all the extra bacteria that MWRD introduces into the river threatens the waterway. District representatives say no and perhaps we should take them at the word. It is interesting to note, however, that practically every other sewage treatment operation in the country feels it’s important to disinfect their wastewater. But to claim that disinfecting wastewater would cause global warming? Please.
The theory, such as it is, is that disinfecting would require the district to use additional electricity, which in turn would increase MWRD’s carbon footprint by almost 100,000 tons. There is a flip side to that equation however, one I doubt factors into the district’s calculations. When biological matter dies and decays, it often creates methane, a global warming gas twenty one times more potent that carbon dioxide. Do that math and I doubt if MWRD’s spurious argument even holds up.
But really, 100,000 tons? That’s a drop in the bucket greenhouse gas wise. Still, MWRD is simply taking a creative, if ridiculous step along the green road that has been so well traveled by so many. “Going green” is very often simply a corporate excuse to make their product cheaper, cut services or both. Sure it’s good for the bottom line, but that’s not why they do it – it’s all about saving the planet.
Sure it is.
You can argue global warming about virtually any side of any issue. Going paperless saves the planer, because you cut down trees to make paper and trees absorb nasty old carbon dioxide. However, it is also true that paper companies plant more trees than they use. As a friend of mine likes to say, every time you hit the “print” button it’s like placing an order for another tree. So using paper also saves the planet.
Using ethanol saves the planet, because it’s a renewable fuel and does not introduce additional carbon in the eco-system. However, it takes more energy to make ethanol than ethanol provides (at most ethanol plants anyway) and most of the energy to run ethanol plants comes from burning fossil fuels. So not burning ethanol also saves the planet.
Using fluorescent light bulbs saves the planet because they use less energy. However, old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs give off a lot more heat than their fluorescent cousins and, in the winter at least, using them will mean that you burn a marginally (but measurable) lesser amount of natural gas in your home heating furnace. So using incandescent bulbs also saves the planet.
I’m only talking partially tongue in cheek here. The point being that, with a little bit of creativity, one can credit almost anything that anybody does with a helping to save the planet. It’s a scam within a scam and it’s pretty darn profitable for those involved in it. Why wouldn’t the MWRD jump on the bandwagon?
Two and a half years ago, MWRD jumped on BP-Amoco for a marginal (in the scheme of things) increase in the amount of ammonia and dissolved solids that would be discharged from the Whiting refinery’s water treatment system. As I wrote at the time, the amount of pollutants that BP-Amoco discharges into Lake Michigan is a footnote compared to the MWRD’s contribution. People who live in glass houses should not be tossing stones into Whiting.
This latest episode further exposes the District’s hypocrisy. It’s an organization dominated by political hacks whose idea of going green has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with their balance sheet.
I’m OK with that. I truly am. I just wish that MWRD had the guts to admit their real motivation instead of hiding behind the tattered cloak of environmental protectionism.
But then since everybody else does it, I guess MWRD figured: “why not?”
Earthquakes and political shakes - 01.20.10
By Rich Trzupek
It was in interesting week…
Everyone’s prayers are with the people of Haiti. The scenes of devastation and carnage are truly horrific, and we should all be proud – once again – of the valiant efforts of our men and women in uniform to bring aid and comfort to that troubled, impoverished nation. The administration is to be commended for utilizing the best trained, best equipped, most professional military force in the world during this time of desperate need in the Caribbean.
It is ironic though: a fair bit of the world, so quick to criticize America for acting unilaterally with regard to any number of issues, always looks to us for leadership at times like these. Nobody’s shouting “imperialist” today, but given them time. (Actually Hugo Chavez says the US is in the midst of a “military occupation” of Haiti, but I’m only counting reasonably sane people here). Once Haiti is forgotten, global-government types will begin shouting “imperialist” anew.
Speaking of Haiti and criticism, Evangelist Pat Robertson drew quite a bit of fire for implying that last week’s earthquake was a result of nineteenth century pact with the devil that Haitins supposedly made in exchange for escaping French colonial rule. Robertson deserved the criticism. There is a time to evangelize and there is a time to help the victims. To his credit, Robertson apologized and he has been actively raising money for Haitian belief. Still, this isn’t the first time that Robertson has inserted his foot squarely into his mouth.
Left-wing activist and actor Danny Glover made much the same kind of assertion last week, except that an angry mother earth was at fault is his judgment. What made Gaia so upset? Why it was the west’s failure to achieve a meaningful “climate change” agreement at Copenhagen. Duh. Of course Glover’s gaffe received practically no coverage in the tired, old media. I’m sure that old media sympathy for Glover’s liberal causes had nothing to do with that. Nothing at all.
I’m no geologist, but here’s an alternate theory that Robertson and Glover might want to consider while they try to figure out what caused the catastrophe in Haiti: an earthquake.
By the time you read this, the biggest election of the decade will have been decided. Yeah, yeah, the decade is only twenty days old. One takes what one can get.
The fact that a Massachusetts Senate race could be even close, in a state that’s the bluest of the blue, is remarkable. The fact that – as of Sunday – it was essentially a toss-up is mind-blowing. Just a few months ago, Democrat candidate Martha Coakley was thirty one points ahead of her Republican opponent, Scott Brown. No one, this reporter included, figured Brown had a chance.
The fact that Brown is going to at least make it close is not testament to his cheesecake centerfold that appeared in Cosmo in 1982. It’s rather the result of growing voter dissatisfaction with a government controlled by Democrats and Coakley’s unbelievably abysmal campaign.
The latter point first: during the course of her campaign, Coakley’s string of gaffes read like something from a book entitled “How To Lose An Election,” including:
- When asked about overseas experience, Coakley responded that she has a sister who lives abroad.
- Coakley said that there are no terrorists in Afghanistan, which will certainly come as a surprise to our troops fighting there.
- A Coakley staffer shoved a reporter to the ground and then further bullied him, all of which occurred in the unprotesting presence of the candidate herself. (She would claim that her back was turned, although video of the incident suggests otherwise).
- Though she is Attorney General of Massachusetts, and presumably privy to its laws, Coakley failed to disclose over $200,000 is assets when filing paperwork for her Senate run.
- In a state that is heavily Catholic, Coakley managed to alienate many of them by suggesting that perhaps they shouldn’t work in emergency rooms.
- And, to top it off, Coakley also managed to alienate Red Sox fans by mocking Brown for shaking hands with voters in front of Fenway Park.
All of that, and her less than stellar record as a district attorney (she refused, for example, to prosecute the infamous “curling iron rapist,” though her successor had no problem securing the pedophile’s conviction) make it painfully obvious that the Democrat powers that be in Massachusetts figure they can toss anybody on the ballot and Bay State voters will dutifully elect even the emptiest of suits.
Still, this race could not be close without the growing dissatisfaction that voters have expressed with the Democrat’s agenda. From health care, to spending, to releasing terrorists for retraining in Yemen, to national security – and beyond – it is painfully obvious to most everyone this side of Barack Obama and Harry Reid that the Dems are – and have been – pursuing policies that the majority of Americans find deeply troubling.
A GOP victory in Massachusetts would be wonderful, putting the filibuster back into play and thus restraining any further left-wing insanity. But, even failing a Brown victory, the Massachusetts Senatorial race is further proof (not that we needed any more) that the so-called “party of the people” is as badly out of touch as it has ever been.
Big, Front Page News - 01.13.10
By Rich Trzupek
I’m going to hold off on my traditional year-end wrap up column for a week or two because I’ve got some other news that just won’t wait. Besides, having just lived through glorious year 1 O.E. (Obama Era) what could I possibly poke fun at?
As many of you know, I have long been a critic of the way the mainstream media covers science in general and environmental topics in particular. The laziness and almost critical stupidity of some journalists when technical topics are at issue disgusts me and many of my fellow scientists.
Climategate was the straw that broke this particular Polish camel’s back. After personally reviewing the leaked e-mails and data files from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, I was disgusted by the slipshod coverage of the scandal in the mainstream media, as outlet after outlet tried desperately to sweep the issue under the rug. But for the internet and Fox, it is very likely that the vast majority of Americans would still be in the dark.
Enough is enough. The parable of the talents is one of my favorites and, in my case, I happen to be a scientist who was blessed with the gift of being able to express myself with the written word. And so, over the Christmas break, I decided to go national.
You will now find my clever opinions (or right wing rants, if you are so inclined) at Front Page Magazine (www.frontpagemag.com) and at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism site (www.bigjournalism.com). I hereby invite you to drop by and say hello every once in a while.
Front Page is David Horowitz’s site. Horowitz was, as you may know, a 60’s era radical who was once close with Tom Hayden and other famous far lefties. Like many of us, he abandoned the seducing, dangerous promises of a liberal utopia, once he put a little age and experience under his belt. Today, Horowitz is one the foremost libertarian thinkers in America, an unapologetic advocate for free markets and liberty.
Breitbart’s most famous coup was exposing the corruption within ACORN, the organization that played such a large part in getting Barack Obama elected president. His websites, including Big Government and Big Hollywood, are among the most popular for conservative and libertarian readers. Big Journalism is the latest Breitbart project and, based on his track record, we fully expect it to be the latest sensation among the “Big” sites. It’s going to be fun to be a part of it.
Now I know what those readers who despise the Cheap Seats (but for some unfathomable reason continue to read it) are thinking: does this mean that I won’t have to put up with Trzupek’s crazy opinions in The Examiner any longer? Sorry to disappoint. I am far too fond of The Examiner and the people who work there to willingly sever my relationship with this charming publication. The Cheap Seats will live on.
I like to think that, in this larger role, I am part of a revolution in journalism that has been brewing for quite a while and that is long overdue. Of the traditional media outlets, only Fox – in my view – has the integrity to consistently cover all sides of an issue. The fact that Fox consistently trounces its competition at CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CBS demonstrates that more and more people are hungry for a different kind of media.
The internet is playing a bigger and bigger role in this revolution too, on every side of the political spectrum. Sites like the Huffington Post on the left, and the Drudge Report on the right, frequently break stories long before anyone in the mainstream media gets their hands on them. The game is changing and the rules are changing.
Old guard journalists turn up their noses at internet outlets, claiming that the new breed often gets the story wrong in their efforts to break a story quickly. To that, most internet purveyors of information reply: so what? We put the information out there and, once we do, we can get the facts nailed down through our readers faster than you ever can.
The old guard is fading away. The only reason that the New York Times is still in business is that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú floated the paper a $250 million loan a year ago. Big, bloated media outlets everywhere are scrambling to plug holes in their sinking ships.
I maintain that this particular version of change is a good thing indeed. And, more to the point, it’s going to be a lot of fun being part of a revolution that American desperately needs.