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For future reference.

Dear Mayor Daley, please SHUT YOUR HOLE.

So Mayor Daley and (a presumably more pliable than his predecessor) Governor Pat Quinn traveled to Washington, DC to talk up the stimulus bill and make sure Congress knows that big cities all across America are in desperate need of those funds to take care of long-overdue infrastructure projects.

How is this all a sham? Let me count the ways.Collapse )
Here's the thing about corruption in Illinois politics: the key words are pay-to-play. Sure, we'll give you state contracts, but you'll have to do something for us in exchange. Kick back a cut of your profits. Get my son-in-law a job in your firm. Raise a ton of money for our war coffers. Something like that.

So follow the bouncing ball: this goes back for decades.

In 1968 a real estate developer named William Cellini became a vital fundraiser for Governor Richard B. Ogilvie, a popular figure because, prior to his run for office, he was known for battling the Mafia as Cook County Sheriff. (For you non-locals, Cook County is made up of Chicago and many of its suburbs.)

In gratitude, Governor Ogilvie made Cellini the state's first transportation secretary. This gave him control over millions of dollars' worth of state contracts, which he farmed out to friends and allies in exchange for kickbacks and other favors. After Ogilvie's run, Cellini stuck around as fundraiser and power broker, and he made hundreds of millions of dollars.

One of Cellini's enablers was Ray LaHood, a US Representative whose district includes Springfield. Through LaHood's influence, Cellini has made a mint off of federal earmarks, and in return, Cellini made sure that LaHood has little in the way of competition in Illinois.

In addition to many properties he leases to the government, Cellini owns the Renaissance Hotel in Springfield, built with big taxpayer-funded subsidies and making tons of money because of its proximity to such tourist attractions as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. There was a quite a bit of infighting over the construction of the library--media sources cite historical concerns, such as the fact that several 1850s-vintage buildings would have to be torn down to build the library, which sprawls over three city blocks--but I have to think that the hotter issues had to do with who held the contract to do the work, and who got kickbacks for it. The taxpayers forked over $50 million for the project.

Senator Peter Fitzgerald saw the back-room politics at work, and he fought the construction of the library in the Illinois legislature, all the way up to a filibuster against it. Then he fought to bring in US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) to weed out the wide-spread corruption and favor-mongering that was going on in Illinois.

For his trouble, he was run out of politics by a coalition of entrenched politicians. His replacement? Barack Obama, who gave the speech dedicating the Lincoln Presidential Library in 2005. (In the middle of this post is a brief description of the odd circumstances of Obama's senatorial run.)

Needless to say, these same people have been trying to get Patrick Fitzgerald sent away, too. Keep an eye on him--I am absolutely positive he'll get yanked before has a chance to expose everything going on here.

The case for building the library was backed by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which is co-chaired by Ray LaHood. (Another co-chair is Senator Dick Durbin, a long-time player who showed his hand recently by asking President Bush to commute the sentence of crooked-Secretary-of-State-turned-crooked-Governor George Ryan.)

Recently, Ray LaHood was confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation, where he will have access to all of Cellini's power mongering abilities, but on a national scale. While I think this bodes well for the construction of the Metra's long-awaited Star Line, which would provide much-needed service among Chicago's western suburbs, we need to be aware that Ray LaHood is a pay-to-play politician with some very shady connections, and President Obama surely knew that when he nominated him for the position.

On a related note, Obama also nominated presidential rival Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce. If you'll recall, Richardson withdrew his bid because he got busted for pay-to-play politics in New Mexico. (Could you imagine a pay-to-play Commerce Secretary? The mind boggles.)

I've said before that you don't get to be a politician anyone has ever heard of in Illinois without playing the game. We know who Barack Obama is because he has powerful friends. By appointing pay-to-play people like Ray LaHood and Bill Richardson, Obama looks an awful lot like he's paying back favors.

It's the Chicago Way.


All the to-do about Obama's connections to former Weatherman William Ayers is complete bullshit. The last Weather Underground bombing happened in January of 1975. Barack Obama was 13. The "connection" bit comes up because many of the Weathermen are now important people in academia and on Wall Street, people who naturally will have the ear of Washington politicians.

One of their much-decried "connections" is their shared support of certain social issues, such as desperately-needed education reform. Because of the reforms they supported, Chicago has a magnet school program that is successful, and a model for education systems in other cities.

If you think Ayers should have been in jail this whole time instead of teaching at the University of Chicago, that's valid, but that's on law enforcement, not Barack Obama.


You don't get to be a name-level politician in Chicago without rubbing elbows with certain unsavory elements. The media doesn't do much to distinguish between a "mob boss" and other kinds of "bosses"--people who have, and distribute, political clout--possibly because in Chicago, there isn't much difference. So in order for anyone outside of the Chicago metro area to have heard of him at all, he'd need to make a Faustian agreement with one of two local rival political machines: the one fronted by Mayor Richard M. Daley, and the one formerly fronted by former Governor George Ryan. (The fact that Daley is a Democrat and Ryan is a Republican is irrelevant--both machines are bi-partisan.)

Obama is a product of the Daley machine. This how he gets uncomfortably close to guys like cloutmonger Tony Rezko (recently convicted for fraud and bribery) and Governor Rod Blagojevich (currently part of the same massive corruption investigation that nabbed Rezko and racked up 60 other indictments).

The Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois governments haven't shaken the organized crime elements that have existed at least since Al Capone's day and lead people to (not entirely unfair) comparisons between Chicago and Gotham City. People need to be held accountable, and US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is a hero for leading the charge on a scale I'd never seen before in my lifetime.

How better to block this investigation, than by getting one of your own into the White House?

So now I'm left with a difficult choice: do I vote for the ticket that might allow "pay-to-play" politics to continue unabated in Chicago, or for the ticket that might overturn Roe v. Wade?

This should be a tough choice, but it won't matter. Obama will take Illinois.

This is American terrorism.

Please share this news story, seeing as how the mainstream media doesn't think it's important enough to mention. (Hat tip to harmonyfb.)

On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West--the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail--were distributed by mail in Ohio, a "chemical irritant" was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers.

The story was reported in the Dayton Daily News, here. DailyKos leads the bogosphere coverage (with lefty spin but with a level of shock much more appropriate to the story) here.

To the terrorists who sprayed chemical irritant into a mosque containing a bunch of children: may you meet with well-deserved justice. May your weapons turn against you, and every door be barred to you until you give yourself up to the law. So Mote it Be.

Twitters for the day

  • 09:15 Took the day off to cruise around Lake Michigan. The weather is awesome today.#

  • 10:54 Somebody on the boat swears he saw a giant squid. There are squids in Lake Michigan? #

  • 11:17 Oh God, we’re being eaten by a giant squid. #

Automatically shipped by LoudTwitter

Shout out to my LARPers.

Advanced Presence

The force of your personality makes even the most stalwart tremble. When you exert your Majesty, heads bow, hearts break and spines quiver. None would dare to challenge you or risk your ire, for your ambiance is without peer.

By expending a Willpower Trait, you exert your Majesty for the duration of a scene or for a full hour. You can represent this power's effect by holding your arms out from your sides, or with a special card or ribbon. As long as you have Majesty, nobody may insult you or attack you as long as they are within 10 feet of you and able to see you. A subject may break through your Majesty by making a Social Challenge against you, but must spend a Willpower Trait to make the attempt. Failure means that the subject cannot challenge your Majesty again in the same scene.

If you attack someone or undertake hostile action while using your Majesty, the aura fades automatically and immediately as your onlookers are startled or outraged. You may still use your Social and Mental Disciplines as long as they do not inflict direct harm--you may still Entrance or Dominate a subject--but a deliberate attack disrupts your Majesty.

When attempting to penetrate Majesty, a Willpower Trait may be used for a retest. This is an exception to the normal rule that Willpower is used only to defend against Mental and Social challenges.
What is mysterious to us civilians about the military is the Semper Fidelis part, the discipline to march into extreme danger to carry out wholeheartedly a mission about which you yourself are deeply skeptical. "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die," as the poet Tennyson wrote of the Light Brigade that rode into the valley of death on the orders of an arrogant idiot, and men have been riding off to death in behalf of many arrogant idiots ever since, including the ones who are in the White House at the moment. This is a heroism that is not expected of you or me, and it's the expectation of heroism that gives [soldiers he'd met] the gravity that was so appealing to me.

Many men have been carried to the cemetery with honor guards and rifle salutes who, if the truth be known, knew their missions were not worth the price but went anyway. Many, many of our honored dead were dissenters.

What makes no sense at all is when the arrogant idiot expects us civilians to support his unprincipled policy as a way of "supporting our troops." The troops are not mercenaries, they are American soldiers in a long, proud tradition going back to Gen. Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge, and what gives their mission dignity and meaning is that it comes from a constitutional government in which war is not a point of personal privilege but a matter to be openly debated, opposed, protested, reported. For the troops to fall into line is a noble thing; for civilians to fall into line is shameful.

--From Garrison Keillor's column in the Chicago Tribune, here.

Politics and cynicism.

Lemme put this right out there, before anything else: I identify as "cynical." I don't think the majority of people are inherently good, I generally assume power corrupts, and I don't have a lot of faith in humanity's ability to advance civilization without immediate fear of death.

This mindset lends itself well to Chicago politics. Of course all of our politicians are corrupt. Of course many of them are incompetent, having achieved their positions through blood ties rather than skill or popularity. Of course any news item we hear is spun to some political agenda or other. Of course corruption, not the Will of the People, is really what makes the Chicago machine go.

I'd never make a good communist. I'm absolutely positive that the system would get clogged up with manipulation and corruption the second it went live.

If I didn't have this mindset--indeed, if many Chicagoans didn't share this mindset--we would have burned the city down in protest by now. (To be fair, people have tried in the past, but that all happened before I was born.) Instead, we realize that the people in charge have all the money and all the guns and the quasi-legal power to fuck up our lives if we step out of line, so we mostly don't. We're like New Orleans in that sense. So we watch "reality" TV and drink shitty St. Louis beer and spend our energy trying to take care of our own (at the expense of your own if necessary, sorry about your luck), and we treat the graft-ridden Chicago political machine like a scandalous evening drama, one we happen to read about in the Chicago Tribune.

It's sort of like the fatigued acceptance of the Cold War: eventually, you have to accept that at any time, there might be a bright light and then nothing, and rather than living in fear every minute of the day, you get on with your life. If you don't, the constant worry will drive you insane.

I have enough things to worry about, regarding people near and dear to my heart, thank you very much.

What got me thinking about this was the upcoming presidential election--specifically, the Democrats. As far as I'm concerned, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama are virtually the same candidate, with virtually identical positions on most topics. (McCain is obligated to swing a little more conservative than his Democratic rivals, so he's pro-NRA, he supports staying in Iraq for 100 years, and he's anti-abortion--though it's notable that he wasn't anti-abortion back when he was the maverick of the Republican party. Otherwise? The same.)

I'm not the only person who has noticed this. Hell, Mitt Romney said it not long ago. In response, though, Obama's supporters--and there really are a lot of them--describe him as the Candidate of Hope. Hillary Clinton is a bloody-knuckled brawler and a back-room manipulator and a Washington insider and generally an ice-hearted bitch, but Obama? He'll lead us to the fucking Promised Land.

Having grown up on Chicago politics, the Council Wars of the 1980s, Ed Vrdolyak running rough-shod over Chicago and Cicero for upwards of 20 years, Harold Washington decrying Chicago's cronyism only to replace it with his own upon election, Richard Daley's straight-faced insistence that he's unaware of anything crooked happening in City Hall, Chicago police using cattle prods on suspects in the '80s and caught on tape blatantly beating people much more recently, Chicago and Springfield passing the buck every year about funding for the Chicago Board of Education (and a subsequent teacher's strike almost every year I attended Chicago public schools)...talk is just talk. That and a buck will get you a cup of coffee.

Also, and this may not be obvious to non-Chicagoans, let us not forget that Barack Obama is the golden boy of the Chicago machine. He is where he is because the Chicago machine, Daley's machine, put him there. Scandals took down popular rivals at suspiciously opportune moments. Here's how it went:

The Democratic primary for Illinois' US Senate seat was taken down by a well-timed scandal. Two months before the primary election, front-runner Blair Hull's 4-year-old divorce proceedings, which he'd been trying to keep sealed went public due to pressure from journalists and his opposition, who claimed that he'd been beating his now-ex wife (a claim that both Blair and his ex-wife denied). Regardless, Barack Obama was suddenly in the lead.

The general election went the same way. Jack Ryan, popular and more charismatic than even Barack Obama (can you imagine such a thing?), was the distant front-runner until humiliating details of his divorce from actress Geri Ryan--specifically, their visits to a sex club--were conveniently leaked to the press during the Senate campaign. Needless to say, these were details that neither of the Ryans wanted released to the public.

Jack's last-minute replacement? Alan fucking Keyes. Obama could've phoned that one in.

I should point out that the Chicago political machine is bipartisan--money and cronyism speak much louder than partisan politics in Chicago. So the people who nominated Alan Keyes as a Republican contender were almost certainly Obama supporters setting him up to get knocked down.

As far as I'm concerned, the Chicago machine connection is a black mark that will stick with him far, far worse than Bill Clinton will stick with Hillary.

Peddling hope sounds all well and good, but I'd much prefer him to prove that he's the Democrat most suited to be President by doing that thing that Democrats have failed to do since before the Decider got into the White House: come up with solutions. (Which isn't to say that Clinton or McCain or anyone else is handing out answers to my satisfaction, but nobody's claiming that they're anything but common politicians.)

Answers, man. Anything else looks too much like the same old song-and-dance to this Chicago cynic.
I'm typing this from a high shelf in the warehouse, a little better than 15 feet in the air. A couple of us are up here, and we have the Sales VP's laptop. I think some of the guys are holed up in the men's room--the bathrooms are the only place in the whole shop with locks but no windows. The warehouse was a second-best; the only window between us and them is in the door to the break room, and we shoved both refrigerators in front of it.

The hatch up to the roof is still open, and if worse comes to worse, we can climb up there until the helicopters come. (Because if Hurricane Katrina taught us anything, it's that we can count on the government to take care of everything.)

After the word "zombies" traveled around the shop, no one really wanted to hang around in a cubicle farm that was surrounded on three sides by plate glass. I mean, it's not like any of us believe that they're real-life zombies, with the shambling and the brains and everything, but I can think of some things with reasonable-sounding scientific explanations. Mind-altering chemicals, or, I dunno, cosmic rays.

Our initial plan seemed to be, "Let's all get out of here and gun it until we find safety," but apparently that was everybody's plan, too, because Newsradio said that traffic is jammed up everywhere. Some of my co-workers left anyway, but none of us know how far they got. None of them are answering their phones--they're probably on them, trying to call their families, or the police, or the nearest chainsaw salesman, or something.

Anyway, I hope that's why they're not answering.

The rest of us barricaded ourselves into the warehouse. It's deathly quiet--the only FM stations we get in the warehouse is the River and WONC (which is a college station here in Naperville), but both of those have been silent for a while now. I had (AM) Newradio on for a while, but then that thing happened where we start off with a good signal, and it slowly slides into noise for no reason. Nobody was able to get it back, so we shut it off. Now everyone is afraid to talk. (Not that it would help--a good number of the people left here don't speak English very well, if they speak it at all.) So now we're just sitting silently in the heat, straining to listen.

The sound of my typing is echoing really loudly, and I think people are getting annoyed at me. I'd really like to kill the lights, because they're hot and they're buzzing really loudly, but the switches are right next to the break room, and I'm not going anywhere near it. Every so often, we can hear sirens, and sometimes there's quick bursts gunfire. Mostly, though, I just hear the prayer circle going on somewhere else in the warehouse. And helicopters--I'm hearing lots of those.

A little while ago, one of the printers decided that the silence was driving him crazy, and he turned on his CD player--to "Down with the Sickness," of all the fucked-up things--until we all yelled at him to turn it off. Somebody--I'm not sure who--threw a wrench at him. It's still stuck in his head--every so often, he sings little snatches of the chorus.

The guys on the roof say there's smoke coming from the mall. I can smell it.

Hey, is anyone near a TV? Those might be news choppers--can you see if they're showing anything?

Meridith used to talk about having a "zombie plan." I wonder now if she was serious. I'm on a 15-foot platform with three guys, and I grabbed a hammer on the way up. Two refrigerators, a hammer, and a 15-foot climb are all that stands between me and the walking dead. I hope they're not very good climbers.

Fuck, they're pounding on the bay doors now. I think the roof suddenly sounds like a good idea.

Blog like it's the end of the world.