Monthly Archives: October 2005

>TIDBITS: What a difference a week (or so) makes

>I take a bit of time away from my blog rambling, and the world turns.

1. My prediction that Harriet Miers will be confirmed is out the window. Frankly, I underestimated the zeal of a good portion of the right wing lobby in opposition. I am not sure it was warranted, but it had its effect. I am also not sure it was a good strategy in the long run. It is my belief that Bush will not sway from his intent to name a conservative strict constructionist to the Court.

2. The Sox and world champions. Even as a Cub fan, I admire the quality of the team. They reflect everything good about baseball. In a day where sports is a brutal industry, it is good to see a team who seems to think the game of baseball is just that, a game — something to be fun for players and fans. One cannot argue that they are a high performance team, too. They dominated the season and routed some pretty good teams in post season play. This was a solid, well deserved victory by a team that played excellent baseball with great dignity. I would even dare to say that outside of NOT snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, they played baseball like the beloved Cubs. Congrats from Wrigley Field.

3. Gas prices in surprise drop? Methinks it has something to do with those embarrassing high profits the gas giants are reporting. It does not take an economist (which my degree says I am) to figure out that those power powerhouses gouged the public. Katrina, Iraq and SUV’s provided a good excuse, but it is now obvious that there was another significant driving force in the price surge — greed. I am a free market guy, but we have to know that the oil oligopoly is not necessarily a free market force. Of course, if one result is the collapse of SUV sales, the world will be a better, and safer, place.

4. Some things did not change in my blog absence. I impolitely referred to Governor George Ryan’s I-want-to-be-your-friend-while-I-dump-on-you protégé as a sleaze. Well, he has now completed his time in the witness stand, and he never demonstrated any other trait. Humility, veracity, honestly and dignity eluded him to the end of his tortured testimony.

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>OBSERVATION: Cindy who?

>Despite all the controversial and sensational news of natural and political disasters, there is an underlying peacefulness in the public limelight. There is a bit of lost acrimony that is only evident by its absence.

Eureka!! I got it!! I have not seen nor heard recently from that eccentric peacenik scold, Cindy Sheehan. Could it be that her 15 minutes of fame is up? Or, does the major news press have sufficient other grist for the bias mill? Is there nothing new to report in her screeching?

Probably an element of truth in each of those considerations. Methinks, however, there is yet a more valid explanation for her disappearance from the public spotlight. It was increasingly evident that the more exposure she got the more embarrassment she caused the strident left. As the public got to know more about her oddball opinions and her lust for cameras, it became obvious she was not simply a grieving mother. As reality set in, it was apparent that she was a strident, mean-spirited, egotistical (and a bit loony) person caste unprepared and unsuited for the level of fame bestowed upon her.

Once she was no longer useful to the anti-war Bush-bashing left-wing portion of the press, they dropped her like a hot bomb over Baghdad.

Well, for whatever reason, my day is elevated by the absence of her name and face in my morning newspaper. Now, if only the press could give up ritual of daily Jesse Jackson sightings I could enjoy my morning tea and crumpet without an accompanying rise in blood pressure.

>REACT: Fawell shameless

>The chief prosecution witness against former Illinois Governor George Ryan is his former top staffer and alter ego, Scott Fawell. Fawell, who is spending a few years in jail for his side of the official crimes, likes to have it both ways. He provides testimony to nail his old boss, while expressing his unabated friendship and affection for the old codger. He provides damning evidence, but upon cross examination attempts to undermine his own testimony by helping the defense.

Of course, Fawell claims that his “testimony under duress” is for the love of a woman. She will not face jail time if he ‘fesses up. It makes for nice theater, but I contend that it is the reduction in Fawell’s OWN time in prison (which is part of the plea agreement) that drives his testimony.

Having had dealings with Fawell, it has been my long time impression that at the bottom line his only concern is Scott Fawell. The strong bond to the ex-Governor and to his paramour existed only while he was on the receiving end of the relationship. He is, and has been, a ruthless and smarmy character. His performance on the stand is a perfect example. His whiney claim, that he is only telling the truth about is knowledge and involvement in massive public corruption because of the “pressure” exerted by the feds, in and of itself attests to a guy with no sense of higher calling. He is a sleaze trying to appear noble, and you and I have no reason to buy it.

Any more backsliding on the stand, and I would hope that the feds pull him aside and tell him the deal is off. Maybe he should be rewarded like the old wanted poster promise — a reward for the “arrest and CONVICTION” of the culprit. Under that provision, you would see a very different Fawell. He would be spinning his testimony to make sure Ryan hit the steel bar hotel. He is just that kind of a guy.

>OBSERVATION: Some thoughts on the Sox winning season

>1. What about those Cub fans? The Sox victory is a natural reason for Chicago to officially celebrate. Of course, it brings to a boil the long standing schism between the fans of the south side team and the fans of the north side Cubs. And that is the whole point. The Sox are a south side team, and the south side is a completely different culture than the north side. Mayor Daley looks as natural in a Sox cap as he does in a bright green tie.

The Sox are a local team. The Cubs are a national team, with fans from sea to shining sea. This is due to the fact that the Cubs are more than a team, they are a mystic. And more than a little credit for their national fame has to do with their early telecasts on a WGN-TV, which went national with the sports broadcasts.

The Sox play baseball, in some years better than others. When they are winning, more seats get filled (although it takes at least a World Series to completely fill their stark stadium. The Cubs are a sports/social phenomenon. Win or lose, a ticket to Wrigley Field is hard to come by. This is a reality that Sox fans simply cannot comprehend, and it is not easy for Cubs fans to explain it. You just have to feel it.

With the Sox heading to the Series this year, there is a lot of snubbing of the old proboscis at the ever-loyal Cubs fans. They assume that Cubs fans are frustrated or jealous. Whether the outcome of the City Series, or the number of players in the All Star Game, or the relative ranking of the teams during the year, or entrance into post season play, Sox fans are quick to boast when they are ahead and silently sulk when they trail. Their sports self esteem, like ticket sales at the tacky-named U.S. Cellular Field, rises and falls on victory alone. Cubs fans, ensconced in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field just love the game, the team, the environment in which the game is played, and the zany fans.

Cubs fans do not begrudge the Sox their victory. They simply do not care. It is like being in a restaurant seated next to a family celebrating a birthday. Good for them. We might even applaud at the end of the birthday song, but there celebration is neither a source of jubilation or chagrin. It just is.

2. The Governor is capless and Soxless. Of course, when Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wrote in Sporting News that he would never wear a Sox cap, not even if they played in the World Series, I am sure he never expected the team to get there during his administration – or his life time. Not a bad sentiment for a dyed in the wool Cubs fan. Unfortunately, it was a hapless statement fraught with political incorrectness when made by the elected leader of ALL the people, and was elevated to a major faux paw by the Sox unexpected winning season.

Just what does a savvy politician do in a situation like that? Well, the Governor’s response can be seen in the post season publicity shot. Proving him to be the things politicians are made of, he parses his statement by keeping his word on the cap, but dons a Sox jacket. Now everyone can see a desperate man twisting in the wind. The look on his face tells it all. But wait! He knows there is no escaping the embarrassment of the moment, and the scorn of the south side, so he does the publicity stunt with his sweetly innocent daughter at his side. He might was well be wearing a sign that says, “Don’t pick on me because my young daughter is here.”

Now, if that is not bad enough, ponder this. The Governor’s spin meisters put out the word that his anti-Sox comment in the press was not of his authorship. It was ghost written by a reporter for the publication – although they concede that he read and signed off out the article before publication.

Having transformed a bad comment into a public relations disaster, it is now questionable if Governor Blago can even get a ticket to any of the home games. He may not even receive the traditional invitation that automatically goes to the state’s chief executive for such events. Of course, if I was Jerry Reinsdorf, and I were of a mind to zing the Governor for his comments (and that would not be beneath Reinsdorf), I would make a very very public invitation to the Governor, and watch him squirm for credible reasons not to attend, or shame him into attending, and smugly grin as he is boo’ed by assembled crowd. Sox fans are like that. In truth, if the situation was reversed, Cubs fans would do the same.

3. The rich get richer. Jerry Reinsdorf will get a nice windfall from the World Series. Seems like, when no one was looking, our politicians pulled a fast one on the public. Those of us who footed the bill for that monstrosity called U.S. Cellular Field will get none … nada … of the revenues generated by the World Series. In a move that can only be described as a “gift” to the team owners, we taxpayers agreed to relinquish proceeds from any World Series tickets. Now that was damn generous of us. Perhaps, like Governor Blagojevich, those who made that decision on our behalf assumed that a Sox World Series would never happen in our life times. So, when you Sox fans see a beaming Mayor Daley standing next to grinning Jerry Reinsdorf, you will know that the glee is brought on by more than civic pride. That is not Jerry’s arm around the Mayor, it is his hand on the public wallet in his pocket.

4. The “Sold Rush” on the south side. There are many media stories about the demand for Sox tickets. There is confusion, and a couple of predictable stories of the “unfairness” of the process. Big shots getting tickets as the faithful get shut out. Well, all this consternation should come as no surprise. We should be more tolerant of the situation. It is a bit like the lack of preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. Not only is the Sox winning season a generational event, but no one in charge at … gulp … U.S. Cellular Field has ever had any experience with a situation where there where more demand for seats than seat available. They should have hired some of the Cub officials, who have to face high demand all the time.

>OP ED: Dems in a pickle over Miers nomination

>Despite all the apprehension on the right, President Bush has outmaneuvered the liberal Democrats with a brilliant double nomination strategy for the two overlapping vacancies of the Supreme Court.

In appointing the brilliant and super qualified Chief Justice Roberts, Bush was able to trump the Democrat’s ideological concerns with superior qualifications. This resulted in the approval of a Chief Justice as conservative as anyone the President could have chosen. With Roberts, Bush left the Senate Democrats with little to work with (or against, in this case).

In his second nomination, Bush selected a person not easily targeted as an extreme right winger. This time the Democrats are not trumped by intellect or constitutional track record, but by a confusing lack of information. The very fact that Harriet Miers is not only without a clear conservative record, but even has some “liberal” indicators in her long resume, is putting off the Democrats more than scaring the hard line conservatives.

Miers’ donation to Al Gore, and the support of some narrow gay issues, has many of my fellow conservatives armed and on standby — and a few in full assault. In risking some conservative consternation, Bush has adroitly put the left in full disarray. The likes of Jesse Jackson are taking on the usual, and predictable, “shock and dismay” attitude. That would be the case for any appointment short of Jesse’s son – and even then, the reverend would probably be suspicious of his offspring.

Senate Leader Harry Ried, however, has all but endorsed the appointment — even taking some credit for the recommendation. Liberal as he may be, Ried is a pro life Democrat, so the litmus issue is not of great concern to him. That attack on Miers as intellectually and experientially deficient is spurious. It is coming from the strident left, as part of their package of criticisms, from judicial elitist, such as Robert Bork, who bifurcate society between their ivy-covered peers and the poor uneducated masses. Miers is as qualified as many of those who went on to great Supreme Court careers.

Oddly, this is an appointment the Democrats could defeat. If they were unified in opposition, there are enough wary Republicans to force her out of contention. Without an unbroken line of Democrat opponents, however, many wavering Republican senators will find it safer to go along with the President and the Senate leadership. Of course, the Democrats are not foolish. If they were to expend their political capital to defeat this woman candidate, they would be less likely to defeat the next, or the third, if that were to be the case. And they fully understand that the next appointments would not be fraught with doubt. They would be front line conservatives. For the Democrats, and especially for the major asses, such as Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin and Charles Schumer (alluding to their party’s donkey symbol, of course), the hope in the unknown Miers is better than the certainty of those others on Bush’s short list.

Liberal America must now recognize that they have been out foxed, out flanked, out classed, out done — and now are outside the judicial halls. They know that the “new” Court is going to be far more conservative than the old. They were not wrong to mortally fear the potential of a President George Bush in the shaping of the senior courts. Upon confirmation of the next justice, Miers or not, the battle is won by the political right. If there should be another appointment for Bush, the seminal victory will be a generational rout.

As far as her “evolution” on the Court — the great fear of many conservatives — I take heart and hope in the fact that as the freshman justice, she will be “evolving” under the leadership of the solidly conservative and highly persuasive Chief Justice Roberts. For all his conservative leanings, the late Chief Justice Rehnquist can best be described as the “head” of the Supreme Court, not its “leader.” Historically, he may have been among the least persuasive Chief Justices in bringing colleagues to his view.

I believe Miers will be confirmed, since the Democrats do not seem to have even a winning strategy to be implemented. And, I suspect that Justice Miers will be mostly the conservative we all hope her to be. We may not like each and every vote. But on the matter of strictly interpreting the Constitution as opposed to legislating from the bench, I think she is there — and will stay there.

>REACT: Edgar out? He was never in.

>I win a number of bets, and unlimited bragging rights, for my never-wavering contention that former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar would not run (see blog item August 26). I will say it with confidence, the outcome was never in doubt. His only true deliberation was when and how to say “no.” He did it in grand public relations style — which is his greatest talent, anyway.

I never thought of Edgar as stupid (politically, that is) or nuts. He is a cunning political operator, with a keen sense of his image and poll numbers. In terms of public policy and issues, the Ken-doll-grown-old Edgar was never considered the sharpest knife in the drawer. Truth be known, many issue activists and lobbyists on both sides of the philosophic divide thought of him as a bit … well … let’s just say under informed. (More about that some other time.)

If there was ever any doubt in my mind that Edgar would reject the petitions of the politicians, it evaporated with his arrival at the Illinois Issues forum (which I attended) just before his weepy press conference. He was not in the room more than five minutes when my original opinion was confirmed — at least in my own mind. He passed through the crowd with his insider-known disdain for the masses. Rarely smiling, and giving all (except a few of his former syncopates) an icy brush off. This was Edgar the person without any hint of Edgar the campaigner — who could produce a forced gregariousness every few years for the sake of votes. The aloof Edgar was not a man about to run for public office.

Since his concern for good government and the welfare of his Republican party goes no further than his own ambition and ego appeasement, there was no self-motivation for Edgar to make an early decision for a greater good. If the former governor had no intention of ever running again, why the prolonged pondering? Simple. Ego.

As I noted in that earlier blog commentary, Edgar suffers from “the phone doesn’t ring as much anymore.” This is his third public pensiveness. In each case he ran the publicity mill as long as he could before giving his predetermined reply. Nyet! Nein! Nope!

This play for publicity is not an Edgar invention. Former Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie was courted to run for mayor of Chicago every four years. He would encourage speculation and drafts, then puff on his pipe ponderously for weeks as pundits speculated, the press reported and potential candidates awaited in the wings. Every twitch of his eyebrow was the subject of speculative meaning. Again, I never lost a wager by placing my marker on “no.”

Edgar said he is through running for public office, and that IS the truth — but don’t be surprised if yet again some season speculation arises, and the old war horse again entices the phones to ring and the reporters to write. After all, this is man who convincingly said, “I never say never.”

>LMAO: Oy Vey! to oy vey … and other foolish things

>LMAO #1 I love New York, oy vey.
Somehow, the borough of Brooklyn, New York convinced the state Department of Transportation to erect a huge exist sign that features the Jewish expression for disappointment or dismay — as in “a tree just fell on my car, oy vey.” In that spirit, I am going back to my old blue collar neighborhood and ask for a similar sigh saying, “holy shit.” Maybe the exit near the high tech industrial district can say “omg.”

LMAO #2 A curse on the tax folks, the Dutch seem to be spellbound. A court in Holland recently decided in favor of granting witches a tax deduction for training and education in the occult arts. This is a nation already know for popularizing the most salacious pornography and promoting wide spread drug use as a means of recreation. Since almost all the Dutchmen I know in America are highly dedicated Christians with fundamentalist moral values, I can only assume the righteous immigrated to the United States, leaving behind the hedonists to run the country. On the other had, I would not mind learning more about the spell they put on the court. Could come in handy.