Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Way News - Ill. sinks deeper into chaos over scandal

My Way News - Ill. sinks deeper into chaos over scandal: "Illinois plunged deeper into turmoil Friday over disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the attorney general asked the state's highest court to strip the governor of his powers, billions of dollars in bills went unpaid and lawmakers moved closer to impeaching the scandal-plagued politician."
Our AG is the daughter of the most powerful state legislator--Mike Madigan, Speaker of the House. He wants to make her governor, like he made her a state legislator and then the attorney general. Now this silly, embarrassing, grandstanding lawsuit to have the IL Supreme Court oust the governor.

There is only one way to get rid of this abomination, if he won't resign. Her daddy has to move an impeachment resolution through the state house that he controls. Why hasn't he done that already? Perhaps because he wants her to grandstand and take some sort of bogus lead on the issue in the media, so that she can run for governor as the anti-Blago Democrat. This Supreme Court play, which is doomed to total failure, distracts the press and the public from the real question: where has the AG--supposedly our chief law enforcement officer--been, while Blago was running rampant breaking state and federal laws all over the place? Answer: she has been turning the AGs office into a warm and fuzzy, touchy-feely place where she can show how much she cares about the little people. She is true to Chicago Machine form: the reason the feds always have to do the heavy lifting on Illinois corruption is that the Cook County State's Attorney and the Illinois Attorney General never seem to notice anything. So, Mike Madigan is enabling his daughter to create the false impression that she is using her power to rid us of this bonehead governor, when in fact she hasn't done a damn thing.

It makes a strange kind of sense, though: in Illinois, the remedy for a governor who abused his power is for the Speaker of the House to abuse his power, so his daughter the Attorney General can abuse her power, by asking the state Supreme Court to abuse their power.

BBC NEWS | Business | Ecuador defaults on foreign debt

BBC NEWS | Business | Ecuador defaults on foreign debt: "Ecuador is to default officially on billions of dollars of foreign debt it considers 'illegitimate', says President Rafael Correa.

Mr Correa said he had given the order not to approve a debt interest payment due on Monday, describing the international lenders as 'monsters'."

Maybe GM and Chrysler should try the Ecuadorian Gambit: refuse to pay your debts and denounce your creditors as monsters.

Bad Economy Hits Green Companies Hard | Newsweek Project Green |

Bad Economy Hits Green Companies Hard | Newsweek Project Green | "First there was the dotcom bust of the late 1990s, then came the real-estate bubble that's deflating before our eyes. Next up: the green bubble. Alternative energy ventures have received a lot of great press, heavy investment and lip service from politicians in the last couple of years, but many of the nascent green industry's balance sheets are beginning to bleed red.

Among the hardest hit is T. Boone Pickens and his alternative energy hedge fund BP Capital, which has reportedly lost some $2 billion."

I wonder if the White House and Congress will decide that it is essential to drive oil and gas prices way up in order to keep inflating the "green bubble" and, of course, to save the galaxy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Little Blago for Everyone by Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online

A Little Blago for Everyone by Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online: "According to the Chicago Sun-Times, as of 2006 — when Blago’s predecessor, George Ryan, was sent to prison for racketeering — 79 elected officials had been convicted of corruption in the past 30 years. Among the perps: 27 aldermen, 19 judges, 15 state legislators, three governors, two congressmen, one mayor, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a stolen pear tree. Especially in this holiday season, it’s so very important to keep traditions alive for the kids. In a sense, Blago did it for the children."
Not exactly. He did it for the bleeping children.
Madoff's alleged $50 billion fraud hits other investors - Yahoo! Finance: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors scrambled to assess potential losses from an alleged $50 billion fraud by Bernard Madoff, a day after the arrest of the prominent Wall Street trader."
This has to be the biggest (alleged) Ponzi scheme in history. Ponzi (see photo) is credited with inventing the scam where the crook poses as an investor, gets money from a bunch of victims, tells them he has invested it, and then keeps it. He never invests at all, or just invests some of it. The scheme is that he pays off a few of them with money from some of the other investors. Then he just keeps paying off a few people with new money from other people every so often, while he continues to enlarge the number of victims. If he keeps half the new money and uses the other half to pay off a few people, the word spreads of this great new investment company.

California faces financial meltdown as debt grows by $1.7m an hour - Times Online

California faces financial meltdown as debt grows by $1.7m an hour - Times Online: "The state of California, one of the top ten largest economies in the world, will run out of money by February, causing “financial Armageddon”, according to dire new budget projections."
Maybe California will be the first state to file for bankruptcy.
HOA drama as TV fodder? Now's your chance.
Look what is circulating around the net:

Location: Orlando and surrounding areas

If the answer is yes, here is your chance to show America the significant role that homeowner associations play in neighborhoods across the country!
You have worked hard to own your home, and home ownership is at the heart of the personal freedoms we enjoy as Americans. People are passionate about protecting the property value of the most important investment they will ever make.

New HGTV pilot is in search of homeowner associations with a never-ending supply of passion, conflict and drama!

Are the members of your HOA impassioned and animated about enforcing the rules? Is your HOA president active in the community while being enthusiastic and driven in making sure your association is the best that it can be! Is your neighborhood full of volatile and dynamic personalities?

Tell us your story and be one of the lucky HOA¢s chosen to be part of our groundbreaking pilot.

Please send an email to: and tell us about your HOA. Please also include the city you live in along with contact information.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Corruption winds through Illinois politics |

Corruption winds through Illinois politics | "In the annals of corrupt Illinois politicians, Gov. Rod Blagojevich may go down as one of the most brazen. But he has plenty of company.

Three of the state’s seven previous governors have been convicted and served time. Since 1971, by one count, 31 Chicago aldermen and some 1,000 public officials and businessmen have been convicted.

“We’re the corruption capital of the United States,” says Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago and a former Chicago alderman, who maintains that state corruption count. “We have more [corruption] even than New Jersey and Louisiana, which are our competitors.”"

Dick is the head of my department and the leading authority on the Chicago machine. The corruption here is so profound that criminal prosecutions, while necessary, do not have a deterrent effect. The politicians just factor in the risk of criminal conviction as one of the risks of doing business. When somebody falls to the feds, the rest of the crooks just try not to get caught the same way he did. Even if Patrick Fitzgerald nails the big fish--Richie Daley--it won't change the political culture.

Here is a modest proposal: maybe the state of Illinois needs to be put into political receivership and subjected to total reconstruction, just like the confederate states after the Civil War. Just a little thought experiment.

Gated communities gaining popularity in Vellore-Chennai-Cities-The Times of India

Gated communities gaining popularity in Vellore-Chennai-Cities-The Times of India: "Some of the townspeople have still not come to terms with the concept of a gated community. Gunasekharan, a broker in Vellore, for instance, calls it 'houses that have 24 hours common security' as opposed to the other houses for rent in Vellore that have no security."
That's a clever euphemism, but somehow I don't think it will catch on.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knoll-Century Hill Lawsuit Set To Proceed

Knoll-Century Hill Lawsuit Set To Proceed: "AVON PARK - A lawsuit filed by a Knoll-Century Hill subdivision resident against the homeowner's association will come to trial on Dec. 29.

The basis of Aaron Seward's suit is a claim that the homeowner's association held illegal and improper voting proxies to allow directors to amend the association's bylaws in order to purchase a clubhouse in the subdivision.

According to the suit, in April 2007, the association board held a member vote, allowing the association the authority to pass and enforce a special assessment to purchase property from private parties, according to an April 2 Highlands Today report."

Read the story and see if you think everything was done by the book. Doesn't sound that way from this story.

Who will fill Obama's senate seat? : News : KHQA

Is Obama lying?:
Obama says he didn't talk with Blagojevich about who would take his seat in the Senate. Obama's campaign manager, David Axelrod, said Obama did speak with him, but recanted after Obama denied it. I said (see below) that it is inconceivable Obama wouldn't have discussed something this important with Blago. Now it turns out (via Instapundit) that their meeting was documented on November 5, the day after the election, in the following article by Carol Sowers:

"CHICAGO, ILL. -- Now that Barack Obama will be moving to the White House, his seat in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois will have to be filled.

That's one of Obama's first priorities today.

He's meeting with Governor Rod Blagojevich this afternoon in Chicago to discuss it."

So, Obama appears to be lying when he says he didn't talk with Blago. 1) His campaign manager said the meeting happened; 2) there was a newspaper article about the meeting being set to occur; and 3) it defies logic and common sense to say that Obama didn't discuss something as important as his Senate seat (and his candidate seems to have been Valerie Jarrett) with the only person on planet Earth who could appoint him/her.

The evidence suggests that Obama is lying to the public on a matter of substantial importance. Now: will the press follow up on this? I doubt it.

Residents Demand Meeting With Prosecutors Over Break-Ins - Indiana News Story - WRTV Indianapolis

Residents Demand Meeting With Prosecutors Over Break-Ins - Indiana News Story - WRTV Indianapolis: "Homeowners' association president Melissa Huber said residents are tired of rampant crime and want prosecutors to intervene."
Fred Pilot sent this link. HOA folks are frustrated after 69 burglaries. Can't blame them.

Clout Street - local political coverage | Chicago Tribune | Blog: "Following a 90-minute audition meeting today with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said he was confident in the process the governor is using to make his choice for a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama...Jackson has mounted the most highly visible campaign among several people who are being considered for the Senate post. He said the meeting with Blagojevich amounted to a “very productive conversation, very thoughtful” that covered a broad range of issues.

“I am convinced that the governor has a very thoughtful process that he has put in place and is wrestling and weighing a number of issues in this enormous decision that he has to make,” Jackson said. “Today, I leave confident that the governor has put in place processes and that his interview process for this position is thoughtful.”"

This meeting occurred the day before Blagojevich was arrested. And it now turns out that Jackson is Senate Candidate No. 5, who in the complaint is alleged to have offered either $500K or $1M for the seat. When Jackson said he was "confident in the process," he knew that he and Blago had just finished talking about how much the Senate seat would cost him. So, put it together: Jackson was defending Blago's corrupt process in public while dealing dirty in the back room.

Can we maybe have somebody besides me putting all this together in the press?

Question: Will Jackson be indicted, or will he just be a government witness against Blago in exchange for a grant of immunity? Because if these alleged facts and news reports turn out to be true, Jesse Jackson, Jr., seems to have committed a felony.

Internal Warnings Sounded on Loans At Fannie, Freddie -

Internal Warnings Sounded on Loans At Fannie, Freddie - "Internal Freddie Mac documents show that senior executives at the company were warned years ago that they were offering mortgages that could pose dangers to the firm, hurt borrowers and generate more risky loans throughout the industry."
A House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is jumping right on this. About five years too late.

He's the clown, but joke's on us --

He's the clown, but joke's on us -- "So though Illinois isn't surprised—this is after all the home of the Chicago Way—the national media must be shocked.

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

The inimitable John Kass, who has been hammering The Combine and this slimy crook of a governor for a long time. And he sends the wakeup call to the national media: guess where Obama came from?

What's wrong with Illinois? - Eamon Javers and Fred Barbash -

What's wrong with Illinois? - Eamon Javers and Fred Barbash - "A visibly disgusted FBI special agent Robert Grant stood at a podium in Chicago during a press conference today announcing the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and hurling his contempt at the entire political culture of the state of Illinois.
“If it is not the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor,” Grant said, his disheveled shock of black hair giving some indication of the dramatic and stressful events of the day.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald termed the events leading up to the governor’s early-morning arrest by the FBI, “a corruption crime spree,” and said it was “an appalling statement about what’s been happening in Illinois government.”"

Chicago has a history of corruption that goes back to shortly after the Civil War, and the virus spread to Cook County, and then took over the state government. The biggest problem is that the voters will keep right on putting the Democrats in charge of Chicago no matter what happens to this crook Blagojevich. It's not that all the crooks are Democrats. They aren't. It's that the core of the rotten apple of Illinois corruption is the Chicago Democratic Party. The enormous political and economic power of the Chicago machine is what fuels the entire bipartisan Combine, as Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass calls it.

Hubble telescope finds carbon dioxide on distant planet - Yahoo! News

Hubble telescope finds carbon dioxide on distant planet - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (AFP) – NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of a distant planet, in a key step for finding extraterrestrial life, the space agency said Tuesday.

Detecting organic compounds that can be a by-product of life processes on an Earth-like body could one day 'provide the first evidence of life beyond our planet,' NASA said in a statement.

The discovery was made on a Jupiter-size planet 63 light years away from Earth that is too hot for life, and is all gas and liquid."

All gas and liquid? They should call it "Planet Homer Simpson."

Indian River makes 'offer' for half of house ahead of eminent domain case : Roads : TCPalm

Indian River makes 'offer' for half of house ahead of eminent domain case : Roads : TCPalm: "INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Former County Commissioner Ruth Stanbridge, who has lived for 40 years on 66th Avenue, bolted from Tuesday’s commission meeting in tears when the county offered to buy part of her house for $203,550.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the date we moved into that house 40 years ago,” Stanbridge said.

The county’s move, if the Stanbridges didn’t fight it, would divide the existing house down the middle, said her husband, Bill Stanbridge.

But in fact, Tuesday’s offer wasn’t expected to be accepted. Rather, the commission made the offer as a prelude to filing an eminent domain case in court, Deputy County Attorney Bill DeBraal said."

I'm speechless.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Political Punch

Did Obama speak with Blagojevich about Valerie Jarrett being his successor in the Senate and Blago getting something n return?: "Asked what contact he'd had with the governor's office about his replacement in the Senate, President-elect Obama today said 'I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.'

But on November 23, 2008, his senior adviser David Axelrod appeared on Fox News Chicago and said something quite different.

While insisting that the President-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a 'kingmaker,' Axelrod said, 'I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.'"

The fact is that Blagojevich knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett to be his successor, but it seems that he didn't want to give Blagojevich anything in return. That led Blagojevich to his expletive-laden tirades against Obama.

It is interesting that Obama says he had no contact with Blagojevich on this. First, Axelrod said he did, and second, it is inconceivable that Obama didn't make his preferences clear. He had a perfect right to do that. From the complaint there is no evidence that Obama did anything wrong. I suppose time will tell. Blagojevich, though, would seem to be headed to federal prison at some point in the future.

Coyote removed from Sears --
Can't a fellow shop for some rocket-powered roller skates without getting manhandled by security guards?

Monday, December 08, 2008

U.S. Could Take Stakes in Big 3 - "WASHINGTON -- Congress and the White House inched toward agreement on legislation that would throw a financial lifeline to the Big Three auto makers, giving the government a substantial ownership stake in the industry and a central role in its restructuring."
This story has to be wrong. We are supposed to believe the White House is going along with quasi-nationalizing the auto industry, with the Obama presidency a few weeks away? That is beyond belief. I can't imagine that a president with an "R" after his name would do this.

If Bush doesn't have enough sense to force a move like this onto Obama, he should just hand the keys to the Oval Office over to Nancy Pelosi right now and climb on a plane for Texas.

Here is the playbook for a lame-duck Republican president in the last few weeks: light the White House Christmas Tree and pardon Republican crooks. But not George Ryan. And if you get Osama lined up in the sights of a Predator drone, pull the trigger. But you DO NOT whip out the Ouija board and start channeling Mussolini or FDR. Leave that for your successor.

Cash-Strapped New York Times Wants to Borrow Against Its HQ: Anyone Want to Lend It $225 Million? | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD

Cash-Strapped New York Times Wants to Borrow Against Its HQ: Anyone Want to Lend It $225 Million? | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD: "The New York Times is running low on cash but has a $400 million debt payment due next spring. How to foot the bill? Raise money anywhere it can.

Last month, the Times cut its dividend, a move that could save it up to $100 million a year. Now the paper is looking to borrow against its new Manhattan headquarters. It has hired a real estate firm to raise up to $225 million using the value of the building as collateral. The company is looking at either a sale-leaseback or a mortgage, reports…the New York Times (NYT)."

And the Tribune Company, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, is consulting with bankruptcy lawyers. That's the major paper from the three major cities of this nation.

Maybe they should ask Obama for a bailout. They certainly put in their time working on his campaign.

Daily Herald - In Eagle Mountain, the “ugly underbelly” of homeowners associations

Daily Herald - In Eagle Mountain, the “ugly underbelly” of homeowners associations: "But the deterioration of this neighborhood, as bad as it is, is not what really worries the handful of owners who remain here. What keeps them up at night can be summarized in one word: snow. The gritty reality of global recession has thudded into the laps of a dozen homeowners in Eagle Mountain, exposing what city manager John Hendrickson called “the ugly underbelly” of homeowners associations. Except for a handful of owners, Silver Lake Village has been reduced to a ghost town. The real problem here is, who is in charge? The short answer is no one, not a soul. Who owns this privately owned community? Who takes care of property? Who will plow the roads? Snow will come. That knowledge recently prompted resident Erin Carbajal to go to the City Council. Because Silver Lake Village is privately owned, the city does not plow the streets."
Here is a great example of a failed HOA where the city and the residents are waking up to some very unpleasant truths. As I have been saying forever, there will be plenty more stories like this in the years to come.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Ideological Warfare Rages on Federal Appeals Courts Dominated by Republican Appointees -

Ideological Warfare Rages on Federal Appeals Courts Dominated by Republican Appointees - "Although the impact of Bush's judicial appointments is most often noticed at the Supreme Court, it has played out much more frequently and more importantly here and in the nation's 12 other appellate courts, where his appointees and their liberal counterparts are waging often-bitter ideological battles. After Bush's eight years in office, Republican-appointed majorities firmly control the outcomes in 10 of these courts, compared with seven after President Bill Clinton's tenure. They also now share equal representation with Democratic appointees on two additional courts."
Like there was no ideological warfare when those same courts were controlled by Clinton appointees? Sure.

Terror, recession, oh, workout fiend Obama's still a smoker | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times

Obama still wants a foreclosure moratorium| Los Angeles Times: "I think a moratorium on foreclosures remains an important tool, an important option. I think we also should be working to figure out how we can get banks and homeowners to renegotiate the terms of their mortgages so that they are sustainable."
So the moratorium may be coming. Obama also copped to falling off the cigarette wagon from time to time. The White House is a smoke-free zone. If you smoke in a government building in Illinois, or for that matter any public place including bars and restaurants, they give you life without parole. He says "you will not see any violation of these rules in the White House," but that is a weasel answer. We won't see what goes on behind closed curtains and windows, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening. What happens to a president who smokes in the White House in violation of federal law? Does he get impeached? Does he pardon himself?

I don't smoke, but I don't care if people smoke in their homes. However, I do think government officials should live by the rules. The rest of us have to. Nobody else can smoke in the White House, so neither should the president.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Chinese economy: 1930s beggar-thy-neighbour fears as China devalues - Telegraph: "China has begun to devalue the yuan for the first time in over a decade, raising fears that it will set off a 1930s-style race to the bottom and tip the global economy into an even deeper slump."
What next? Godzilla wades ashore in Tokyo Bay?

State public worker pension fund takes big hit

State public worker pension fund takes big hit: "The California Public Employees' Retirement System portfolio has lost 31.1 percent of its value since peaking last fall, a staggering $81.4 billion drop. CalPERS officials say a 'rainy day fund' is helping to defray the losses - for now. But if the market slump continues, they will hit up state and local employers for more money. That's a painful prospect as California struggles through a fiscal emergency and municipalities cope with the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn.

The good news for the 1.6 million CalPERS retirees, workers and family members is that their pension benefits are guaranteed."

Good news for the pensioners. Not for the taxpayers, who have to make good on that nifty guarantee. Here in Illinois we have a similar dynamic going on--guaranteed benefits but the state is allowed to underfund their share, year after year. Tick, tick, tick.

Condo calamity | The San Diego Union-Tribune: "The housing bust has spawned thousands of tales of staggering declines in home values in San Diego's foreclosure-ravaged neighborhoods. But few local projects have suffered as much carnage as the Normal Hights condo conversion Cityscape.

Units started selling in late 2006 and early 2007, one-bedrooms for $237,000 and two-bedrooms for $345,000. Today, of the 70 condos in the flat-roofed, nearly 40-year-old complex, 66 have been taken back by lenders or are in default, the first step of the foreclosure process.

One-bedrooms are reselling for an average of $66,900 and two-bedrooms for $94,200 – down more than 70 percent from the original prices."

Fred Pilot sent this tragic story of a devastated San Diego condo complex. The lockboxes on the gate tell the tale.

Chinese tour groups go house-hunting in U.S. - Los Angeles Times

Chinese tour groups go house-hunting in U.S. - Los Angeles Times: "Caravans of cash-rich Chinese in Hummers and Lincoln Navigators have been weaving through American neighborhoods in recent months, looking for foreclosures and other bargain properties to buy.

With housing prices crashing in the U.S., home-buying trips to America are becoming one of the more popular tour group packages in China. New U.S. visa rules for Chinese tourists and a loosening of foreign investment policies by China have made it easier for people such as Zhao Hongjun of Beijing to go house hunting across the Pacific."


Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale -

Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale - "“We need action — and action now,” Mr. Obama said in an address broadcast Saturday morning on radio and YouTube.

Mr. Obama’s plan, if enacted, would be in part a government-directed industrial policy, with lawmakers and administration officials picking winners and losers among private projects and raining large amounts of taxpayer money on them.

It would cover a range of programs to expand broadband Internet access, to make government buildings more energy efficient, to improve information technology at hospitals and doctors’ offices, and to upgrade computers in schools."

A lot of this spending would involve local governments, so it will have some impact on development policies and that always involves residential and commercial CIDs.

And if Obama thinks that massive public works projects are the way to get "action now," he has another think coming. Undertakings like that require years to get off the ground. In Chicago they have been arguing forever about what to do with a single block of downtown land. Ground Zero in NYC is still a hole in the ground seven years after 9/11. I gather that Obama wants to get around the governmental red tape by dumping money on private projects, but that will require steam-rolling all the local NIMBY and environmentalist and preservationist and anti-eminent domain and anti-sprawl groups. That will be no easy task, and besides, wouldn't that be an ironic role for the world's most successful community organizer?