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Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* My wife was in an auto accident a little over a month ago. Nobody was hurt, but our car was crunched but good. She picked up the car today in Chicago and said it looked brand new, which is good since it’s not even a year old. She loves that car and she’s ecstatic right now, so this one’s for Wasan

Honey, it ain’t your money
Baby, I got plenty of that

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


And now the Chicago Board Options Exchange considers leaving Illinois

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* First CME started shopping itself around, and now CBOE is looking at relocating

The parent of the Chicago Board Options Exchange has held talks with a number of governors and state officials about a possible move of its headquarters to another state after Illinois raised its tax rate, providing another challenge to the city’s status as the self-styled “derivatives capital of the world.”

January’s tax increase is seen increasing CBOE Holdings Inc.’s (CBOE) state tax bill by a quarter. Chicago-based CME Group Inc. (CME), the world’s largest futures exchange operator, is also talking about relocating its headquarters.

“We’ve had a series of meetings with people in this state and outside this state,” said Bill Brodsky, chairman and chief executive of CBOE, in an interview. “The bottom line is that we don’t want to leave Illinois, but the structure that exists as it relates to exchanges is virtually punitive.” […]

Chicago’s derivatives exchanges form the nucleus of a broader financial services sector that is also being hit by the tax rise, said Brodsky. The trading business is estimated to employ around 120,000 people in the city, and has expanded to fill the gap left by the decline of its manufacturing base. […]

“Our goal is to find a way that will remove the punitive aspects that will allow us not to move operations out,” Brodsky said. “Hopefully we will come to a solution, but if not we have many other alternatives.”

It may already be too late, but I really think we need to seriously consider repealing that corporate income tax hike.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


This just in…

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* 1:56 pm - Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan just sent this e-mail to his executive board. I confirmed it with Cullerton’s office…

Patricia Cullerton, mother of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, died Thursday at Tabor Hills, a retirement home in Naperville. She was 85.

“President Cullerton is taking this time to honor her memory and celebrate the proud legacy she left in her family,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Cullerton.

Patricia Cullerton, a Chicago native and longtime resident of Winfield, had nine children and more than 20 grandchildren. Her husband, John J. Cullerton Sr., preceded her in death.

Visitation is from 2-7 p.m. Sunday at Williams-Kampp Funeral Home, 430 E. Roosevelt Road, Wheaton. A funeral Mass will be at 11:30 a.m. Monday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Winfield.

My most sincere sympathies are extended to President Cullerton and his entire family.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Unsolicited advice

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* Dear Gov. Pat Quinn,

You’d probably better set aside more money in your budget to fight a blizzard of lawsuits over your planned facility closures

Among the potential roadblocks is a statute designating the Chester Mental Health Center as the state’s sole facility for treating certain kinds of violence-prone residents. The governor wants to move the residents to an existing facility in Alton.

In addition, moving nearly 2,000 inmates out of the Logan Correctional Center will cause additional overcrowding in the state’s already cramped prison system, potentially opening up the state to an inmate lawsuit. […]

In addition to requiring statutory changes allowing Alton to begin serving Chester residents, mental health advocate Mark Heyrman, a facilitor for the Chicago-based Mental Health Summit, said state laws limit how Quinn can use the savings he says he will get from closing the three centers.

* Dear Tammy Duckworth,

It’s “Dick” with a “D.” Try to remember that the next time you send out a fundraising e-mail…

…Adding… But this Duckworth campaign e-mail update ain’t bad at all…

Here’s the good news: when we totaled it up at lunch yesterday, we realized that Tammy has raised $386,504 for the primary from over 2,000 people.

* Dear Community Unit School District 300,

If Sears moves its headquarters because the company’s local economic development area authorization is allowed to expire, you’re gonna get even less tax money

“EDA is not the way.”

“RIP, EDA.”

Allison Strupeck, director of communication services in Community Unit School District 300 admitted, “I’ve been thinking a little too much about what the slogans might be.”

Those are slogans Strupeck said she hopes to see and hear soon around the Carpentersville-area school district as it treads into uncharted waters to stop the extension of the EDA — economic development area — special property tax status around Sears’ Prairie Stone corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates.

District 300 is working with students, staff, parents, community groups and legislators to remove an amendment to Illinois Senate Bill 540 that would extend the EDA past its expiration in mid-2012. That’s because those tax incentives hand about $14 million in tax dollars each year that would go to District 300 instead to the EDA generally bordered by I-90, Route 72, Beverly Road and Prairie Stone Parkway, school district officials say.

* Dear ten percent of the American public,

Are you freaking blind?

Three years after a financial crisis pushed the country deep into recession, an overwhelming number of Americans — 90 percent — say that economic conditions remain poor.

* Dear ComEd,

You might wanna consider the distinct possibility that you’ve been cursed

Wind gusts knocked out power to 31,000 people overnight, ComEd officials said.

Perhaps canceling your Cubs skybox would do the trick.

* Dear 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman Gene Schulter,

Perhaps your organization wouldn’t be such a laughing stock right now if you had spent more of this money over the years

Schulter’s two campaign committees had $187,299 in cash on hand, with another $647,141 invested in certificates of deposit as of June 30, state records show.

* Dear Robert Schmidt, husband of embattled state Sen. Suzi Schmidt,

What kind of person calls 911 because his wife locked him out of the house after she discovered on Christmas morning that he was allegedly having an affair with their neighbor? Yeah, she threw stuff at you, but, sheesh dude, couldn’t you just walk away, perhaps to that very same neighbor’s house?

* Dear Chicago Tea Party honcho Steve Stevlic, who is co-hosting this weekend’s TeaCon 2011 event,

In retrospect, I’m sure you would agree that it probably wasn’t a good idea to taunt Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. after his marital problems were exposed when you yourself had been busted two months earlier by the coppers for soliciting the services of a, um, woman of the evening.

It’s fantastic that you weren’t convicted after you agreed to attend a rehab program. Here’s hoping that you’re a better person now. And I mean that without any snark in my heart. But you still might wanna try to keep a low profile during the upcoming festivities.

* Your turn…

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* First, a little background from the Bloomington Pantagraph

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka defended the raises for members of her staff during a stop at an animal shelter in Normal Wednesday morning.

A Chicago-based nonprofit group, the Better Government Association, criticized Topinka for providing raises of at least 3 percent to 56 employees.

“This is a small raise and we’re not talking about huge amounts of money,” she said. “Plus, we are down on our headcount by 24 people and $1.5 million.”

The raises for nonunion staffers were also based on an effort to create more parity with the unionized work force. Under existing contracts, those raises were set at 4.5 percent.

“I had all of these folks who for years have been working, working, working and I didn’t want to have to force them to join a union to get a raise,” she said.

* Now, on to the editorials. The Champaign News-Gazette

We’re broke, but here’s a raise

In Illinois, budget belt-tightening has a whole different meaning than is generally understood.

With the state effectively bankrupt, should top state elected officials be handing out pay raises to their staffs? […]

Here [is the reasoning]: The raises were given because employees took on new, more serious duties; the pay raises were given as a matter of equity because the employees had been previously underpaid; and the raises were given to nonunion employees because union employees had received raises.

Those explanations are reasonable. What’s unreasonable is handing out any raises in these offices when the state is effectively broke.

A floundering private business could never get away with this kind of money management. In the private sector, having no money means having no money. In the public sector, that doesn’t seem to be a problem — at least not in Illinois.

* State Journal-Register

This is a bit like the class valedictorian and student council president getting caught phoning in a bomb threat as a prank on their high school. Here we have the lone Republican constitutional officers, the ones who have preached fiscal responsibility to the point of advocating combining their offices to save money, doing the very thing that so drives taxpayers and good government groups crazy. […]

Sure, we get the excuses: Pay equity. Promotions. Adjusting for new duties, etc. But some of the raises handed out by Rutherford and Topinka seem at most excessive and at the very least, tone-deaf.

It doesn’t help public perception that news about these raises arrives only with help from the Freedom of Information Act or by good-government groups sifting through state data.

All the excuses in the world aren’t going to do anything to assuage voter anger, especially since some voters haven’t had raises in many years, and in many cases have seen pay and benefits shrink. Add in the fact that we are paying more taxes to help the state out of a fiscal crisis, and this move isn’t going to do anything to stem the ire when terms are up.

* Beloit, Wisconsin Daily News

Across the state line, the insanity continues. […]

The ill-timed raises demonstrate the obvious. Illinois’ leadership — pardon our gross misuse of that word — clearly is constitutionally incapable of exercising sound fiscal judgment.

Who knows? Maybe their rationale is to rake in a few final bucks before the state’s entire fiscal house of cards collapses. Chances are it’s too late to save this spend-happy state anyway. […]

Failure for years to deal with known problems landed Illinois in this fix. The only solution, eventually, may be the humiliation of bankruptcy. Really.

* Northwest Herald

Giving pay raises to state workers demonstrates political tone deafness. That was the case when Quinn did. It’s still the case now that Rutherford and Topinka have done it.

* Belleville News Democrat

They all have excuses and explanations for the new jobs and the big raises. But no way should they be doing this in the midst of a fiscal crisis. They’re supposed to be leading us out of this mess, but instead they are adding to the problem.

* The Question: Are editorial boards overreacting to these raises for non-union employees? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      


SB 1652: A National Model for Smarter Regulation

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Prominent experts in utility regulation are speaking out about Senate Bill 1652 (Electric Infrastructure Modernization Act).

Here’s what they are saying:

“ComEd is the only utility proposing legislation that includes performance standards linking utility investments to service reliability improvements. SB 1652 establishes a new era of accountability to consumers and serves as a national model.”

    - John Kelly, Galvin Electricity Initiative

“(SB 1652) is an innovative approach to setting electricity rates that is compatible with good regulation, market realities and the goal to modernize Illinois’ electric grid.”

    - Ken Costello, former regulator, principal at the National Regulatory Research Institute

“Changing regulatory policy is not easy, nor should it be. But this bill represents one opportunity for Illinois to shape policy that protects consumers, spurs needed investment in a fragile grid and creates much-needed jobs.”

    - Ray Romero, former commissioner at the Illinois Commerce Commission

“The long term success of a digital grid requires that we free ourselves of outdated thinking and stereotypes, and embrace innovation as we have in so many other facets of every day life.

    - David O’Brien, former Vermont Commissioner of Public Service

For more information, visit www.SmartEnergyIL.com.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


The final insult

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* Sheesh

The unsuccessful 2011 mayoral campaign of Carol Moseley Braun has failed to file documentation on how $315,000 in campaign funds was spent, something that is required by state law.

Illinois Board of Elections officials told the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 News they have been unsuccessful in getting either Braun or her now-defunct campaign to explain how the money was spent.

Candidates are required by law to file quarterly campaign disclosure statements. In an April 15 filing, Braun reported raising $323,000 and spending $315,000.

In the report, the Braun campaign listed “Vendors Multiple” instead of itemizing expenditures over $150.

* And any remaining good will for Carol Moseley Braun should now vanish forevermore

Any fault, according to Moseley Braun, lies with her former treasurer, Billie Paige.

“If Billie Paige neglected to (detail those expenses), it doesn’t surprise, she is elderly and overwhelmed,” Moseley Braun said by phone this week.

First of all, Billie Paige resigned as Braun’s campaign treasurer on April 13th. If this reporting problem was her fault, Braun has had plenty of time to straighten out the books since then.

Secondly, Paige said she warned the Braun campaign about the problem

By phone this week, Paige told NBC Chicago she had raised questions herself about the expenditure omissions.

Thirdly, Billie Paige has been one of Braun’s best friends for decades. To make these accusations now is inexcusable. Paige has defended Braun through thick and thin, and there’s been plenty of both over the years.

And, lastly, Ms. Paige is not a senile old woman. Far from it. To suggest that this problem was caused by Paige’s age and lack mental acuity is just flat-out disgusting and wrong. She’s still as sharp as a tack. The real problem was a wholly disorganized and disjointed campaign apparatus created by Braun’s total incompetence. Nobody knew what was going on from minute to minute because Braun thought she knew best. She didn’t.

Carol Braun ran a terrible campaign, and these financial reporting problems are further proof of this fact. Thankfully, she has finally been exposed as the horribly disorganized, mean-spirited person many of us have long known her to be.

It was obvious to all of us who knew her that Paige realized early on that she’d made the biggest mistake of her life by convincing Braun to run for mayor. It weighed on her heavily, and probably broke her heart.

And now this. The final insult, and a total crock to boot.

Go away, Carol, and never come back.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Indiana goes all in

Friday, Sep 30, 2011

* If this story is accurate, then Indiana’s bid for CME would appear to more than wipe out the company’s entire Illinois corporate income tax costs

So, just how much is Indiana offering CME Group Inc. to move its headquarters and perhaps other operations to the Hoosier state?

I hear the figure — in net tax savings — is a mouth-watering $150 million a year. That’s from a reliable source who claims to have obtained the information from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office.

CME isn’t commenting on who’s offering what, though CEO Terry Duffy earlier in the week said he expects the headquarters matter to be resolved by yearend.

But, in a conversation with my colleague John Pletz on Thursday, Indian’s top economic development official, Dan Hasler, stopped way short of waving us off that number.

The Hoosiers really want that company to move across the border. Illinois cannot afford to compete with an offer like that, but it also cannot afford to lose such a valuable corporation.

Ugh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


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Friday, Sep 30, 2011

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Right Nation 2011 “postponed”

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

* Uh-Oh

With an eye on drawing more attendees closer to the 2012 election, Right Nation, a conservative conference that drew roughly 6,000 to Hoffman Estates last year, is postponing a second conference originally scheduled for Nov. 3-5.

Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod said he learned of the news a few days ago, but had “no idea why” the conference organizers backed out of those dates.

The United Republican Fund, which was organizing the event, declined to comment Wednesday.

But Joe Morris, a board member with the American Conservatives Union, which had been working with the organizers of the Right Nation conference, said he was “informed of the decision rather than participating in the making of it.”

That Morris quote seems kinda ominous.

* If you go to the Right Nation 2011 website, there’s no indication yet that the conference has been postponed

* The Illinois Review is listed as a “participating organization,” but the self-described “crossroads of the conservative community” doesn’t have anything on its website about the “postponement” either. The United Republican Fund, which runs the show, has nothing on its Facebook page. And Right Nation’s news page hasn’t been updated since June 15th.

* The URF spent thousands of dollars on consulting contracts for Right Nation 2010, including to Illinois Review’s top person, Fran Eaton. The group was over $40,000 in debt at the end of June and had just $428.87 in the bank. It has filed no disclosure reports for large contributions in the third quarter, which ends this week.

Considering those meager resources, I’m not sure how they’re gonna pay the cancellation fee

Sears Centre General Manager Ben Gibbs noted that the arena will still generate revenue because of a cancellation provision in Right Nation’s contract.

…Adding… I’m told that the URF has formed a 501c4 organization and has money built up in that account, which isn’t public. They also claim that the event will happen eventually.

* One of the problems with the Right Nation conference may have been this weekend’s TeaCon event in Schaumburg, featuring Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart, Dana Loesch and Herman Cain

Fresh off his convincing win in last week’s Florida straw poll and his resulting dramatic rise in a major national poll, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain will be appearing at TeaCon 2011 in Schaumburg on Saturday.

According to Chicago Tea Party Coordinator Steve Stevlic, Cain will appear as part of a presidential candidate forum on Saturday afternoon from 1:00 - 4:00 that will also feature a recorded video message from Governor Rick Perry. The group is currently working on setting up a live address via Skype from Rep. Michele Bachmann as well.

The Tea Party will conduct its own straw poll following the forum, learning from the experience of the Iowa straw poll. In Iowa, voters were allowed to cast ballots before the candidates had even addressed the attendees. After hearing the speeches, many voters asked for their ballots back so they could change their votes to vote for Cain according to Stevlic, who said, “We’re not going to make that same mistake.”

Right Nation’s list of “participants” was decidedly less glittery.

* In related news, Carol Marin’s most recent column is about Jack Roeser, who was tea party almost before the original tea party

Roeser, who operates his aerospace engineering company and nonprofit Family Taxpayers Foundation out of offices in Carpentersville, has never gotten along with the moderate members of the GOP. Or they with him.

“I’ve been called some of the most interesting names,” he said. “Like a cockroach in the caviar . . . or a member of the lunatic fringe.”

Roeser views the ascendance of the Tea Party as vindication.

Then again, Roeser has long fired away at fellow Republicans with invective: U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (“The Tea Party hates him.”); former Gov. James Thompson (“He’s the progenitor of the whole mess.”); or former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (“Elements like Hastert are slugs.”).

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Angry Texan moving uncle’s company south

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

* A small suburban company is moving to Texas, and the CEO is quite angry at Illinois

Directors of an Illinois company that develops and manufactures wound-care dressings plan to relocate the company to Fort Worth from Illinois, citing their pursuit of a more business-friendly home.

Ferris Manufacturing Corp. is negotiating a potential lease on 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot building in the Alliance area of north Fort Worth, company officials said. The privately held company plans to move next spring or summer.

“The taxes are oppressive (in Illinois). The business climate is terrible. Every time you turn around, they’ve got some new regulation or some way to make you uncomfortable,” said Dr. Roger Sessions, Ferris chairman and CEO.

Harsh.

Sessions is the nephew of the company’s founder and was once a football coach at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. I am not making that up. Sessions lives in Texas.

* But Illinois did gain a bunch of new jobs today. From a press release

Governor Pat Quinn today announced the opening of a new FedEx facility in Grayslake that would result in the creation of more than 450 new jobs, including managers, clerical staff, maintenance workers, drivers and more. Local officials, FedEx representatives and Assistant Director of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Dan Seals gathered today to officially open the facility, which was supported by the state with an estimated $500,000 business investment package to strengthen the company’s $38 million private investment. […]

The new 206,000 square-foot highly-automated distribution center is expected to process about 63,000 packages per day between the Midwest and the rest of the country. DCEO is administering the state’s $500,000 business investment package, which consists of Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credits based on job creation and Employer Training Investment Program job training funds that will help enhance the skills of the company’s workforce.

“We are pleased that FedEx Ground has chosen Illinois as the location of their newest distribution center,” DCEO Assistant Director Dan Seals said. “With investments like this, we are continuing to fuel the state’s economic growth, creating jobs and supporting Illinois businesses.”

* In a related story, Republican Congressmen Joe Walsh, Don Manzullo, Bobby Schilling and John Shimkus have sent a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn about our tax situation

As Members of Congress overseeing a vast federal budget that itself is in the red, we certainly understand the difficulty in trying to solve budgetary issues. However, raising individual income taxes by 66 percent will only exacerbate our wider problem and take more Illinois residents off the tax roll when they leave our state. Middle class families are already stretched thin. A family of four earning $60,000 a year right now has an additional $1,040 to pay in taxes each year. We understand this might not seem like much but for the families in our districts this is money that they cannot afford to lose.

The largest employers in the state of Illinois are struggling too. Illinois has the third highest corporate tax rate in the country and this takes away from their competitive edge and ability to create new jobs. Many of our large employers based in Illinois could leave as a result of the new 9 percent corporate tax rate that was raised from 6.8 percent in January. These are critical jobs that must be protected. We are willing to work with you on this issue as similar measures are considered right now in Congress.

That first paragraph almost reads as if the state hadn’t yet passed the tax hike. Kinda weird. Also, our “largest employers” will probably end up getting state aid to stick around.

Ward Room wasn’t amused with the letter

We elect congressmen to run the country. We elected Pat Quinn to run the state. He doesn’t give advice to Congress, and he doesn’t need advice from congressmen, either.

Quinn routinely offers his advice to anybody and everybody, whether they listen or not.

The governor’s office passed on a chance to comment.

* And speaking of Congress and the state, I mentioned in passing yesterday that Congressman Bob Dold was criticized for railing against the stimulus bill and then showing up for an unveiling of a $4.9 million renovation of a Metra station paid for with those stimulus funds. Greg Hinz says Dold just handed his foes some ammunition

Congressman Robert Dold, R-Winnetka, has just given a little gift of sorts to whoever will be his Democratic foe next year. […]

“Jobs are created by small businesses growing and adding employees, not through handouts of taxpayer dollars,” one Dold press release [during the 2010 campaign] stated. The stimulus “handouts” merely “add to the growing federal debt,” another 2010 press release from Mr. Dold read.

Asked how he can celebrate spending from a program he slammed, Mr. Dold’s spokeswoman replies that he “was pleased to accept the invitation from Metra to attend this event in the 10th District. The office regularly works with Metra.”

But it goes farther than that. Dold showed a real enmity toward capital projects in his last campaign. For instance, here’s a press release from his Republican primary race against former state Rep. Beth Coulson

Coulson is a Springfield-Insider who has sponsored tax and spending increases:

Sponsored HB656, the RTA sales tax increase in 2008 that raised sales tax in several Illinois counties by $500 million per year to fund a bailout of the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority). The sales tax increased helped Chicago become the highest taxed city in the nation. […]

Voted for the spending portion of the 2009 Capital Bill which included taxpayer monies for special works projects in her district, but voted against initiatives to fund those projects (HB255 & HB312) piling more debt onto Illinois taxpayers. […]

Voted for a $750 million pork spending bill that would have funded projects started by imprisoned former Governor George Ryan. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed $550 million of the pork spending bill, but Coulson voted to override most of Blagojevich’s line-item vetoes (SB1239, 2003).

As Congressman of the 10th District, Dold will bring small business common sense to Washington by cutting taxes for families and small businesses, ending Congressional leaders’ irresponsible borrowing and spending, and advocating a realistic and balanced federal budget.

The RTA praised that quarter-point press release at the time

“The new funding and reforms will allow us to bring our system up to a state of good repair and ensure that we are operating efficiently,” said Steve Schlickman, RTA Executive Director.

And, of course, the capital bill mentioned above also included transit funding.

So, bash the stimulus, bash the RTA sales tax, bash state capital spending, but, by gosh, don’t miss a chance to cut a ribbon at a subsidized train station with one of those over-sized scissors…

Also, Dold has campaigned often at Metra stops. It’s a requirement for suburban politicians. But I’m wondering if he told those commuters how he felt about funding their rides?

* Related…

* ADDED: Congressman: Don’t tax the rich: Cutting taxes and eliminating restrictions on corporations are the two main pillars of Schilling’s plan to spur the economy… “It wasn’t the millionaires and billionaires that created Obamacare, cap and trade, the over-regulation by EPA and OSHA – it was the administration and the people that he appointed in,” Schilling said.

* Former Belleville mayor Roger Cook will try to unseat Costello

* Emanuel calls summit meeting with top airline execs

* CBOE Stock Exchange plans expansion with New Jersey purchase

* Caterpillar inks deal to develop mobile generators

* Bank of America to charge $5 debit card fee

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

* The setup

While impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich awaits sentencing, the state watchdog that polices lawyers has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to suspend his law license in a move that could deal yet another indignity to the state’s defrocked chief executive.

Blagojevich’s legal team has until Oct. 11 to tell justices why the felon should not have his law license suspended after a jury this year convicted him of trying to sell the state’s U.S. Senate seat and extorting a hospital official for campaign contributions and another jury last year found him guilty of lying to the FBI.

“While the judgment of conviction has yet to be entered in respondent’s criminal case because the sentencing hearing has not been conducted, due to the egregious breadth of respondent’s conduct while governor of this state as concluded by two separate juries, an interim suspension is appropriate at this time,” wrote Jerome Larkin, administrator for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in a late-August filing with court.

Such a suspension, if imposed by the court, likely would be a precursor to an outright disbarment.

* The Question: Aside from prison and losing his law license, what other punishments should Rod Blagojevich face?

Snark is heavily encouraged, of course, but please stay away from any sort of violent imagery. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


OK, I wasn’t paranoid until I read this story: “Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control”

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

* When the Argonne National Laboratory says there’s a real problem, I tend to pay attention

It could be one of the most disturbing e-voting machine hacks to date.

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.

“We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines,” said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team “We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine.” […]

Almost all voters in states like Georgia, Maryland, Utah and Nevada, and the majority of voters in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas, will vote on DREs on Election Day in 2012, says Flaherty. Voters in major municipalities such as Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Pittsburgh will also line up in next year’s election to use DREs of the type hacked by the Argonne National Lab. […]

“This is a fundamentally very powerful attack and we believe that voting officials should become aware of this and stop focusing strictly on cyber [attacks],” says Vulnerability Assessment Team member John Warner. “There’s a very large physical protection component of the voting machine that needs to be addressed.”

The team’s video demonstrates how inserting the inexpensive electronic device into the voting machine can offer a “bad guy” virtually complete control over the machine. A cheap remote control unit can enable access to the voting machine from up to half a mile away. […]

This type of attack is particularly troubling because the manipulation would occur after the voter has approved as “correct” the on-screen summaries of his or her intended selections. Team leader Johnson says that while such an attack could be mounted on Election Day, there would be “a high probability of being detected.” But he explained that the machines could also be tampered with during so-called voting machine “sleepovers” when e-voting systems are kept by poll workers at their houses, often days and weeks prior to the election or at other times when the systems are unguarded.

Go read the whole thing.

* From ComputerWorld

Johnston said the machine is “incredibly easy to tamper with” because all the crucial electronic components are accessible and can be easily modified. The Accuvote TS’ enclosure isn’t tamper resistant so hjackers can work on the machine without leaving visible signs, he added.

“All we had to do was find out what the machine was doing in terms of communication,” Johnston said. “We just had to understand the various components and how the data was being sent. We needed to understand what signal had to be sent to fool the machine into thinking the voter had touched the screen at a particular location.”

The experiment shows that e-voting systems are susceptible to more than just cyberattacks, which get the most attention but are harder to pull off as the perpetrators must have some knowledge of the machine’s software, hardware and firmware.

The so-called man-in-the-middle attacks don’t require knowledge of the voting machine’s proprietary software or hardware, Johnston said. “All you need to do is understand the communication between the different parts of the system. Then you just sit there and listen and do whatever mischief you want to.”.

* CNet

Although it wouldn’t take a nation-state to pull of a successful attack, he said. Someone with limited computer science knowledge and electronic parts costing about $25 could do it, without needing to even solder anything and leaving no trace behind, according to the researchers.

E-voting systems have been plagued by criticism about security issues, so much so that elections officials in various states have abandoned touch-screen systems over security and fraud concerns.

Dominion Voting Systems, which now owns Diebold and Sequoia, did not respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment from CNET this afternoon. E-voting system vendors in general have argued that security problems identified are either overly theoretical or have been fixed with hardware and software updates.

Previous demonstrations of e-voting hacks involved cyber attacks where knowledge of the operating system and hardware were required, according to Johnston. However, that was not the case in these demonstrations, he said.

“It would be pretty easy to pull off,” Johnston said. “The bigger concern is that this attack is so straightforward. It suggests that there hasn’t been much thinking about security in these voting systems.”

While it would be relatively easy to make this type of attack more difficult to do by making modifications to the voting machine, stopping the attack cold would require more effort and a “careful examination of the security protocols used,” he said.

* The Argonne video

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      


Stupidest controversies ever

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he’s against this tax hike idea proposed by the Chicago Inspector General, but that hasn’t stopped the fear mongering

Chicago officials this week tossed around the idea of a commuter tax — charging suburbanites who work in the city of Chicago a 1 percent income tax — as a way to bring in additional revenue.

The idea was one of a list of potential cost cuts and money makers compiled by the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson that could reduce a budget shortfall.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ruled out tax hikes for now, but some aldermen favored the commuter tax notion.

The idea didn’t sit well with commuters, however, nor potential commuters.

Andrea Laue of Mokena, who has been commuting to Chicago for 15 years for work, said she thinks the income tax idea is “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Since I work in the city, I am already buying food and drinks, retail items, and eating out at restaurants, and paying the higher city and county taxes that are imposed on most of these items. By working in the city, I am already generating revenue for the city, and now they want to penalize me for it,” Laue said. “This on top of Metra talking about raising the cost of train tickets. I’m not going to be able to afford to work downtown anymore!”

Not gonna happen. Period. End of story. Stop frightening people, for Pete’s sake.

* And after increasing the income tax and voting to raise electricity rates, how much chance does this tax idea have in Springfield? Slim to none

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is floating a unique plan to help solve the city’s budget problems. He is pushing a proposal to lower the sales tax, but the mayor also wants to increase the number of items and services that are taxed.

Under the mayor’s proposal, everyone from barbers to lawyers will have to pay the sales tax.

“I’m not for a toll on Lake Shore Drive, I am not for a citywide income tax, I’m not for increasing property taxes, I’m not for increasing sales tax,” he said. […]

Any change in the sales tax formula would require approval by the Illinois General Assembly and the governor’s signature. The mayor revealed Wednesday morning that part of the process is already in motion.

“I have advocated and I’ve talked to the speaker and Senate president about lowering the sales tax by expanding what is, in fact, taxed,” Emanuel.

First of all, even if they do a service tax, it won’t include barbers. They’ve killed just about every attempt to tax their services in the history of the republic. No way will that happen. Also, this

…it’s one of those ideas that’s been kicking around the State Capitol literally for decades. But it’s gone nowhere. Retail store owners dream that the rate affecting them might actually go down, making them more competitive with Indiana. But a man who represents 23,000 stores across Illinois is skeptical.

“Mayor Emanuel’s been very successful in his first 140 days in office. But I’ve been around here a long time. People have talked about broadening the base for the 35 or so years I’ve been around. And it’s not gotten done yet,” said David Vite of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

And then there’s this bit of passive aggressiveness

A spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton confirmed Cullerton did speak with the mayor and supports the concept of reducing but expanding the sales tax. In fact, a similar bill actually passed the Senate two years ago, but was never called in the House.

Emanuel would have to use all of his chits for a very long time to get this passed. Don’t bet on it.

* And check out the Chicago Tribune editorial today. No over the top tea partyesque ravings, no threats of massive retaliation, just a fairly reasonable editorial about the Inspector General’s revenue ideas

Give [Inspector General Joe Ferguson] credit for serving up a pile of options. And give the mayor and aldermen credit, this time, for not rejecting them out of hand. Last year, departing Mayor Richard Daley conjured up a package of cheap fixes that he knew would leave a mess for the next mayor, and the City Council let him get away with it. Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke, 14th, dismissed Ferguson’s suggestions then as “nothing new.” Daley’s better ideas included raiding the rainy-day fund and declaring a TIF surplus. A complete punt.

But this time it looks like aldermen are listening. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has vowed spending discipline and an end to the one-time gimmicks. Emanuel said Wednesday he’s against tolls on Lake Shore Drive, but he backed some of Ferguson’s cost-saving ideas. He also revived his campaign idea to lower the city’s sales tax rate and broaden the base on which the tax is collected. Ferguson included it in his idea menu.

So … tolls on Lake Shore Drive? Nobody seems to like that one. That’s fine. But Ferguson has offered plenty of other ideas. Emanuel is cooking up plenty of his own. Anybody else? Speak up.

Just imagine what that editorial would read like if somebody close to Gov. Pat Quinn had proposed these ideas. Oh, the humanity.

It would be nice if we could get reasonable editorials like this on everything, but I’m not holding my breath.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Allright, just this once…

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

* A St. Louis Cardinals open thread

Soaked with beer and champagne, Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman embraced in the St. Louis Cardinals plastic-wrapped clubhouse, basking in a celebration no one thought possible less than a month ago.

Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals completed one of baseball’s greatest comebacks on Wednesday night, clinching the NL wild card with an 8-0 win over Houston and a later loss by Atlanta.

The Cardinals got their playoff spot when the Braves fell to Philadelphia 4-3 in 13 innings.

St. Louis trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, then won 23 of the last 31 games to finish its improbable charge.

“Any time you’re on a playoff team and you make a run like this, you invest a lot of yourself in the season with a great group of guys,” Berkman said. “It just makes it special.

Have at it, redbirds.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


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Thursday, Sep 29, 2011

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