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Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* That was quite a week. I’m drained. Done. Exhausted. Kaput. On top of it all, I was in Peoria for a speech this morning at 7:00 and then back to Springfield for another event at 12:30.

We’re taking some time off next week, but we’ll be back at least on Monday. After that, I’m not so sure.

Meanwhile, make sure you head over to the redesigned and revitalized Illinoize.

Also, I get a lot of advertising requests for the blog from people who are just trying to promote a smallish event or whatnot and don’t want to fork out the major samolians here. No biggie. That’s why we have InsiderzExchange, the place to be seen at a very reasonable price. Go there now and see for yourself.

* The Vines will play us out…


Please don’t spoil my day
I’m miles away

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* The setup, from The Economist

John Stuart Mill once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who have been busy reinventing conservatism for a new era. As Lexington sees it, the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.

There are any number of reasons for the Republican Party’s defeat on November 4th. But high on the list is the fact that the party lost the battle for brains. Barack Obama won college graduates by two points, a group that George Bush won by six points four years ago. He won voters with postgraduate degrees by 18 points. And he won voters with a household income of more than $200,000—many of whom will get thumped by his tax increases—by six points. John McCain did best among uneducated voters in Appalachia and the South.

The Republicans lost the battle of ideas even more comprehensively than they lost the battle for educated votes, marching into the election armed with nothing more than slogans. Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantánamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be water-boarding. Ha ha. During the primary debates, three out of ten Republican candidates admitted that they did not believe in evolution.

The Republican Party’s divorce from the intelligentsia has been a while in the making. The born-again Mr Bush preferred listening to his “heart” rather than his “head”. He also filled the government with incompetent toadies like Michael “heck-of-a-job” Brown, who bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr McCain, once the chattering classes’ favourite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. And in a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism, and who was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics.

Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.

* The Question: Agree or disagree? Explain fully, and relate your answers to Illinois politics.

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


Rallies and the Statehouse

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* I’ll let you in on a little secret

The president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 494, which represents Pontiac Correctional Center officers, feels Wednesday’s rally in Springfield will have positive results.

The rally was to protest the scheduled closing of Pontiac Correctional Center on Dec. 31.

Jarrett said at least he hopes there will be a lot of positive action coming forth. […]

Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, met with the several hundred correctional employees at the rally.

“I think the rally did an excellent job of showing Governor Blagojevich ‘Don’t Close Pontiac,’ “said Rutherford. “AFSCME, the city of Pontiac and the Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce all deserve credit for providing this clear message to Springfield.”

Statehouse rallies rarely work. Occasionally, they’ll have an impact, but there are so many rallies now that legislators have just tuned them out.

What works best is one-on-one conversations with legislators when the General Assembly isn’t in Springfield. Bringing people to town to talk to their members in their offices or around the rail can have an impact as well. But rallies, unless they are so large that they overwhelm the Statehouse, just don’t do a whole lot except make people feel better about themselves.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Durbin still can’t get a call-back from the governor *** UPDATED x1 ***

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* The second most powerful United States Senator says he can’t get his calls returned by his own governor

Democrat Dick Durbin, the state’s other U.S. senator, has said he wants to talk to Blagojevich about who might replace Obama. But spokesman Joe Shoemaker said Durbin’s calls to the governor haven’t been returned.

“He has not been able to talk to him. We’ve tried,” Shoemaker said.

*** UPDATE *** Lucio Guerrero responds…

Just to set the record straight: The Governor’s office reached out to Sen. Durbin’s office on Friday to check the Senator’s availability for a phone call on Monday. We have yet to hear back from them. Although some are trying to make this a big issue, the Governor will of course talk to the Senator about finding a replacement in the Senate. I am sure the two will speak in the near future, it’s just a matter of scheduling.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* And Jesse Jackson, Jr. wanders over to the other side of the US Capitol…

Minutes after the Senate opened at noon Monday for its lame-duck session, the only lawmaker milling around the second-floor elevator banks was … Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).

Though Jackson is a leading candidate to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate, Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has yet to make his appointment.

So what was Jackson doing on the wrong side of the Capitol?

“MSNBC,” he said, explaining he had a TV appearance on the Senate side.

Nevertheless, it did seem Jackson was walking more slowly, checking out the Senate hallways, imagining what it might be like for him should he be tapped to fill the seat.

Asked if he knew anything about Obama’s replacement, he replied, “I don’t, I don’t.”

Jackson boarded the public elevator just to the right of the “Senators Only” elevator as a male aide explained in a hopeful tone that Blagojevich plans to announce his appointment around Christmas but definitely before New Year’s.

“We just have to wait,” the aide said anxiously.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Many steps forward, but miles to go

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* The post Emil Jones era has begun. There was quite a bit of legislative progress yesterday on some long-stalled legislation…

Insurance companies would be required to cover autism diagnosis and treatment up to $36,000 a year under legislation sent to the governor Thursday.

The action marks a victory for advocates who say early intervention and therapy is key to helping children with autism gain communication and social skills.

Under the proposal, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office said he plans to sign, insurance companies would be required to cover treatment until a patient turns 21. About 4,500 families across the state will qualify for coverage.

* More

Immigrant-rights advocates scored a long-fought victory today when the House and the Senate unanimously approved the Access to Religious Ministry Act, which grants undocumented detainees the right to religious counsel. […]

Some of the state’s most cash-strapped hospitals could be in for a little relief. Both chambers agreed to transfer $40 million from the Tobacco Settlement Recovery Fund to free up money for hospitals that are in “catastrophic” financial shape. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will administer the one-time relief payments. […]

For years, lawmakers have been trying to win support for a coal gasification plant in Taylorville. By signing off on SB197 today, the legislature agreed to back a pricey feasibility study on the power plant (estimated at $10-$18 million), which will eventually go before the General Assembly as they decide whether to move forward with the project.

* Still more

The House and Senate approved a plan to skim 3 percent of revenues off the four richest casinos and divert that money to racing — a subsidy worth at least $30 million annually for the next three years.

* The mood was definitely upbeat all day in the wake of the election of two new Senate leaders…

The mood in the Capitol Thursday felt lighter. People smiled, mingled, debated some serious legislation and congratulated each other. Perhaps the most touching moment came when Watson returned to the chamber floor for the first time since experiencing a stroke last month. Shortly after the stroke, he announced he would not seek re-election as minority leader but would continue to serve as a senator. […]

“I’m not going to fight with the speaker. I’m not going to fight with the governor. And hopefully, I can be a good go-between to try to bring about positive change.” [said Senate President-in-waiting John Cullerton]

He already appointed Sen. James Clayborne, the runner-up in the Democrats’ internal elections, as his majority leader to signal a fresh start.

* And the future looked bright

Two newly chosen legislative leaders came out Thursday calling for a breakthrough on a long-stalled statewide construction program and hopeful a new era will lead to cooperation with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who will ascend to Senate president in January, and Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who will become minority leader and be the first woman to serve as an Illinois legislative leader, enter the fray at a dicey time in the state’s history.

* The new spirit couldn’t come at a better time

Illinois’ budget woes are getting no help from the state’s economy.

Job losses in construction and finances were the primary factors behind the unemployment rate rising 2 percent over the last year to 7.3 percent in October, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday. A three-month average of 7.1 percent was the highest in 15 years.

* And

If families are struggling, so are many child-care providers. Falling enrollments have now replaced waiting lists, and tardy payments are a fact of life for some.

To make matters worse, the office of Illinois comptroller Dan Hynes recently announced that, because of the state’s cash flow problems, it would be late for the first time in sending checks that subsidize child care for low-income families.

* The guv even signed a bill allowing locals to raise their taxes without squawking about it or giving senior citizens free museum passes or something…

The Peoria riverfront museum project got a show of support Thursday from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who signed into law a plan to let Peoria County seek voter approval on a special sales tax.

* But then right after legislators left town, Blagojevich pounced

Minutes after lawmakers went home without taking budget action in their fall veto session, Blagojevich acted on Senate Bill 1103, designed to restore more than $230 million in spending cuts he made this summer.

The governor approved about $176 million of that total, aimed at restoring funding for substance-abuse centers, keeping 11 parks open and preventing more than 320 layoffs of human-services and child-welfare workers scheduled for Nov. 30.

But Blagojevich spokeswoman Katie Ridgway said human-services workers still will be laid off, and there’s no guarantee yet parks won’t close. Not all of the 179 workers at the Department of Children and Family Services scheduled to be laid off might be spared, either, she said.

“We were able to save some core services today, but in the larger picture, we still have a $2 billion shortfall and need to manage that budget,” Ridgway said. “Difficult decisions are being made this year, but we have to do so while maintaining core services.”

* And then there’s this

The current governor, Rod Blagojevich, engaged in his customary governance-by-press-release this week, surprising lawmakers with a plan most notable for giving him added authority to cut expenditures. He also wants to borrow money to pay expenses that Comptroller Dan Hynes pegs at $4 billion and climbing.

But because this state’s governor has earned so much distrust, his great schemes get no more attention from legislators than the last rustle of dry leaves under foot. Time and again he has bent the budget process to serve his whimsy or to preen for the cameras. Lawmakers are as likely to give him more authority over taxpayer money as those dead leaves are to jump back onto trees.

* And where was the governor this week? He was in Beverly Hills until Wednesday, and he showed up in southern Illinois yesterday

Illinois is billions of dollars behind on its bills and facing a huge deficit again next year. The Governor talked about the crisis Thursday in Mt. Vernon.

He talked about the crisis in Mt. Vernon, but didn’t show up in Springfield.

Typical.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Court to Blagojevich: Hand over subpoenas

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* Yet another big loss for the governor’s legal team…

A state appeals court has ruled that Gov. Rod Blagojevich must provide the Better Government Association with copies of the subpoenas his administration received from federal investigators.

The decision by the Illinois Appellate Court for the Fourth District, handed down in Springfield on Wednesday, affirmed a lower court’s ruling.

That ruling said Blagojevich couldn’t refuse to comply with freedom of information requests from the BGA for the subpoenas.

* More

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said the administration has been honoring a request by the office of U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald to not release the subpoenas.

“With this decision, we will consult with the U.S. attorney on what to do next,” Guerrero said.

The governor’s office can appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Fitzgerald’s office will not comment on subpoenas.

Don Craven, the association’s attorney, said he will ask the trial court to allow the subpoenas to be released immediately because the Appellate Court decision left “absolutely no wiggle room for the governor.”

* If you read the decision, you’ll see that the appellate justices don’t believe that the governor has a single legal leg to stand on. Every argument was turned away.

For instance, the governor’s own legal team admitted that private citizens can disclose grand jury subpoenas of themselves. The court writes…

…under federal law, a private citizen has the discretion to reveal the subpoena, and if he chooses to do so, he will not suffer the wrath of the federal court’s contempt powers or be subject to any federal charges.

So, if private citizens can do it, the governor has no excuse. Also, the state’s Freedom of Information Act “eliminates such discretion from the recipient of a federal grand jury subpoena if that recipient is a public official subject to FOIA’s requirements,” the justices wrote.

Oops.

Also…

…Congress has not seen fit to specifically restrict the behavior of the subpoena recipients.

* On and on it goes, whacking the guv at every turn. My favorite passage…

If the United States Attorney really believed that the Governor’s disclosing of the federal grand jury subpoenas would somehow have interfered with the federal grand jury investigation, the United States Attorney could have appeared in this litigation to make known and defend the federal grand jury’s interests just as it did in Brady-Lunny v. Massey

Excellent point. Read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* Voter Poll Data Show Broad Support For Stronger Gun Laws In Obama Administration

* Penny Pritzker says she is not a candidate for Commerce Secretary.

* Plugged into city’s power

“Do I enjoy seeing our name in the newspaper associated with an extremely troubled property?” Jarrett said. “No I don’t, but I also have confidence that people know our reputation and value the job that we do.”

* Obama boosts Chicago’s Olympic chances

* Reese site again an Olympic Village possibility

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) disclosed Thursday that Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan is closing in on an agreement with Medline Industries, owner of the 37-acre Reese site. An $85 million borrowing to finance the acquisition could be approved by the City Council next month, she said.

* Olympic hopes take Daley to Istanbul

* Ahern to advise 2016 Olympic bid committee

* Daley Defends O’Hare Expansion

DALEY: In an economic crisis, people get mad at each other and they blame each other, but what we’re doing in Chicago, we’re all going to work together and move this agenda forward. Yes, there’s a lot of issues on the table and we’ll discuss those later on.

* Cook Library officials debating temporary move during construction

* These shoulder cameras need rules

First came the ever-expanding use of cameras on street corners. Law enforcement authorities said the cameras will help them stem crime and traffic violations. Then came the news last week that Benedictine University’s Police Department purchased a $700 gadget that can capture digital video and still photography _ all while being worn on an officer’s shoulder.

* Alvarez should speed justice for McKinney

Dropping the charges against McKinney is within her power but, at the least, we are asking her to speed justice for McKinney. His attorney says she has been keeping the state’s attorney’s office aware of developments, so McKinney’s case won’t be a surprise.

* Teens Rally Against Police Assault Weapons Plan

* Stroger foes decry borrowing idea, unpaid bills

* Republican leader returns to Illinois Senate

Watson fought back tears as he waved to his colleagues. Speaking with only a slightly slower speech, Watson told reporters he had stayed in shape but had a history of strokes in his family.

“It’s good seeing you,” Watson told an aid he shook hands. “Good seeing everybody, anybody, for that matter.”

* Lawmakers approve clean coal projects bill

* Carpool lanes approved for state tollways

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s tollway board approved the still vague $1.8 billion program Thursday as officials sought to ease concerns the “Green Lanes” could actually make traffic worse.

“We are going to ease our way into this process,” said John Mitola, chairman of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board.

* Answers to your questions about the tollway plan

* Governor restores some spending cuts

“We were able to save some core services today, but in the larger picture, we still have a $2 billion shortfall and need to manage that budget,” Ridgway said. “Difficult decisions are being made this year, but we have to do so while maintaining core services.”

* Governor signs Peoria County referendum bill

* Britt: Cartoon on Gov. Rod Blagojevich and power

* Illinois state parks may be spared from closing

The governor did make it clear that the targeted historic sites were not in the mix by overriding the wishes of lawmakers and vetoing $2.4 million that would have kept places such as the Lincoln Log Cabin, the Vandalia Statehouse and the Blackhawk State Historic Site from closing at month’s end.

* Partial restorations and restored hope

* Governor touts outreach programs

* Governor addresses late payments, other questions

“Here’s the challenge,” the governor said. “The economy has slowed. The situation with regard to the state budget is worse today than it was Labor Day. The expectation of the revenue we thought we were going to get is not as good as it was and because of the economic crisis (nationally) consumer confidence is down and when confidence is down, people spend less money and therefore less sales tax comes in.

* What Will Obama Do With Fitzgerald?

* Obama Insider David Axelrod On Next Steps

* Illinois unemployment rate rises to 7.3 percent

* Why not a citizen senator?

Why not pick a smart, well-spoken, accomplished person brimming with ideas for the U.S Senate?

There are plenty of people out there who would offer vital, refreshing perspectives on Capitol Hill but will never be elected to go there because they have no interest in the grueling, greasy, handshake-and-pretty-please of campaigning

* Friday Beer Blogging: Health and Beauty Edition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   3 Comments      


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* Janus apparently no longer loves his state job, hires on with Illinois Policy Institute
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* Question of the day
* Caption contest!
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Campaign stuff: Morrison; Ives; Skillicorn; Nybo; Rooney; Curran; Breen; Frese
* "And admit that the waters/Around you have grown"
* A tiny bit of good news from Moody's
* Proft files suit so his independent expenditure committee can coordinate with campaigns after caps busted
* Cook shifts governor's race from "Toss Up" to "Lean Democrat" - Third-party candidates "the tipping point"
* Unsolicited advice
* The impasse and the damage done
* Entire IPHCA executive committee resigns, lawyer let go after racism controversy
* Chicago to get its first public law school, but is it a wise move?
* Doom and gloom abounds, but a new pension idea emerges
* Another lawsuit filed in Quincy veterans' home deaths: "For a year and a half, he loved that place. And it killed him"
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