Monthly Archives: December 2008

Give prosperity a chance

Will we learn from or repeat history?

The hero of Waterloo was the Duke of Wellington, but the hero of the peace that followed was a Whig member of Parliament, Henry Brougham, who led the charge in 1815 for abolition of the income tax. Don’t do it, said the conventionally wise; we have a 915-million-pound debt to pay off.

But Brougham (say “Broom”) and his allies did it anyway. Business got its stimulus, and the tax revenues poured in, reducing the debt considerably and starting a 60-year bull market for the empire. It’s “the way the world works,” as in the title of Jude Wanniski’s 1978 book. (Berwyn library has it, FYI.)

You don’t always generate more tax revenues with higher tax rates. If you think you do, Wanniski has an extended economic and historical argument to help you get over it, including chapter and verse on this British case.

There’s more on the low-tax-high-prosperity theme at my column for the month at Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest

Tale of two studies

The problem, newly discovered (!) is that black boys kill each other in alarming numbers. The answer, from a Northeastern U. academic, is clear:

Seizing on President-elect Barack Obama‘s incoming administration as an opportunity for more funding, Fox added: “There is an urgency for reinvestment in children and families. In essence, we need a bailout for kids at risk.”

And if you were wondering whom to blame, that’s easy:

The study partly blamed Bush administration grant cuts to local police and juvenile crime prevention programs for the surge in crimes by young black men and teens. Incoming Vice President Joe Biden has promised funding to put 50,000 new police officers on the street to help bring violent crime rates back to a decade-long annual decline that began in the mid-1990s, after then-President Bill Clinton provided local officials with money to hire 100,000 new cops.

Thank you, AP.  Wall St. Jnl, on the other hand, has an ameliorating quote:

James Alan Fox, co-author of the study, attributed the numbers to a variety of issues, including cuts in funding for local law-enforcement programs that were credited with lowering the nation’s record murder rates in the 1990s. “It’s hard to pin down cause and effect,” Mr. Fox said.

He adds, judiciously:

Mr. Fox said the cuts in law-enforcement programs and activities geared toward youth disproportionately affect African-Americans because they are more likely than their white counterparts to come from communities where there is inadequate adult supervision, high rates of single-parent homes, inferior schools and widespread gang activity.

“Cuts in support for youth have a much greater impact on black families who don’t have alternatives,” Mr. Fox said.

Mr. Fox, we hardly knew ye from the AP account, which operates somewhat sloppily out of its own preferred “narrative,” as rhetoricians would have it.  It’s why one can do better at Wall St. Jnl, every day in almost every way.

It’s over for now

Here’s a grabber:

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.

Temps are dropping like flies.  What’s more,

the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.

The end of the world has been delayed.

Appointment made in heaven

Taking our mind off Blago:

A federal grand jury is investigating how a company that advised Jefferson County, Alabama, on bond deals that threaten to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, did similar work in New Mexico after making contributions to Governor Bill Richardson’s political action committees.

How about Bill R. for Commerce?

Fitzgerald speaking out of turn

Former Justice Dept. official Victoria Toensing lays into Prosecutor Fitzgerald for editorializing about his and the FBI’s findings in l’affair Blagojevich.

In the Dec. 9 press conference regarding the federal corruption charges against Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Mr. Fitzgerald violated the ethical requirement of the Justice Department guidelines that prior to trial a “prosecutor shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

His “political corruption crime spree” and other vivid depictions of Blago’s behavior took him over the line in violation of his duty  to “inform the public of the nature and extent” of charges without “ to “inform the public of the nature and extent” without “making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

She recalls similar Fitzgerald violations in the Scotter Libby announcement in October, 2005, when he likened himself to an umpire who “gets sand thrown in his eyes” by obstruction of justice — acting as if he did not already know who had leaked the Valerie Plame name.  (He did, from the start of his investigation.)

Blago engaged in “base, sordid conduct,” she said.  “But those thoughts and words are for the rest of us to express before the trial. It is unethical for those who are government prosecutors to do so.”

In other words, he was a reporter in this case, not a columnist or editorial writer.

Lisa’s clown act

U Wis-Madison law prof Ann Althouse takes Illinois Atty. Genl Lisa’s argument to remove Blagojevich from office apart piece by piece, in the process dismantling Madigan as someone to be taken seriously in this latest Illinois tragi-comedy of errors.

Madigan is relying on Article V, Section 6 of the Illinois constitution: “If the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability, the office of Governor shall be filled by the officer next in line of succession for the remainder of the term or until the disability is removed.” So she needs to argue that Blagojevich is disabled within the meaning of that text.

Asked by an Illinois Supreme Court justice if this article “was meant for a political or legal crisis like this or simply for some kind of, you know, medical or emotional issue,” she says “we,” she and her office, presumably,

would look to the fact that the term disability legally is very broad, that it is not simply isolated to a physical or mental disability. And you can read all about that in our pleadings.

“Yes,” said the questioner, letting it go at that.

Would removing the governor for this reason “set a dangerous precedent,” she was asked, but did not understand the question.

Q. Are there enough protections in place to stop someone from doing what you’re doing in the future?

Q For political ends.

Q From abusing the —

. . . Q (Off mike) — abusing the AG authority.

“One of the protections,” she answered, finally getting it, is that the state supreme court “has total discretion” in the matter and “serves as a check on the executive branch in the circumstance.”

To which Althouse:

So the safeguard against the AG’s abuse of power is that the court will have the role of deciding? How can it be the court‘s role to make the final call about things that belong in the realm of impeachment? Why do constitutions put impeachment trials in legislatures? Because courts are ill-suited to such decision-making.

Althouse was just getting warmed up.  The rest is here.  Vanderbilt U. law prof Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) calls it “embarrassing,” says, “Illinois state government is looking like one big clown show.”

And Ms. Madigan is looking like a hack  She’s been the strong, silent type in Chi newspapers, etc., with nothing to say, apparently.


The court is on to her, to judge from this exchange:

At the end of the oral argument, the court flat-out confronts Madigan about her own political ambitions and conflict of interest:

Q I know you say that you haven’t been thinking about politics at all, but there have obviously been a lot of questions about politics, and there wouldn’t be questions about politics unless your political future was considered very bright and in play here. Given the fact of your possible interest in being governor, given the fact that you’ve been mentioned as a possible Senate replacement for Barack Obama, was any consideration given to your removing yourself from this issue because of a possible perception, if not reality, of conflict of interest?

MS. MADIGAN: No. And let me make two further statements. One is I never expressed any interest in even being considered for the U.S. Senate vacancy. I never contacted or talked to any — the governor or anybody in the governor’s office about that.

In addition, I am supporting putting the lieutenant governor in to serve as at governor of the state of Illinois. I think that is in the best interests of the people of this state. And I am happy to serve as the attorney general of this state. And I will continue in that role to do what is best for the people of this state.

Well, the answer is meaningless. The question says it all [comments Althouse].

I’d say so.

Madigan(s) to the attack

Off with his head:

Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan filed a motion with the Illinois Supreme Court today aimed at removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office.
Such a motion is untested in the state’s history. The case could determine whether the governor is fit to serve.
Next time you hear “innocent till proven guilty,” remember this one.

Spirit willing, flesh weak as usual

I had the poem by Shelley in mind, “To a Skylark,” when I named this blog, not the play by Noel Coward, and was confirmed in that a few months back at a performance of the play at Pleasant Home/Festival Theater, Oak Park.

The various lines came trippingly from the tongues of the players, and nobody fell down. But how many times can an audience respond heartily to the joke of a man talking at once to late and present wife, the one a shadow of her former self, i.e., a blithe spirit?

The ghost has her lines heard by the husband, he has his heard by both wives, and the present corporeal wife has hers heard by the other two. Get the picture? Spirit makes crack, husband replies to spirit in middle of conversation with live wife, who thinks he’s getting snarky with her. Etc. etc., over and over, signifying next to nothing.

But Coward so wants us to laugh, and we so want to on a playgoing night, that most of us do. I didn’t, after the first two or three, and bent over, staring at the floor for relief. This elicited a heartfelt response from the man behind me, who tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I was all right. I was sitting next to one easily taken, not mistaken, for my wife, who might be expected (accurately) to care a lot for my welfare; but he apparently thought her not caring a whit for me and my supposed trouble.

It was like being touched by the beadle in an 18th-century English church, the man in charge of being sure no one slept during the sermon. I told the man I was all right, but my answer should have been, “Depends what you mean by not all right.” But I did not cotton to discussing the play right then, and let it go where I let it.

Tales of Blago: Jesse Jr. and SEIU

Jesse J Jr. denies making a $500G or more offer to Blago.  He’s innocent until he’s guilty, same as Blago, as Prosecutor Fitz said of the latter several times in his news conference yesterday. 

Also on the tape are the two or more conversations with an SEIU official about Blago’s getting the $300G/year SEIU-related Change to Win job.  Note that neither of these called 9-1-1 to report these calls, reeking of illegality as they were.  Twice or more the SEIU naif conversed.  Blago may be dumb and brazen, but what of those who did not hang up on him or his guy who did the calling?  They are so used to these things, it’s no big deal, apparently.

Chi SEIU local 1 president Tom Balanoff also got a

6 a.m. Tuesday visit from his local FBI, but was out of town for a union meeting.  The focus of SEIU discussions was Candidate #1, says the Fitzgerald Complaint (not yet an indictment).  That would be thisclose Obama advisor and confidante Valerie Jarrett, per WSJ, “Graft Case Touches Jackson Jr.: Democrat Denies Seeking Senate Seat From Blagojevich; Service Union Is Scrutinized”.

The Obama team used SEIU to keep Blago “at arm’s length,” Republican National Committee alleges. Which puts SEIU in a surrogate role here, seeing what it could see about getting Valerie the senate seat.  Who has a half million for this, or a million, more readily available than O. and his team?  

Tom Balanoff is brother of the far lesser known James Balanoff, his brother, a (losing) 2007 Oak Park village board candidate.

Meanwhile, Chi Trib’s Sam Zell told a CNBC interviewer he is not “personally familiar” with Blago pressuring the Trib about staffers whom Blago wanted fired. (“Personally”? In what way was he familiar?) Z. couldn’t say if staffers were pressured. He was not asked about his role in the sordid episode.

Both Triple-J, as WLS-AM’s Roe Conn calls Jesse Jr, and SEIU are very close to Obama, by the way. SEIU outgave all other non-party givers to his campaign this year, coughing up $29.2 million in checked-off dues money. Balanoff and Obama go back 15 years, says Balanoff.

A way around press criticism

“Staggering,” said Fed prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, of “the breadth of corruption” laid out in yesterday’s complaint vs. Gov. Blagojevich, including this extremely disturbing item:

In other conversations, FBI agents say the governor, his aide and others tried to use the governor’s position to withhold state assistance to the Tribune Co. to induce the firing of a Chicago Tribune editorial board member critical of the governor. [Italics added]

He apparently has no shame.

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