Make it Stop

Kyle Sampson considered sacking Fitzgerald.  Why didn’t he?  Because of the Plame investigation is the insinuation.

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Of course, the demonstrates the problem the Administration has more than alleviating concerns.  Why in the hell would anyone think of firing Patrick Fitzgerald as US Attorney?  It’s not just that he was the special prosecutor for the Plame case, he has been a remarkably successful prosecutor on public corruption, corporate corruption, terrorism foreign and domestic, and the mob.

Durbin did a great job pinning him down on it too though the point is somewhat lost in discussion.  Why was Patrick Fitzgerald’s name thrown out there?  To see what kind of reaction it got.

Now, if you are going through some sort of systemic process to determine who is doing a good job and who is doing a bad job, wouldn’t the only names thrown out there be those that have some objective measure of performance problems?

If someone wants to claim Fitzgerald fit some objective performance criteria for firing–what are those criteria?

If they cannot answer the question, the entire process is a sham.  Sampson couldn’t and so far no one else has even gotten close to addressing that question.

The irony is if you go back to the 2000 election we were given glowing stories on Bush’s great role as a manager and he’d be the MBA in chief and run the government like a good business.

As some of us pointed out at the time, Bush failed at every business venture other than the one that depended upon public subsidy.   We got exactly what we should have expected.

Why the GRT is a Dumb Idea

Kristin McQueary writes a pretty good column on the Gross Receipts Tax today.

What has been surprising is the lack of outrage over the tax breaks, loopholes and stunts big businesses have employed for years to avoid paying corporate income taxes — not to mention the tax burden they avoid through the growing use of economic incentives extended by municipal governments (sales tax rebates and tax increment financing districts) as well as property tax reductions through a county and state appeals process navigated by their well-schooled attorneys.

It’s easy to be swayed by the television commercials and apocalyptic bravado about how a gross receipts tax will trickle down to you and me. Maybe it will. What tax doesn’t?

She also discusses that Blagojevich’s administration tried to cut down on loopholes, but it didn’t work.

Reasonable enough, but the problem with the GRT is that it isn’t progressive as a tax and is not neutral as to the businesses hurt most and hurt least.   Hi margin low volume businesses get a pretty good deal under the tax because their profit is obtained by relatively low sales.  High volume low margin businesses do very poorly because they have to sell a lot to make much of a profit and this kind of across the board tax hits them hard.

To make matters worse, the stores poorer and lower middle class folks tend to shop at are high volume relatively low margin stores from grocery stores to drug stores to many big box stores.  In contrast, the high margin low volume types of sales tend to be items that are more in the luxury category.

I’m all for closing tax breaks that aren’t necessary and even an increase in taxes to put the state on reasonable financial footing, but this tax is exactly the wrong way to do it.  Already the flat tax on incomes hurts the poor in this state more than the rich, this will simply exacerbate that effect.

Focusing a tax upon profit would be a far more fair way to tax businesses and it has the benefit of treating businesses fairly because it isn’t based upon sales, but on the profit and ability to pay and still have a marginal impact upon the business’s bottom line other than on those that are above operating costs.

ArchPundit Fantasy Baseball

Oh, what the hell. I’ve set up a league to live draft on Saturday at 1:30 CDT (you can autopick if you prefer). It’s a 5X5 league with 10 teams. C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, 1B/3B, 2B/SS, 5 OF, 2 Util, 9 P, 4 Bench, 2 DL–so lots of slots.

It’ll be relatively casual, but I’d hope people plan on keeping up their teams daily or close to daily and a fair amount of trading will take place. Nothing intense though as this will be a secondary team for me.

Drop me an e-mail or reply in comments and I’ll send you an invitation. It’ll need 10 people to sign up so if that isn’t reached, I’ll let it die.  It’s through ESPN and is a free league and only bragging rights for winning.
Back to regular postings in a bit.

How Uncomfortable

Gonzalez and Fitzgerald at the same event

Given Fitzgerald’s status in Chicago, I’m betting the press turns Gonzalez into pinata at 11.

Or as the Trib says today:

A further mystery is that some of the prosecutors were given poor evaluations, but others had gotten high scores. One of those fired, Bud Cummins of Arkansas, was on the mark in complaining “there is no evidence of a credible performance-review process.” That was obvious from the fact that standout prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of Illinois got a mediocre rating — which is like Albert Pujols being left off the All-Star roster.

Frank James on Pickler

I think Frank James does a very good analysis on the Pickler piece that won Daily Dolt below:

Again, it strikes me that this is what politicians do, or allow to have done in their names, even first-class ones. Abraham Lincoln did a stint of rail splitting before becoming an affluent railroad lawyer but he probably could have been accused today of allowing supporters to exaggerate that part of his biography in calling him the “rail splitter.”

But the larger point is that after being charged with creating the Obama phenomenon, the Washington press corps is now doing stories that I guarantee the Obama campaign will be hoping most people ignore. These stories are inescapably negative.

Whether Obama is the MSM’s Frankenstein monster is arguable. Millions of people voted for him in Illinois. The man certainly has the larger-than-life charisma needed to occupy the White House successfully. The John F. Kennedy is definitely not-far fetched in this regaed.

Obama really seems comfortable with the media glare and adoring crowds, making him a kind of anti-Nixon. Part of his success, so far, I believe is that people tend to like other people who are comfortable in their presence.

Americans also like politicians who speak to the better angels of their nature, which Obama certainly does with all of that Lincolnesque, high-toned language of his that, yes, at times comes across as platitudes. Come to think of it, Lincoln’s better-angel line is really a platitude, isn’t it?

My take is even more cynical in that I don’t think it matters what Obama does in terms of receiving criticism like this because the press is going to do it anyway. The measure of the campaign is can they take the criticism and react to it creating a net positive.

What’s most interesting about the Tribune and the Swamp is that despite being a part of the DC corps and being an influential paper, since it’s not East Coast or West Coast, they are somewhat distinct from the herd (Sun Times has a similar nature with Lynn Sweet).  No news organization is perfect, but I often find the Trib and Sun-Times reporters to be far better than most of the beltway crowd.  An interesting test case will be to analyze Jeff Zeleny’s work for the Trib and how he’s doing one year from now at the NY Times.

And Bill Clinton didn’t really Confront his Abusive Step Father

The worst thing that has happened to news coverage is probably the rise of the pundit class, but with them came the psychological profiling of candidates and the navel gazing about whether they have a story about their youth correct. I remember when Bill Clinton told the story of confronting his abusive stepfather when he was still a boy and the press tried desperately to knock down the story saying it wasn’t clear he was accurate and so it must be a sign of a major character flaw.

Of course, most of us have memories of our youth that are far more dramatic than reality was for sure.  The crushing disappointment of being turned down for a date, really wasn’t that great.  The fight with parents that seems like daily occurrences with four year olds, seems like a life changing event.  The deep intellectual conversations with friends were,well silly.
All teenagers are drama queens and in our more objective moments we realize that. However, are memories make those very vivid and as such relevant to how we are formed as human beings.  Bill Clinton standing up to his abusive father-in-law even if it was through tears and not nearly as dramatic as he might remember it is one of those events a young man learns from and recounting it in his mind is certainly vivid.

It’s not some great character flaw to recount those events as you remember them as people know that one’s memories as a kid are not entirely accurate. In Obama’s case, he even told you that in the introduction to the book admitting it and even changing characters to make the narrative easier to follow.  IOW, trying to make it out as a big deal is silly hack journalism.
Finally, I hated high school and that’s not an exaggeration–I too laughed and posed for photos the day of my graduation even through a horrible hangover.

Daily Dolt

Nedra Pickler  of the AP

WASHINGTON – The voices are growing louder asking the question: Is Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) all style and little substance? The freshman Illinois senator began his campaign facing the perception that he lacks the experience to be president, especially compared to rivals with decades of work on foreign and domestic policy. So far, he’s done little to challenge it. He’s delivered no policy speeches and provided few details about how he would lead the country.

No policy speeches.

Are you kidding me?

 Just from a quick look at his Senate web site.
Iraq War Speeches

March 21st

March 13th

January 30th

January 19th

November 20th

Aids December 1

Zimbabwe March 15th

Kenya August 28th (In Kenya)

Latin America March 8th

Foreign Policy/Israel–March 2nd

Veterans March 22nd

January 8th Ethics Legislation

Bills/Actions Introduced:

Health Insurance Tax Breaks for Better Fuel Economy

Housing Summit on Foreclosures

Reform Troop Care–something he’s worked with Durbin on since entering the Senate

The entire article seems to be because Obama doesn’t have a detailed health care plan.  It’s legitimate to say Edwards is ahead of him on the issue, but to say it signifies a lack of policy positions when he has a ton of substantive positions and has given a number of speeches on foreign policy in the just the last few months is ridiculous and could only happen in the DC press corps that cannot help itself, but to fit every candidate into their particular view–facts be damned.

It’s the crime

Josh Marshall really hits the nail on the head:

There’s this old line the wise folks in Washington have that ‘it’s not the crime, but the cover-up.’

But only fools believe that. It’s always about the crime. The whole point of the cover-up is that a full revelation of the underlying crime is not survivable. Let me repeat that, the whole point of the cover-up is a recognition that a full revelation of the underlying bad act is not survivable.

Don’t ever forget that. When talking heads tell us that it’s about the cover-up, they’re trying to make us believe that the problem here is that the administration was flummoxed by an awkward question, gave a bad answer, and subsequently found itself boxed into an embarrassing cover-up. You know, the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.

But that’s not what’s at issue. At issue is the alleged takeover of the Justice Department by the political arm of the White House. You know, the sort of thing that pretty much could only happen to an unusually corrupt administration.

It isn’t the cover-up. It’s the crime.

And a Good One

The Trib comes out against the death penalty

The evidence of mistakes, the evidence of arbitrary decisions, the sobering knowledge that government can’t provide certainty that the innocent will not be put to death–all that prompts this call for an end to capital punishment. It is time to stop killing in the people’s name.

The odd part is that the last line could have been used in discussing Negroponte in the previous post.


Stupid Tribune Editorial:

Given the Bush administration’s assertion that anyone who aids a terrorist group should be prosecuted as severely as the terrorists themselves, $25 million seems a light penalty.

But it didn’t buy the company out of trouble. Colombia’s top prosecutor says he wants to extradite the executives who reviewed and approved the payments.

The U.S. will have a hard time arguing with that request. Colombia is our strongest ally in South America, and hundreds of alleged Colombian drug traffickers have been extradited to the United States since President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002. Atty. Gen. Mario Iguaran has aggressively prosecuted Colombian citizens and companies for dealing with the guerrillas or the paramilitaries. Eight former members of Congress, all allies of Uribe, are in jail for colluding with the militias.

Whether it was acting to protect its people or its profits, Chiquita’s actions, detailed in court records, reveal an appalling lack of respect for life and law. Executives continued making payments to the terrorists even though company lawyers repeatedly advised them to stop. The payments were disguised in the company’s books, and in later years were made in cash. Even after the board of directors voted to approach the Justice Department about the payments, some executives resisted. “Just let them sue us, come after us,” they told their lawyers.

They are shocked, shocked I tell you that an American company had a relationship with a right wing terrorist group in Latin America. 

Let’s see–there’s this guy named John Negroponte who helped start many of those right wing terrorist groups who is now Deputy Secretary of State.
The only good line is here:

“When you pay a group like this,” Iguaran said, “you are conscious of what they are doing.”

Just as Negroponte was.

Fornek on the Aldermanic Run-offs

He does a very good piece on the aldermanic run-offs, though I think one point is lost in the article.

One of the advantages the union candidates have is that the run-offs are going to be even lower turnout than the general and the unions are going to have the best turnout operation going.  That mean Joe Moore should be safe, but it also means union backed challengers taking 5 seats as is the prediction in the piece isn’t unrealistic.

Right after the initial election I suggested that 2 races were sure pick-ups for the unions and that 2 were toss-ups.  One was 15 which is actually an open seat.  Meaning I predicted the potential for 3 pick-ups being Tillman 3, Coleman 16, and Brookins 21, but Brookins isn’t one of the five.  Haithcock 2 and Matlak 32.  Matlak and his opponent split union support so it’s a different case. To me, Brookins may yet be vulnerable as well meaning there are 5 targets that may yet be taken down depending upon turnout.

And, of course, there is no turnout counterweight since the Machine is not sending people out given the current legal situation.  If the unions do take out a total of 6 to 7 alderman, not only will they have built a modern machine, but they would have implemented it in a very short time creating a lot of heartburn amongst the party regulars who will have to listen to them or face more challenges.


How often does this happen in Springfield

And the funny thing is that most of the people saying nice things about the guy aren’t just staff. Hynes and L Madigan have very good reputations as well as being fairly modest and hard workers, but Alexi had a special target on him after being backed by Obama and then a bunch of small revelations about his bank, but he’s doing an exceptionally good job of being open and thoughtful. Obama’s endorsement is starting to make sense.

The Trib gives Bright Start a good review too 

Obama on Foreclosure Crisis

This is going to be a huge story as the sub prime market is falling apart nationally.





WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Barack Obama today sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson urging them to immediately convene a homeownership preservation summit with key stakeholders to fight foreclosures driven by growth in the subprime mortgage market.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Paulson,

There is grave concern in low-income communities about a potential coming wave of foreclosures.  Because regulators are partly responsible for creating the environment that is leading to rising rates of home foreclosure in the subprime mortgage market, I urge you immediately to convene a homeownership preservation summit with leading mortgage lenders, investors, loan servicing organizations, consumer advocates, federal regulators and housing-related agencies to assess options for private sector responses to the challenge. 

We cannot sit on the sidelines while increasing numbers of American families face the risk of losing their homes. And while neither the government nor the private sector acting alone is capable of quickly balancing the important interests in widespread access to credit and responsible lending, both must act and act quickly. 

Working together, the relevant private sector entities and regulators may be best positioned for quick and targeted responses to mitigate the danger.  Rampant foreclosures are in nobody’s interest, and I believe this is a case where all responsible industry players can share the objective of eliminating deceptive or abusive practices, preserving homeownership, and stabilizing housing markets. 

The summit should consider best practice loan marketing, underwriting, and origination practices consistent with the recent (and overdue) regulators’ Proposed Statement on Subprime Mortgage Lending.  The summit participants should also evaluate options for independent loan counseling, voluntary loan restructuring, limited forbearance, and other possible workout strategies. I would also urge you to facilitate a serious conversation about the following:

·        What standards investors should require of lenders, particularly with regard to verification of income and assets and the underwriting of borrowers based on fully indexed and fully amortized rates.

·        How to facilitate and encourage appropriate intervention by loan servicing companies at the earliest signs of borrower difficulty.

·        How to support independent community-based-organizations to provide counseling and work-out services to prevent foreclosure and preserve homeownership where practical.

·        How to provide more effective information disclosure and financial education to ensure that borrowers are treated fairly and that deception is never a source of competitive advantage.

·        How to adopt principles of fair competition that promote affordability, transparency, non-discrimination, genuine consumer value, and competitive returns.

·        How to ensure adequate liquidity across all mortgage markets without exacerbating consumer and housing market vulnerability.

Of course, the adoption of voluntary industry reforms will not preempt government action to crack down on predatory lending practices, or to style new restrictions on subprime lending or short-term post-purchase interventions in certain cases.  My colleagues on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs have held important hearings on mortgage market turmoil and I expect the Committee will develop legislation. 

Nevertheless, a consortium of industry-related service providers and public interest advocates may be able to bring quick and efficient relief to millions of at-risk homeowners and neighborhoods, even before Congress has had an opportunity to act. There is an opportunity here to bring different interests together in the best interests of American homeowners and the American economy.  Please don’t let this opportunity pass us by.