A New Car From Congressional Motors

The American Sedan in 2012:

Will it need 1.21 Jiggawatts?


It's as if Nothing is Wrong

FLASH: The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will appoint former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Will Harry Reid agree to seat Mr. Burris? Will Gov. Blagojevich be impeached? Time will tell.


Krauthammer on Gas Taxes

Read this article by Charles Krauthammer. It's why he gets paid for his opinions and I don't (yet). The single smartest security policy (national , economic, environmental, budgetary and energy) we could possibly enact in this country is a graduated Net-Zero Gas Tax. Anything else is justifying someone's status quo benefit.

Gas prices will one day be higher than they are today if we don't reduce the amount we use. The U.S. is the marginal customer so reducing our demand has a huge downward impact on the price curve. Less U.S. demand reduces the cashflows of regimes openly hostile to us. It provides steady funds for public infrastructure and motivates fuel-efficient behavior without one single solitary malinformed requirement from the economically juvenile U.S. Congress.

Driving is among, if not the, most subsidized activities in America (roads, parking, pollution costs, erosion, tax incentives for automotive manufacturers). Make its price reflect its cost and we become a far more secure and financially independent nation.


Where's the New CIA Director?

I was relieved when President-elect Obama officially announced that he would retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I was also impressed with his choice of Gen. James Jones as his National Security Advisor. I was less impressed with his choice Hiliary Clinton as Secretary of State, but reasonable minds can differ.

However, as we are only three weeks from Inauguration Day, there are two gaping holes in Mr. Obama's national security team - Director of National Intelligence and CIA Director. Obviously, these are two critical positions within our national security apparatus. Therefore, it is imperative that whomever is chosen is ready to go on day one of the new administration.

So why, with only three weeks until his big day, has Mr. Obama not yet made nominations to these important positions? Fox News reported last week that it is due to pressure from left-wing bloggers over the President-elect's first choice for CIA Director, John Brennan. Mr. Brennan served as the Obama campaign's chief intelligence adviser. However, the left-wing bloggers began a campaign, which was successful, to have Mr. Brennan disqualified from serving in any high level position within the new administration. These bloggers claimed that Mr. Brennan was involved in torture and renditions. Evidently, Brennan made the tragic mistake of publicly stating that the Rendition Program (started under the Clinton Administration) was a valuable intelligence gathering tool.

The situation with John Brennan raises two questions in my mind. First, if everyone involved in coercive interrogation and Rendition is disqualified from serving in high ranking intelligence positions within the Obama administration, who will left? Second, will the new administration always buckle to pressure from left wing special interests?

Let me answer the second question first. My sense is yes, for the most part anyway. The far left wing in this country was instrumental in helping Mr. Obama secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Those on the left basically had a litmus test - were you against the Iraq War from the beginning. Hilary Clinton failed that test. Mr. Obama did not. Therefore, as with all politicians, Mr. Obama owes a political debt to these people and they expect that it will be repaid. There is nothing unusual about this. It only becomes a problem when it forces the administration policy into policies that negatively impact the American people, especially in the national security arena. Therefore, it is unfortunate that Mr. Obama bowed to this pressure because Mr. Brennan appears well qualified to be CIA Director and would have been a valuable voice in the continued prosecution of the War on Terror.

The more disturbing of my two questions is the first one. Based upon this incident, if Mr. Obama takes the position of these left-wing bloggers to its logical conclusion, no individual who served within the intelligence community under President Clinton or President George W. Bush would be eligible to hold high posts with such community in the new administration. At a time of war, it is imperative that we have qualified and experienced individuals in high ranking intelligence positions. It was a failure of intelligence failures that led to 9/11. It was intelligence failures that kept us in the dark about the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs. It was because of intelligence failures that we did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I could go on and on.

The point is, the country is not served by appointing politically pure ideologues to high level national security positions. The issues we face today are too complicated to give left-wing bloggers a veto of the CIA Director or the Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Obama should find the best people available regardless of whether they served Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton. The intelligence game is rough and it must transcend the political whims of those on the extreme left.

Two More Bits More on Caroline

1) Michael Goodwin of the NY Daily News has written a fantastic article about Caroline Kennedy's utter, complete and total lack of qualifications for the NY Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. My only regret is the time I spent writing my own critique. If he'd written his sooner I could have just passed the link along and gone out and had fun with my kids. His dissection her appointancy's (it can't be called a candidacy can it?) pure fakery is enough to get me to subscribe to the NYDN.

She has no political or policy experience, she ducks the press, she can't/won't outline if her views in any way diverge from party orthodoxy (yet she claims to be an independent thinker), refuses to disclose personal holdings and brings nothing nothing nothing nothing other than lucky sperm club credentials to the job. Nothing.



If she's so ideal as a Senator, then she should run for election in two years and have to sell herself to the electorate just like anyone else. But, she's not so she won't.

Great job Michael Goodwin.

2) Caroline Kennedy, you know, inventing empty, vacuous qualifications for, you know, the United States Senate which, you know, she has and which, you know, just about any college educated adult, you know, has:


President Barack H. Eisenhower?

Michael Barone has written a great article about who he considers President-elect Obama's key political model of post-partisanship: President Dwight D. Eisenhower. One of the raps on DDE is his self-imposed distance from Republicans in the 1950s. He's not credited with much party building or coattails (Republicans lost Congress in 1954). Moreover, he was thought to have little regard for Vice President Nixon (Ike on Nixon's responsibilities: "Give me a week and I might think of something." Ike didn't endorse Nixon until late in the 1960 election). President Eisenhower is arguably the closest thing to a non-partisan President since WWII.

President-elect Obama blew off John Kerry (to the great joy of Republicans and, even if they won't admit it, many Democrats) and has assembled an official inner circle from those with largely centrist bona fides (Volcker, Jones, Gates, Summers). Only in time will we learn how he governs and my suspicion is that he'll use moderate and center-right rhetoric to mask a liberal agenda. Turnabout is fair play, of course. George W. Bush used moderate language (compassionate conservatism) to sell a huge expansion of federal spending.

But if BHO's public persona contrasts the hyperpartisanship generated by the permanent campaigns waged by the Clinton and Bush II White Houses, he will have done the country a great service. I don't think the Romper Room we call Congress can or will follow his lead but I commend him for the effort.

Happy Holidays (A Couple Days Late)

It's not perfectly accurate, but damn funny.

Some people have an awful lot of free time.


What Took Them So Long?

The only surprising thing about this New York Times article blaming Bush for the mortgage crisis is the fact that it took them until December 21st to publish the article.  No mention of the Community Reinvestment Act passed under Carter and aggressively applied by the Clinton Administration, the close ties between Democrats in Congress and the leaders of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, or my personal favorite quote by Barney Frank, from a Congressional hearing on the soundness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on September 25, 2003: "I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing."

This isn't to say that the Bush Administration is blameless in this mess, far from it. But this article paints a picture of the Bush Administration ignoring warnings from Democrats such as Rahm Emmanuel and allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to expand unchecked. Yet another rewriting of history from the Gray Lady.


Truth Hurts

Maybe you've seen this cartoon elsewhere. It's a sad, funny and mostly correct analogy.


I Told You I Did Nothing Wrong!

I'm glad to see that Barack Obama's own investigation (conducted by his incoming White House Counsel) into the Senate seat for sale scandal has cleared both the President-elect and his staff of any wrong doing. The liberal mainstream media has now declared that the Blagojevich scandal, as it relates to the President-elect and his transition team, is now closed and there is nothing left to investigate or discuss.

However, in my mind, this raise one major question - Is the Blagojevich scandal, as it relates to the President-elect and his transition team, really closed? Does an investigation of one's own self really result in vindication? I would say no. Isn't this the pink elephant in the room, the fact that it was a self examination? Of course. We are yet to hear from the prosecutors or the FBI on this matter. There cannot be closure on this matter until an independent voice sounds the all clear.

It is highly unlikely that Mr. Obama or anyone on his staff acted improperly. I would be very surprised if the prosecutors reach a different conclusion. But, it appears to me to be more of the same - arrogance from the left on the part of the Obama team and a complicit media lapping it all up without any critical thought or independent investigation.

I wonder what would happen if Gov. Blagojevich announced late in the afternoon on December 30 that his administration had conducted an internal investigation of his actions and that that investigation had concluded that neither he nor any member of his staff had engaged in any wrong doing? All of us would say that he's crazy, view it as some comic relief and let the criminal and impeachment proceedings proceed as planned. There does appear to be a double standard, don't you think?

New Year's Resolution: No More Kennedys

Remember in The Godfather Part III when Michael Corleone says "just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in"? While GFIII was totally forgettable, that one line lives today as our country takes another tiny step toward the American Idolization of our politics should NY Gov. Paterson appoint lucky sperm club member Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's seat in the U.S. Senate. While I'll give Caroline Kennedy props for being smart enough not to play touch football while skiing down a tree lined mountain like her cousin, there are at least three things I'm willing to ignore about her candidacy:
  1. Sickening sense of entitlement of Ms. Kennedy, or more correctly, her advisers. From today's NYT, emphasis mine: "Kevin Sheekey, a top deputy to Mr. Bloomberg who has been advising Ms. Kennedy, had called a labor leader and told him that Ms. Kennedy was going to be senator, 'so get on board now.'"
  2. Kid glove press treatment. Al Hunt on her qualifications, again emphasis mine: "She has all the qualities - intellectual curiosity; a friendly, at times pointed, sense of humor; and a deferential manner (she hails her own cabs) - that are the stuff to make a good senator.")
  3. Resume puffery: Al Sharpton on Bloomberg.com, once again emphasis mine: “My knowledge of her in the area of education and on behalf of children generally, the fact that she has written several books, and her other civic involvement more than qualifies her to be senator.
What's hard to ignore is that Caroline Kennedy has no serious public record or public stance on a broad range of issues and has never been elected to anything anywhere at any time. She has a killer political last name (oops, bad word choice) and can raise a boat load of cash from those who think her last name is cool and aspire to be connected to it. She raised a bunch of money for NYC schools, but that gig never gets offered to her if her last name is Kowalski.

I'm sure CK is a nice person and a hard worker and if she got, you know, actually elected to the job I'd retract my critique. I'd still think her last name greased the election, but an electoral win is credible in a way an appointment isn't. I admit to being totally mystified about why the Kennedys are such a big deal. Having been born after JFK and RFK died and only being an infant when Mary Jo Kopechne was accidentally killed in that accidentally horrible accident that EFK accidentally didn't acknowledge or report until the next day, I never became a Kennedy Kool-Aid drinker.

Sarah Palin's name has gotten tossed around in the discussion of Caroline Kennedy, and while I was never much of a Sarah Palin fan I don't think the comparison's fair.

To Sarah Palin.

Palin campaigned by regurgitating clever sound bites McCain's handlers jammed into her head. If she really knew her stuff she could have ignored the handlers. If she didn't know her stuff, she should have. A college educated adult can be passably conversant on national issues by reading a couple national newspapers a couple times a week which, if she does, she sure hid well. But at least Palin once won some elections, which is a far cry from being appointed to a job because you picked your parents well.


It's No Time for Grandstanding

During his press conference announcing the criminal complaint against Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made a point of saying that Mr. Blagojevich was still the governor of the State of Illinois and that he would remain that way until the appropriate authorities took action to remove him. Mr. Fitzgerald made it clear that it is not within the US Attorney's powers to remove a sitting governor. However, Fitzgerald made the statements in such a way so as to indicate that he believed action must be taken to get Blagojevich out of office.
For the first time in a very long time, the Illinois House of Representatives acted responsibly by forming a special committee to make a recommendation to the full House as to whether or not to impeach the Governor. Correctly, this committee has been holding hearings and affording the Governor due process of law. Had the House decided to set up a "kangaroo court", it would have had a long lasting and detrimental impact on the state. As part of the committee's inquiry, it has called witnesses and reviewed documents. The committee then made the perfectly reasonable request to Mr. Fitzgerald to cooperate with the committee's investigation. They asked to see some of his evidence and for the names of some of his witnesses. This was perfectly reasonable request considering the committee's solemn task and the fact that the US Attorney's office has far superior investigative resources than a special committee of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, we now find out that Mr. Fitzgerald has refused to cooperate with the impeachment committee. He claims that such cooperation could compromise his criminal case. That may very well be true. However, after he basically goaded with the Illinois General Assembly into taking action to remove the Governor from office (because he lacked that authority), he now refuses to assist the designated committee.

Mr. Fitzgerald's actions raise several questions. First, is it more important to (a) imprison the Governor at some point in the future (maybe a year or two down the road), or (b) remove him from office as soon as possible so as to stop, as Mr. Fitzgerald called it, the Governor's "crime spree"? If the Governor is, in fact, on a crime spree, it is imperative that his ability to continue be stopped as soon as possible, using whatever legal means are available. It would seem to me that impeachment in the Illinois House of Representatives, followed by a conviction in the Illinois Senate, would be a much faster means of ending the Governor's ability to continue on his "crime spree" than would a criminal trial where the Governor is afforded all of the due process rights of any criminal defendant. Remember, during an impeachment trial, while due process is important, the defendant's liberty is not at stake and, therefore, the same level of due process is not required.

Second, since Mr. Fitzgerald was trying to prod the Illinois General Assembly to act to remove the Governor, why has he now decided not to assist them? I really don't know the answer to this, but if I were forced to speculate, I can only assume it is grandstanding on his part. By refusing to aide the impeachment committee, Mr. Fitzgerald is increasing his importance in this matter. He alone stands as the savior of the people of the State of Illinois. Once again, just like in the Scooter Libby case, Pat Fitzgerald will be the man in the white hat to save the common folk against Public Enemy Number One. This means plenty more great headlines for the Elliott Ness of the 21st century.

I am very close with several current and former Assistant US Attorneys for the Northern District of Illinois. Without exception, they all think very highly of Mr. Fitzgerald and the work that he does. That was why during the Scooter Libby affair, I gave Pat Fitzgerald the benefit of doubt and assumed that he really was motivated by a sense of justice. However, his decision not to assist the impeachment committee has forced me to re-examine that. So in the meantime, because of Mr. Fitzgerald's decision to file a criminal complaint, Illinois has a governor who cannot govern, a legislature that is completely preoccupied with the removal of a governor who cannot govern and a vacant US Senate seat that cannot be filled because of a governor who cannot govern. All the while, the people of Illinois sit and wait for their elected officials to address the issues that really have an effect on their lives. If Mr. Fitzgerald were standing up for the people of Illinois, he would make sure that Gov. Blagojevich was removed from office with all deliberate speed - and that is through the impeachment process.


Detroit Wins At Least Once This Weekend

Guess I just can't get past commenting on federal financing for the Big 2.5. There's plenty to say and plenty of time to say it, but here's the money quote (from Rep. John Dingell, D-MI):
While I applaud President Bush's decision to provide short term loans to the domestic automakers, I have strong concerns about some of the conditions that were placed on these loans. We all want to see the Big 3 restructure and be competitive in the future, but it is irresponsible during a time of economic crisis for the White House to insist that workers take further wage cuts on top of the historic concessions they have already made. I strongly urge President-elect Obama to revisit this issue as his first priority upon being sworn in, and to ensure that assistance to the automakers is provided in a way that is fair to working Americans.
Two points:
  1. Employee compensation either fits into a business' cost structure or it doesn't. Paying people (management or labor) based on their needs and not the organization's is a guaranteed way to go out of business.
  2. If Rep Dingell were at all honest on this topic the last sentence would say: "I'm looking forward to President-elect Obama's inauguration, when his first priority will be to renegotiate this assistance to the automakers so that members of the UAW can get paid more, irrespective of the automakers needs or the employees alternatives."
Have a great weekend.

Israel's Next Step

There is a growing consensus that Benjamin Netanyahu will be returned to the Prime Minister’s office as a result of the next Israeli general election (scheduled for February). This signals a change in Israeli public opinion. For the past several years, land for peace was viewed as the most likely way to secure Israel’s future. That tactic no longer seems to be a viable option for the long term security of Israel.

As Netanyahu points out, “we do not have a viable partner with whom to negotiate peace.” The Palestinian Authority does not represent the Palestinian people and Hamas (which won the last Palestinian election) does not want to engage in negotiations for peace. This is evident by the facts that Hamas’ stated goal is the destruction of the State of Israel and, in the territory currently controlled by Hamas, it does nothing to stop daily rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

The question for us becomes “how will the Obama administration react to the new Israeli government?” Will the new President be supportive of a Netanyahu government or will he use his influence to try to force more land for peace concessions? Based upon those advising Mr. Obama during his campaign and during the transition (UN Ambassador designate Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, et al…), my bet is that he will try to force the path of land for peace. If my assumption about the incoming administration is correct and Mr. Netanyahu bows to this pressure, the only logical conclusion of this approach will be increased attacks on Israeli civilians. There will be no lasting (or even short term) peace. The only things that we will see will be more dead Israelis and the usual circus of the “international community” at the UN urging Israeli restraint, followed by their condemnation when Israel decides to defend herself.

Of course, there is the very likely chance that Mr. Netanyahu will not be influenced by this pressure from the Obama administration. In that case, the new Israeli government will act aggressively to defeat the Palestinian terrorists that are an impediment to a lasting peace in the Middle East. After all, I do not think that we would we accept daily rocket attacks by terrorists into Minnesota from Canada. Concurrently, a Netanyahu government would work to strengthen Palestinian civil institutions in order to create a viable partner for peace.

Additionally, a Netanyahu government will take a harder line against Iran. In particular, it will act to end the Iranian nuclear program and to reduce Iranian influence in Lebanon, Judea and Samaria. I have little doubt that under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel will use military force to end, or significantly delay, the Iranian nuclear program. I would also not be surprised if there would be an Israeli military incursion into Lebanon to remove the Hezbollah terrorists once and for all. A Netanyahu government would act aggressively and in such a way as to complete both of these tasks, unlike what we saw under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

A division between two democratic allies such as the United States and Israel does not benefit the civilized world in general and it is not good for the War on Terror in particular. As we all know, nations act in their own self interests. There are no permanent allies, only interests that align. However, the United States owes its support to a democratic ally under siege. Let’s hope that the Obama administration takes the moral high road and supports Israel in its fight to stop the terrorists that surround her.


Dependence Pt. 2

If you read Gladwell's article you'll see his basic thesis is that dependency schemes breakdown as the ratio of producer to dependent goes up. Why is GM in a hole? Mostly because too much money that could have been reinvested in the company has gone to provide current benefits for a retiree pool growing faster than its employee base. Why do poor nations stay poor? Corruption and bureaucracy for sure, but Gladwell argues it's too small a producer base relative to dependents.

Extrapolate from there: Social Security...the State of New York...U.S. income taxes. The State of New York has been feeding on the huge tax base of Wall St. for years and now that Wall St.'s dead, or at least in a coma, there isn't funding to support the demand for services. Nearly all federal personal income taxes are paid by the top half of taxpayers. Amazingly, Obama campaigned on a pledge (taxpayers who make less than $250k, i.e. 95% of all taxpayers will receive a tax break) that'll exacerbate the problem (BTW, so did John McCain).

The breaking point is, of course, very difficult to anticipate. The problem manifests in demographic waves (birth rates), which are impossible to control. By the time policy makers see a population imbalanced by age (too many dependent young or old people), it's much too late to adjust. Birth rates and the absorption of those births into the job market can't happen fast enough to solve the State of New York's budget problem, or GM's pension problem, or Social Security's benefit problem. My wife and I have chosen to replace ourselves as taxpayers/worker bees and no more, so we're of no help.

What can we do as a society, other than procreate in a demographically smooth way, to solve this problem? More on that later...


Madoff Scheme

If you've read the news over the last couple days you've heard of Bernie Madoff's staggering financial fraud and heard/read the term Ponzi Scheme ad infinitum. I propose going forward the term should be a Madoff Scheme. That would be real punishment for Bernie.


The War on Terror - A Year End Report Card

As we approach the new year, it is a good time to take to stock in our progress in the War on Terror. We are now over seven years past the terrible events of September 11, 2001. In that time, the United States has stopped dozens of plots for terrorists attacks against our homeland and our installations abroad.

A lot of the credit for the safety of us here at home has to go to the Bush administration. President Bush implemented several key policies and strategies that have made us safer. First, the ousting of the Taliban government in Afghanistan took away Al Qaeda’s principal safe haven. The terrorist training camps in that country are no long available to plot attacks against Western targets. There is still very difficult work to do in Afghanistan to prevent it from slipping back into the category of a failed state, but we are on the offensive.

Next, the actions that we have taken in Somalia have also helped reduce the number of terrorists in that failed state. By direct intervention and the support Ethiopia’s military intervention in that county, we have killed many Al Qaeda members. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian government recently announced that they will soon be withdrawing from Somalia. Hopefully, President-elect Obama can use some of his worldwide goodwill to persuade them to stay. This could be the first test to see if all of his talk about a new foreign policy will really work with our allies.

Also, we cannot forget the war in Iraq. President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq made that country the central front for the War on Terror for the better part of the past six years. It is currently unpopular to say this, but it is true that the jihadists in the Middle East poured into Iraq to fight us there. As the President said many times, it is far better to fight them there than back here!
These overseas operations (like others, such as the increased US military operations along the Afghan / Pakistan border) are proxies for a widespread, aggressive use of US military power abroad in the fight against terrorism. Taking the fight to the enemy shows that we are willing and able to defend US interests anywhere in the world. Now, every terrorist must worry about his personal security on a daily basis, thereby making it harder to concentrate on his jihadist desires.

Additionally, our coercive interrogation program in Guantanamo Bay forced Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to give up many details about then pending Al Qaeda attacks, as well as details about the 9/11 attacks themselves. Coercive interrogation is not torture and should not be confused with it. This administration has never engaged in, nor sanctioned, torture.

Closer to home, we have spent billions of dollars on port and border security. The increases in manpower and the advances in technology have helped improve safety at our ports of entry and our border with Mexico. The virtual fence is flawed, but it will be fixed. The administration has stepped up raids on those who hire illegal aliens. For the first time, we have actually seen a decrease in illegal immigration. There is still more to do, but progress has been made at our borders.

There is no question that the Islamists want to carry out a spectacular attack against the United States. However, the hardening of our targets has made that more difficult. Just look at the attacks in Mumbai. India proved to be a soft target compared to the United States. Is there any doubt that a US city would have been a more valuable target to the terrorists than Mumbai? I don't think so. But, our government has acted and made it more difficult for the terrorists to succeed on our home front.
As we approach a new year and a new administration, we can know that our country is safer than it was on September 10, 2001. Our systems are not flawless and they never will be. The new President will have choices to make and hopefully, he will continue to choose to secure our country using the many tools at his disposal. But, we must always remember that old adage, we have to be right 100% of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once.


I highly recommend this article by Malcolm Gladwell. According to Gladwell, GM, Social Security and African poverty all share a root cause: too few producers for each dependent. I've read it once and will post some thoughts after rereading it. Gladwell speaks directly to why entitlements fail, but don't have to.


Thoughts On Curing Corruption

Pointless restatement of the furiously obvious: Illinois politics are corrupt and it's hardly a stretch to say that senior Illinois politicians are at some level part of the corruption (General Assembly, Chicago City Council, Cook County Board, Governor's office, Secretary of State, probably everybody other than the occasional local library). Either they affirmatively participated (e.g. Gov. Rod Scumbagevich) or they've witnessed corruption and stood silent because a corrupt actor was necessary to effect a separate, but clean, objective (e.g. too numerous to itemize).

Einstein said "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Corruption flows, eventually, from stupidity, so a permanent extraction of corruption from politics is impossible. We can, however, make it more difficult, or at least raise its price and cost. May I suggest a couple simple steps:
  • Severe punishment (Hot Rod's looking at 30 years. That sounds about right, but I'd add no possibility of parole, commutation or pardon. That'd be enough to keep my hands out of the cookie jar).
  • Substantially higher compensation for elected officals.
  • Term limits.
  • Meaningful lifetime pensions.
  • Lifetime lobbying bans, with automatic, unreviewable, irrevocable loss of aforementioned pension in the event of conviction.


Let's Get Him Out of My Way!

Fox News is reporting that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has now filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court asking them to remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich because he is "unable to serve". No one wants to see Gov. Blagojevich out of office more than I do. As I've mentioned before, I am friends with one of the prosecutors and she and I have joked for years about when she was going to get him.

That being said, the Attorney General's actions usurp the constitutional authority of the Illinois General Assembly. Section 14 of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution says, "The House of Representatives has the sole power to conduct legislative investigations to determine the existence of cause for impeachment and, by the vote of a majority of the members elected, to impeach Executive and Judicial officers." By invoking an obscure Illinois Supreme Court rule, Rule 382, the Attorney General is disregarding the express constitutional authority of the legislature. Rule 382 was meant to be invoke in the event of a medical disability.

The fact that the Governor is still in office is more than troubling. He should resign immediately. However, Illinois' 38 year old constitution provides the mechanism for removing a governor gone bad. We do not need the judgement of one woman (who, by the way, is totally unqualified to hold the office to which she was elected) substituted for the judgement of the entire state legislature. If the constitution were ambiguous, I might applaud Madigan's actions. However, there is no ambiguity. It is of no benefit to the citizens of Illinois if their other elected officials start acting outside the bounds of the law.

Also, keep in mind that Attorney General Madigan is not a disinterested party on a personal level. She and her father, Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, have long been eyeing the governor's office for Lisa. Rod Blagojevich has been Lisa and Mike Madigan's main rival in statewide politics for the past 6 years. This is their chance to remove him once and for all. As the state's top law enforcement officer, the Attorney General should let the laws of the state play out and not behave in a way that suits the personal ambitions of her and her father.
UPDATE: The Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear Attorney General Lisa Madigan's petition to have the Governor removed because he is "unable to serve".


The Senate Seat

Top Senate Democrats have warned Gov. Rod Blagojevich not to appoint someone to fill the Illinois Senate seat vacated by the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. They correctly point out that any such selection by Blagojevich would be tainted by his scandle. If, however, the Governor does attempt to appoint someone, the Senate leadership has warned that they may very well refuse to seat the Governor's selection. The Senate has this right under Section 5 of Article I of the United States Constitution, which states that "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members..."

Where does this leave the people of Illinois. Currently, Illinois law gives the Governor the right to fill such vacancies (10 ILCS 5/25‑8). However, both houses of the Illinois legislature are schedule to meet in special secessions early next week to change Illinois law to allow for a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat. This will take time. Any bill passed by the legislature would require the signature of the governor. One has to wonder whether Blagojevich will sign such a law. And, he has 60 days to decide whether to sign it or veto it. Assuming he takes no acting, the bill becomes law after 60 days. That, however, puts us well into mid to late February with no Senator in place. Then, with the logistics involved in scheduling an election, it may be April or may before a primary could be held and then another month or two before a general election. Under this scenario, it could be June before and election is held and a winner is determined.

Another possibility is for Blagojevich to resign and have his successor, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, fill the vacancy. This is the cleanest and simplest solution except for one small problem, the Governor must resign. Despite calls from every major political leader in Illinois, Blagojevich remains defiant and has refused to resign. Quinn could also succeed to the governor's office if Blagojevich is removed by an impeachment proceeding. However, this would most likely take months as well.

The only reasonable solution for the people of Illinois is for Blagojevich to resign immediately. He has been an ineffective governor from the beginning and his legal problems won't contribute to his effectiveness or to good government.

From a purely political prospective, the best case scenario for Republicans would be a special election. This would allow a viable Republican candidate, like Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), to run for the Senate without giving up his congressional seat unless he wins. It is almost certain that once Kirk retires from his congressional seat, it will go to a Democrat.

This morning, on WLS-AM, both Rep. Kirk and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said that they would be interested in running for the Senate in the event that a special election were held to fill the vacancy. Kirk is a GOP moderate who represents the 10th district (of which I am a resident). He is the Republicans' best chance of winning this Senate seat. Pundits on both sides said that Kirk would be a formidable candidate. He is a prolific fundraiser, having raised over $5,000,000 in his most recent congressional race. Most conservatives would look past the fact that Rep. Kirk is every Democrat's favorite member of the House of Representatives because it would be a huge coup for the GOP to be able to snatch this seat.

Schakowsy would be a strong candidate for the Democrats, but she has significant baggage. First, this would probably the only statewide race in recent Illinois history where it would not be helpful to be a Democrat. Second, I'm sure that many commercials would be run showing pictures of Schakowsky and Blagojevich standing arm and arm, looking happy and friendly. Finally, Shakowsky's husband was recently release from federal prison. He is a convicted felon. The legitimate question would be asked, "If she can't fight corruption in her own home, how can she do it in elective office?"

Of course, many other Democrats would run in a special election. A few more Republicans would run too. The bottom line is that it is incredibly sad that Gov. Blagojevich has put the people of Illinois in a position that they will not have a Senator for up to seven months.

Et tu, Jr.?


ABC News reports that Senate Candidate #5 is Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., the one who was "shocked at the charges." Here's a key sentence from yesterday's affidavit:

"Senate Candidate #5" played a key role in the Governor's efforts to obtain something of value in exchange for the Senate appointment.

Here's JJJr.'s response:

It is impossible for someone on my behalf to have a conversation that would suggest any type of quid pro quo or any payments or offers," Jackson Jr. told ABC News. "An impossiblity to an absolute certainty.

Let's keep that in mind as this piece of the story unfolds around the only honest man in Illinois.

One Hell of a Competitor

JFK after the Bay of Pigs allegedly said "victory has a 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan." Now that the definition of both failure and scumbag must include a reference to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the major Illinois politicians who are, tangentially and otherwise, connected to him are running for the hills. From CNN.com:

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.: he met with Blagojevich about the post but that he is shocked at the charges and is upset that the appointment process has been tainted.

Rep. Danny Davis: in his dealings with Blagojevich, "there has never been any hint or any quid pro quo."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky: spoke with Blagojevich about the job but said nothing untoward was said in that conversation.

Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs: an aide to Duckworth said that she had never spoken with or met with Blagojevich about the job.

Illinois arguably has, other than probably New Jersey, New York and Louisiana, the most corrupt state government in the nation. Who can forget FBI Special Agent Robert Grant's statement yesterday that "if [Illinois] isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it is one hell of a competitor." The four referenced above are at or near the top of the Illinois political food chain. Given how filthy Illinois government and politics are is it really plausible that the likely candidates, who have Illinois politics in their professional DNA, are uninvolved innocent bystanders?

Presumption of innocence only exists in a courtroom. Outside of a courtroom we're entitled to believe whatever the hell we want. Anyone even mildly versed in Illinois politics could hardly be called cynical by presuming guilt, or at least involvement


Real Government Censorship

As The Daily Pander pointed out to me earlier today, it is amusing that Gov. Blagojevich actually engaged in some of the behavior that the far left loones have accused the Bush Administration of engaging in - censoring the free press. The Governor refused to provide the Tribune Company with state economic assistance unless it terminated members of its editorial board, including John McCormick, because it was critical of him and had called for his impeachment. Here we have actions that really do violate the First Amendment. Now that we know what government censorship really looks like, maybe we can stop making false accusations against those that we simply disagree with.

A Christmas Gift to the People of Illinois

During the Christmas season, there is nothing like a gift that keeps on giving. This year, that gift is Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. I encourage you to read the complaint. It is long (78 pages), but worth the read. I know for a fact that the prosecutors are very proud of it, as they should be. One of them personally encouraged me to read it.

It is hard to believe that a man who knew that he was under criminal investigation would continue to engage in criminal schemes, especially as high profile as filling a US Senate seat vacated by the President-Elect. I believe that this behavior is sociopathic. I just hope it doesn't set up an insanity defense!
UPDATE: ABC News is reporting that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is Senate Candidate No. 5.

More on Gov. Blagojevich

From WLS-TV's reporting on the unsealed affidavit involving Gov. Blagojevich (italics in orignal, bold is my emphasis):

Later on November 3, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with Advisor A.

By this time, media reports indicated that Senate Candidate 1, an advisor to the President-elect, was interested in the Senate seat if it became vacant, and was likely to be supported by the President-elect. During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated, "unless I get something real good for [Senate Candidate 1], shit, I'll just send myself, you know what I'm saying." ROD BLAGOJEVICH later stated, "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself." Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the Senate seat "is a f-ing valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."

This story is just begging for a media circus and I can think of four easy, simple questions to ask:
  1. Who is Senate Candidate 1?
  2. How close is he/she to President-elect Obama?
  3. What is Senate Candidate 1's role in the quid pro quo explicitly demanded by the accused?
  4. What, if anything, did President-elect Obama know and when did he know it?
If there can be a media circus over Republic Windows & Doors then certainly there ought to be one when an advisor to the President-elect and potential Senate replacement is, intentionally or not, sucked into a corruption case. If there isn't, I'll be unsurprised but disappointed.

Morning in America (or at least Illinois)

Just yesterday Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was nicknamed "This Orange Jumpsuit Is A Little Baggy" on this blog. If we had such clairvoyance into the stock market, we could quit our day jobs. In less than a week, O.J. and Gov. Rod have gone down in a hard, publicly embarrassing way.

It is morning in America once more.


More on Gas Taxes

In a job interview a few years ago, when asked my dream job, I said: editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal. Get paid to blather my opinions once a day in a consequence free manner? Where do I sign up?

Little did I know the Washington Post would be a better choice. Take a look at this editorial about raising gas taxes. Here's my post on the topic from last month. The Post, more artfully than me (and really, that's why they're paid to do it and I'm not) made the point that nothing will address emissions, national security and energy supply problems as quickly, directly and effectively as higher gas taxes.

Here's a grand, post-partisan bargain: raise gas taxes and index them, and capital gains taxes, to inflation. A more investment friendly tax policy you're unlikely to find under any administration.

Politicians, Reporters and Unions...Oh My!

Last week Chicago manufacturer Republic Windows & Doors closed down for good, citing the withdrawal of a credit line by its main lender, Bank of America, as the death blow to a business brutalized by the housing depression. Ordinarily in a crappy economy, it's entirely unremarkable that a manufacturer of a commodity product would lose its credit lifeline and suffer a sudden irreversible shock and close. But these aren't ordinary times and this isn't an ordinary story:
  1. The lender is Bank of America, a recipient of TARP funds.
  2. Republic's workforce is unionized.
  3. Republic is located in Chicago which is, for now, one of America's media capitals.
Terminated employees are staging a sit-in to force Republic to make good on severance and vacation pay. Congressman Luis Guiterrez and (entering stage left) Rev. Jesse Jackson are "supporting" the workers, trying to get BofA to free up credit for Republic, arguing that lending in this scenario is precisely what TARP was created to foster. Employee unions are claiming that Republic violated its obligation to give 60 day warning of plant closure and alleging that equipment was hustled off the premises in advance, presumably to start up the company elsewhere. Good summary of the players and plot lines here. Governor Rod "This Orange Jumpsuit Is A Little Baggy" Blagojevich has also inserted himself, turning off all state business with BofA until it frees up credit for Republic.

If severance and vacation pay for employees were promised then it's the union's fault for not negotiating escrowed funding. But if Republic is a bad credit risk (I have no clue if it is, but the lender is entitled to decide for itself) BofA should not be forced to extend credit. Thus the peril of TARP, and political investing generally. Extending credit to Republic because politicians can embarrass the lender is bad business but good politics. But as an Illinois voter and taxpayer I'm opposed to forcibly extending credit to the uncreditworthy. This is a classic David vs. Goliath story over which political grievance mongers salivate. BofA's obligation is to lend to the creditworthy, and if Republic isn't creditworthy then lending to them crowds out loans to those who are. When a creditworthy company goes under because Republic got its loan, what will Guiterrez, Blagojevich, Jackson, et al be saying then? I love this from my Gov.:
If the taxpayers who do all the work in our country have already been asked to bail out these big banks, then we expect those big banks to bail out businesses like this ... to keep these workers working.
First, depending on the income level of these workers, there's a good chance they don't pay income taxes, so they didn't bail out the banks that aren't bailing them out. Second, if Republic is a dying or dead business a lender should not be expected to keep them alive. Who's looking out for BofA's shareholders or the taxpayers if BofA is knowingly making bad loans? Should politicians be deciding credit models? Would they even know how? Would G/B/J even care if this didn't fit into the dream narrative: good hearted workers screwed by the Man right before Christmas? When we insist on bailing out dead businesses because it's politically useful, it will never end. Where have I heard that before?


The Real Victims

Mark Steyn is the country's premier columnist regarding the war on terror and Islamic extremism. In his December 5 column, he eloquently explains one of the major impediments to our victory in the War on Terror - the portrayal by the main stream media and the liberal elites of Muslims as victims, or potential victims, of the war. In fact, it is Jews, Hindus and Christians (or any infidel, really) who are the victims of the war. Since the beginning of the War on Terror (September 11, 2001), I have no recollection of any Jew or Christian causing mass death among a Muslim civilian population.

As Steyn points out, is it really a coincidence that the only Rabbi in all of Bombay was captured, tortured and murdered by Islamic terrorists? I doubt it.

The so called "Muslim World" is filled with rage over Danish cartoons and false stories about Korans in a toilet. There are protests in the streets about these things. But yet, there is no outrage in the Muslim World over the killing of hundreds of people in the buildings of Bombay, the murder of commuters going to work on the subways of London and Madrid or the murder of thousands of US citizens who had the misfortune of working in the World Trade Center.

I do not remember a single protest in Saudi ruled Arabia over 9/11. However, I do remember people taking to the streets in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in celebration of the attacks of 9/11. Hardly the actions of moderates.

Time and again, "moderate" Muslims stand by and do nothing when atrocities are committed in the name of their god. As such, they are complicit in these acts. It is far past the time for those in the Saudi funded madrasahs in this country and across the world, if they are truly moderates, to stand up to the terrorists and tell them no more. No more will this behavior be tolerated. They must cooperate with the authorities to put a stop to attacks on innocent people across the globe. Until they do and the terrorist acts cease, the real victims of the war will be all of us.


Who Will He Choose?

As you know, Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, must choose someone to replace President-elect Obama in the Senate. All of those mentioned are far left machine Democrats. The list of possibilities includes Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.; Illinois Director of Veterans' Affairs, Tammy Duckworth; Illinois Senate President, Emil Jones; Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan; and Rep. Jan Schakowksy. Rasmussen has a new poll out today showing that Illinois Democrats favor Triple J.

Schakowksy, whose husband recently finished his sentence in federal prison, has been actively lobbing for the job. She is by far the most liberal and partisan of the lot. And, that's saying something in a list that includes Jesse Jackson, Jr.

The politically smart move for Blagojevich is to appoint Lisa Madigan. She is widely perceived to have the best chance of beating Blagojevich in the Democratic primary if he decides to seek reelection (which is hard to believe that he is even thinking about it because of his 13% approval rating). If he appoints her to the Senate, he gets her out of Dodge and she won't be challenging him for the governor's office.

Republicans in Illinois (the few that are left) are hoping the Jesse Jackson, Jr. is appointed because they feel that he can be defeated in the 2010 election. It is likely that the Republicans will nominate Rep. Mark Kirk for that Senate seat. Rep. Kirk is every Democrat's favorite Republican member of the House of Representatives. He will draw a lot of votes from independents and Democrats who believe that Jackson is too polarizing and too liberal.

Blagojevich is faced with an interesting choice. If he makes the wrong choice, he potentially can lose his job or lose a safe Senate seat for the Democrats. Soon, it will all be revealed.

UPDATE: Gov. Rod Blagojevich is currently in the custody of the FBI. He was arrested by the FBI this morning (December 9, 2008). The charges including attempting to sell the US Senate seat that was vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.


The Dream May be Dead

If President Bush takes the advise of Sen. Dick Durbin and commutes the 6.5 year prison sentence of Gov. Saferoads (that's former Illinois governor George Ryan), my dream will be dead. And what exactly is that dream - it's the dream of Gov. Ryan and Gov. Rod Blagojevich being prison roommates in a federal penitentiary. Both Ryan and Blagojevich have betrayed the public trust and deserve to be put away for a long, long time. Sen. Durbin's request for a commutation is business as usual in Illinois politics - the politically powerful watching out for one another. Sen. Durbin should be ashamed of himself. However, I'm sure it's just the opposite. He's probably very proud of his actions, figuring if he ever gets jammed up, someone will have his back.
UPDATE: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) says that the President should not commute the prison sentence of Gov. Ryan.
UPDATE: Gov. Rod Blagojevich is currently in the custody of the FBI. He was arrested by the FBI this morning (December 9, 2008). The charges including attempting to sell the US Senate seat that was vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Economics for Editorial Writers

I promise, really, to be done talking about the auto companies, at least after this. Actually, this is less about the auto companies than it is a critique of one economic view informing a pro-, or near pro-bailout position. Read this essay by E.J. Dionne. Here's the money quote:
If this bailout happens, it should reflect the core reason it will pass: Long-term economic growth depends upon a well-paid middle class (and that definitely includes autoworkers) with real purchasing power. If saving our auto industry means moving GM workers ever closer to Wal-Mart wages, the bailout isn't worth doing.
Naturally, Dionne gets in a cheap shot at Wal-Mart, the left's favorite corporate punching bag. Wal-Mart, of course, is profitable and growing while GM isn't and isn't. GM has juicy labor contracts and self-satisfied management and Wal-Mart doesn't and doesn't. GM is knocking on D.C.'s door seeking supplication and Wal-Mart, of course, isn't. In Dionne's down-is-up world, GM is noble and Wal-Mart isn't. However, Wal-Mart has the audacity to do more than hope for profit, it actually earns one. Silly thing, this profit. It's only funds healthier, freer and better lives for billions around the planet, but mocking it is more fun.

I'd argue that long term economic growth depends on innovation and productivity, not the wages of this or that demographic. Wage growth, as an end, is a good thing. But the means matter. If wages grow because businesses innovate or increase productivity, wage growth is sustainable. If wages grow because policy makers demand it, well, that's not. Forcing up wages through labor supply restrictions (unionization) and protections (tariffs and subsidies) eventually undermines the companies delivering those wages by stripping them, or their employees, of the incentive to innovate. If wage growth is connected to productivity unionization doesn't create a cost problem. If managers aren't rewarding labor's productivity, then they're stupid managers. But, as in the Big 2.5, the policy maker and subsidized wage earner may be dead long after the problem surfaces, so really what do they care?

Smart organizations align expectations, incentives and rewards so stakeholders (i.e. management, labor, customers, owners) are properly rewarded relative to their alternatives. If only my compensation reflected what I think I'm worth, or my retirement account appreciated according to my needs my financial life would be easier than it is. It would be nice if everyone got paid more but either a business' cost structure fits into the price a market will bear or it goes under. What Dionne's view doesn't recognize (whether urging higher wages for auto workers or criticizing Wal-Mart's wages) is ultimately managers don't set wages, customers do.

Because capital is more mobile than labor capital goes wherever it's loved. Capital has no objection to well paid employees only as long as compensation doesn't make an alternative more attractive. That's a very delicate balance and investment alternatives often gain or lose favor for reasons unrelated to wages. But Dionne's view would be more viable if he proposed tethering wage gains to productivity and profitability (not one for one, though; owners have to get paid too). Smart organizations do that, dumb ones don't and there's no way to make everyone smart through legislation. That's tough medicine for someone who works for a dumb company and doesn't have a good alternative, but it's reality. But if those workers unionize in order to secure wage growth dislodged from productivity, then a lower cost provider will eventually prevail.

Saying wage earners should earn more because they just should is just as empty as saying CEO pay should be lower because, well, it just should. Executive pay is a problem when it's based on a "heads I win, tails you lose" position because it encourages, probably demands, poor risk management. Objecting to a particular absolute amount because it's too high in the eyes of the objector is meaningless (same thing with criticism of UAW pay). It's only too high if it constrains profit to the point capital goes elsewhere. Just like with labor, if someone can expect better wages tomorrow irrespective of how she performs today, don't be surprised when the results are bad.

A Reminder from Mumbai

In case anyone has forgotten about the risk posed by Islamic terrorists, the Mumbai attacks should stand as a fierce reminder of that threat. The current death toll stands at 174, including 10 Americans. It is obvious that Mumbai targets were chosen primarily because they cater to Westerners (meaning mostly Americans and Englishman).

Why would a city like Mumbai be chosen when an American or Western European city would be a much bigger prize? The answer is obvious. Mumbai was a soft target. If Al-Qaeda, or its franchises, could hit the US or Western Europe, it would. The Bush Administration’s efforts in the War on Terror, as well as Tony Blair’s government in the United Kingdom, have made our homeland a difficult target for the Islamic terrorists. It is hard to believe that a country like India that has had an Islamic insurgency for much longer than we have been on guard for an Islamic terrorist attack could be a soft target. India is a successful democracy and a reliable ally in the War on Terror. However, the Indian people must hold their government accountable for its security failure. The Indian Home Security has already been forced to resign.

The acts of the past week in Mumbai should remind all of us that the Islamists declared war on Western civilization long before we were engaged in the War on Terror. Their goal of killing the infidels and restoring the caliphate should not be seen as the rants of a few crackpots. The threat must be taken seriously. Remember, it was Osama Bin-Laden who said, “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.”

In this simple statement, Bin-Laden has given us the strategy for winning the War on Terror. The United States must be the strong horse. We must not show weakness in dealing with the Islamists. These are people who do not value life and are literally lining up to die for their cause. In the face of this, we must take all actions necessary to stop them. They must fear us and the actions that we will take in response to their acts of terrorism.

Unfortunately, the War on Terror will be a long fight. As Mumbai shows us, there will be many fronts. We must be willing to engage them anywhere in the world. As it happened in Iraq, it is far better to engage them abroad than here at home.

I am optimistic that, eventually, American resolve will prevail and the Islamists ideology will be thrown on the ash bin of history, along with fascism and communism. I do not believe that such resolve has yet taken hold. Our memories are short and as each day past September 11, 2001 passes without another terrorist attack in the United States, we seem to grow softer in our desire to win this war. However, there will be a catalyst that will finally cause American resolve in this matter to take hold. What it will be, I do not know. I recently spoke to a retired general officer in our military and he believed that the catalyst will be the detonation of a nuclear devise in a Western or Israeli city. I hope that is not the case, but it may very well be. However, once it happens, whatever it is, the sleeping giant will finally be awake. Maybe Mumbai is that catalyst.