Another IL ex-governor heads to prison

The retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ended today, with the jury returning guilty verdicts on 17 of the 20 counts, including finding him guilty of trying to peddle former Senator Barck Obama’s senate seat.

He was found not guilty on one other change, and the jury was deadlocked on the remaining two of 20 charges.

Coupled with the guilty charge (lying to the FBI) from Blagojevich’s previous – almost completely hung – trial last year, the former governor could be looking at six to eight years in prison. Obviously, he can still appeal. I don’t know if that’s viable, however. He has a number of charges he can probably serve concurrently; even if he gets a couple of those tossed, he’ll still have to serve the time for the others. So I really don’t know what his options are.

Blagojevich follows another former Illinois governor – George Ryan – who is still in prison.

And you thought Wisconsin politics were crazy.

Blagojevich is the son of a Serbian immigrant who was a POW held by the Germans in World War II; he came to America and worked in the steel mills.

His son – Rod Blagojevich – was born in Chicago and rose to be governor of arguably one of the the most powerful states in the country.

Now he’s a just another felon.

Weird week

This week in weather brought either “micro-bursts” or tornadoes to my burg (Mount Prospect, IL). (See photos, many just blocks from central).

Without power for almost a day; without internet access for about 2 days (and then both went up and down periodically; expected but frustrating).

Wow. The lack of electricity was compelling: Now what do we do? Can’t watch TV, DVD, listen to the radio, mess with the computer (offline or not), and – at night – not even see stuff.


Yet when the power came back on – but not the internet – it was particularly painful.

I’m jonsing for some slanted internet news; I want to post stuff.

I’d dead in the water.

For me, off the grid is not an option. Interesting.

For the record, one upside of the power outage was that – since there wasn’t anything powered to do – I got about halfway through a book I’ve been wanting to read for years (Daniel Boorstein’s The Seekers; I’ll review once I finish it). Reading is always a good thing.

Top Nonfiction

Via cat blogger (Kevin Drum at Mother Jones), another damn list!

This time, top nonfiction books.

I guess The Guardian (UK) recently compiled a list of the 100 greatest nonfiction books, and so the NY Times did a similar, more casual listing – they asked employees to submit list of five favorite nonfiction books (results here).

As Drum notes, some interesting results from the NYT list:

  • There was a four-way tie for first place (not ranked; just how many times mentioned). There were 33 lists submitted and the top overlap were books on only three lists. That’s all over the place. With movies, half of the lists would have had “Gone With the Wind,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather” and/or “Star Wars” before wandering off somewhere.
  • Virtually all the books listed were written after 1900. Really? Virtually nothing good before that?

I guess part of the problem is what is a “best” or greatest” book. I have my own list of Top Ten [everythings], including a list of Top Ten Nonfiction.

Yet I realize that many of the books I listed were my favorites, not necessarily the greatest nonfiction ever. I loved both The Song of the Dodo and The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but I realize that, a hundred years from now, few will be reading the former (a shame!), yet the latter will still be relevant. It’s the best book that I’ve read about the subject – and that subject will never get old.

Shouldn’t the Bible – whether you’re a believer or not – at least be on just about all lists? Then how about the Koran and so on?

And shouldn’t Origin of the Species and Das Kapital at least be on the list? What about Walden? The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire? Alexis de Tocqueville’s brilliant – and unbelievably prescient – Democracy in America? Plato’s Republic? These are not necessarily easy books, but – once read – they stick with you for life. None are on the NYT list.

Friday Night Lights, is, however. Go figger.

Ah, lists. They never fail to inspire ire and spark conversation. Good!

Politics as usual … and not

Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant
Paul Clemens

This story – about the closing/taking apart of a large Detroit stamping press had such potential.

It could have looked – more deeply – at the people affected; it could have been a metaphor for the demise of industrial America; it could have woven the tale of, to some extent, the decline/end of unions and middle class existence.

Instead, is was just the story of the tearing apart of presses, told in a very non-linear fashion, all the while layers on top of a somewhat chronological progression.

Some good insights, but, dude, get an editor!

To be fair, this book would probably have meant more if I was from the Detroit area or was from a manufacturing background.

Still, I read the intro a couple of months ago and was intrigued: Very disappointing.

All books

This past Monday – June 13th – saw the first real Republican Presidential debate (it finally had most of the expected candidates). And it was, sadly, politics as usual:

  • Michele Bachmann wants to eliminate the EPA, and she thinks that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape, incest or if a mother’s life is in danger. ‘Cause, you know, “every sperm is sacred.” [quotation from Monty Python, not Bachmann]
  • Mitt Romney finds it immoral to direct disaster-relief funds to, well, disaster areas without finding offsets to pay for this relief (because otherwise our kids will be paying for our christian character wasteful spending).
  • Unlike Bachmann, Herman Cain (CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) has some use for federal government: He wants the FDA to inspect food. But at some other point he clarified his remarks on not having Muslim cabinet members: He said he said that because he was just thinking of those Muslims that want to kill us. Yeah Herman, and other folk’s irrational fear of blacks is just because they are thinking about the blacks that want to stick it to The Man. I’m sure you understand, Herman.
  • Ron Paul basically wants the federal government to do just about nothing – to be fair to Paul, he seems the most consistent and non-pandering of the Republican bunch. He’s also seems more well-informed on matters on which he speaks.
  • Newt Gingrich seems to think loyalty oaths are both meaningless and can uncover some bad guys. Let’s bring back HUAC!

OK, first debate, but, still: This entire pack has moved pretty far right. McCain touted cap-and-trade in 2008. Hell, he wouldn’t get past South Carolina today with that kind of attitude.

On the not-so-much politics as usual side of the coin, there was the small business of New York State’s Senate trying to pass a bill to make same-sex marriage legal.

To pass in the state senate (the measure is apparently more likely to pass in the state house’s other chamber, the Assembly), it needed some Republican votes. And, traditionally, same-sex marriage has been anathema for Republicans.

But then Republican New York State Senator Roy McDonald stepped up and spoke his mind:

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing,” McDonald, 64, told reporters.

“You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.

“I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”

Read more: New York Daily News

Just awesome.

Cloud showdown…

I’ve read snippets of what the iOS5 announcement means.

Basically, everything in the cloud (one disappointment to me: no streaming music. Huh.).

Google’s trying the same thing.

But Apple is relying on its apps on its own hardware; Google is betting on “all apps in the browser” approach.

You can argue both sides – Apple’s approach is betting on native apps; Google hopes the browser (on any platform) and Google Docs etc will render the traditional desktop obsolete.

Interesting arguments.

Notice how Microsoft is positioned in these arguments?

Not a factor (in the enterprise, yep; Mom and Pop, no).


Update 6/8: Cringely agrees with me about Microsoft’s continuing descent into irrelevance: iCloud’s real purpose: kill Windows

Update 6/9: The more I think about this – Apple’s whole product roll out and how it boxes in both Google and Microsoft (in different ways) – the more I think this is a huge freakin’ deal. As big as the iPhone, which changed that entire market (smartphones). A game changer.

Some curious politics going on lately…

Messenger, The
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Ben Foster

I’m not even certain what this movie was meant to mean, but it moved me.

The movie was – at base – about the individuals (Harrelson/Foster) who notify the next of kin (NIK) about the death of their soldier son/husband/etc.

I don’t know; I’d rather be in Iraq being shot at than having to – day after day – deliver this news to the relatives of those who were shot at and not missed. And – of course – the relatives of soldiers who open the door and see the two officers…these relatives already know what the news is (but emotionally refuse to process same; completely understandable).

And the movie showed the cost on the messengers – this should require battle pay. Hard to watch at parts, and is was FICTION.

This is not the movie I expected; it still stuck with me. Harrelson, especially, is brilliant here.

It’s not an anti-war movie, but it does bring down to the human, day-to-day level, the cost of war. Powerful; complex.

All movies

Small roundup of some recent political news I found interesting.

Anthony Weiner’s self-immolation

After accusations of crotch-shot posting on Twitter, Weiner said he’d been hacked. Then that he wasn’t completely sure it was/wasn’t a picture of himself.

With the news that more pictures/details were about to emerge, Weiner held a painful press conference in which he said, basically:

  • All the current accusations are true; the picture uploaded was him and he uploaded it.
  • He lied about being hacked; he lied to everyone but is now going for full disclosure
  • This wasn’t an isolated incident, he admits he has corresponded “inappropriately” via social networks a handful of times over the last three years, including after he was married.
  • He apologized to just about everyone in the world, his wife especially.

He fell on his sword, and I give him props for that. He says he accepts all the blame; it was not a “drunken” or isolated incident; the females he corresponded with are free to say what they want, and he will not comment and so forth.

For someone who has just ‘fessed up to some really dumb (and potentially career-ending) behavior, he showed remarkable class. Took full responsibility, and had nothing negative to say about anyone but himself.

I liked Steve Benen’s take-away on Weiner’s press conference:

On the Political Sex Scandal Richter Scale, I’m still not altogether sure why this even registers at all. Given what we know, Weiner shared adult content with women he met online. They were adults and the interactions were consensual. He didn’t commit adultery (Ensign), he didn’t hire prostitutes (Vitter, Spitzer), he didn’t solicit anyone in an airport bathroom (Craig), he didn’t pretend to be someone else in order to try to pick up women (Lee), he didn’t abandon his office for a rendezvous with his lover (Sanford), he didn’t leave his first two wives after they got sick (Gingrich), he didn’t have a child with his housekeeper (Schwarzenegger), there’s no sex tape (Edwards), and no interns were involved (Clinton). He’s not even a hypocrite — Weiner has never championed conservative “family values,” condemning others for their “moral failings.

I agree – to a degree (it’s still a “judgment” issue that Weiner repeatedly failed) – with Benen, but I don’t know if the press will agree.

All in all, a remarkable press conference.

Florida Gov. Scott signs law requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests

This issue – which was floated by Utah Senator Hatch last year – is odious, on so many levels. Hey, let’s say you do have a drug problem: Better you die (no welfare = no food)?

And what’s next? Have to prove you haven’t molested any children to get welfare/building permit?

And this is a Republican – you know, loves small government – governor. How is this getting out of peoples’ lives?

Also, Scott’s old company – a health-care firm – could profit from this. That’s a lot of drug tests.

Still, Scott defends this act as providing “personal responsibility.”

Boehner says the revitalization of the American auto industry is “nothing to celebrate.”

President Obama has been touting the recent success of both GM and Chrysler as proof that the automotive bailout was a good choice – good for America, good for jobs and – yes – a good Obama/Democratic talking point.
All three automakers (including Ford, which didn’t ask for funds) are turning a profit for the first time since 2004 and adding job unseen since the Clinton Administration.

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), through a spokesman, doesn’t see it as that big a deal.

“The administration’s auto bailout is nothing to celebrate,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “The model the White House should be touting is Ford, which, instead of relying on a taxpayer-funded bailout, saw trouble coming and made the tough decisions necessary to preserve jobs and weather the storm.”
Washington Monthly

OK, I can see the Speaker of the House – a Republican – not wanting to high-five a Democratic president, especially with elections coming up, but still…

At least say something like, “good, but Democrats have not done enough to create jobs…” or whatever.

And the Ford message is total bullshit – Ford testified in front of Congress to get GM and Chrysler dollars. Yes, Ford wanted to keep its competitors afloat!


Because if GM and Chrysler went under, the entire automotive supply chain would have collapsed, taking Ford – which, yes, had made better choices in the past – down along with GM and Chrysler.

Should GM and Chrysler have made better choices in the past?


But President Obama was dealing with what was in front of him: Allow GM and Chrysler to default and effectively end the US auto industry. Or prop up GM and Chrysler and, well, hope for the best.

The best happened. All three turning profits, adding jobs, opening new plants.

Yeah, nothing to “celebrate”…

Maybe there’s (some) hope for America

Station Agent, The
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale

This is a quirky little movie from 2003 that I always meant to see, but just now yesterday got around to viewing.

This is a very quiet movie, about (mainly) three broken people – Dinklage, a dwarf; Clarkson, who lost a son; and Cannavale, who is destined to spend the rest of his life driving his ill father’s food truck. Somehow, they – and some other miscellaneous oddball characters – bond.

Again – this is a very quiet film, where dialog is used only to help the viewer read between the lines. The dialog and actions seemed very real.

Took me awhile to get to this, but it was worth the wait.

All movies

Shortly after the disastrous tornadoes that just leveled Joplin, MO, and other areas, there was an immediate call for federal dollars to help the displaced, injured, traumatized individuals and companies that had been affected.

You know, like the US always does in response to horrific natural (and un-natural, like the Gulf oil spill) disasters.

This time, there was a twist: Congressional GOP leaders said they wouldn’t pay out any monies without identifying offsets.

In other words, the government won’t help you rebuild your home/life unless we can find something to cut – probably something like NPR funding – to offset the cost of putting you back on your feet.

Call it the new “American Way.”

Now, while I’m against all the crazy deficit talk in DC these days, I agree that this is a new world. We probably need to look at the books and identify some outdated spending we can cut (oil company subsidies, anyone??).

But don’t hold those who lost everything hostage to extend your ideological position. That’s just not cricket…

So, it’s encouraging to see a prominent Republican – Haley Barbour (R-MS) – come out against this new way of doing business. Speaking with reporters at a DC conference, Barbour said:

“I think disaster relief is not predictable,” Barbour said. “Emergencies caused by tornadoes, hurricanes are not predictable. Even if Congress — which as far as I know they never have — set aside a pot of money as some have proposed, and said, ‘Okay, this is money we’re going to use to pay for disaster relief’ — if they were to do that and we had a gigantic disaster that cost much more than that, surely Congress would come back and appropriate the extra money. And if they didn’t have a place to offset it, they should still go in and do it.”

Well, duh.

Now, Barbour is governor of a state – Mississippi – that has had its share of disasters, from hurricanes to oil spills, so he has a vested interest in protecting his state. One of the main Republicans putting this new way of looking at disaster relief forward is Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). Virginia doesn’t get hit with a lot of natural disasters.

But it’s good to see a heavy-hitter like Barbour sticking up for disaster victims the way the US has always responded to natural disasters: By doing what government can do best – sending manpower, machinery and money to the affected areas.

If a tornado had wiped out a Joplin-sized town in Virginia, I wonder if Cantor would still be on board with his new-found fiscal austerity?

Update, June 6, 2011: One Republican candidate for president, Herman Cain, sides with Barbour – and against Cantor:

“It’s one thing to say we’re not going to approve raising the debt limit unless we find a dollar for dollar offset in cuts. [That’s] fine,” Cain said. “But when it comes to, ‘We need to help people get their lives back on track after a natural disaster,’ the statement isn’t ‘if we find the money.’ We will find the money.”