Monthly archives: December, 2008

Christian the Lion – the full story

Wonderful. Enjoy.

Obama’s Radio Address – December 13, 2008

Remarks of President-elect Barack Obama
Radio Address on the Economy
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good morning.

Earlier this week, we learned that the number of Americans filing
their first claim for unemployment insurance rose to a nearly 30-year
high. This news reflects the pain that’s been rippling across our
entire economy. Jobs are being cut. Wages are being slashed. Credit is
tight and people can’t get loans. In cities and towns all across this
country, families enter a holiday season with unease and uncertainty.

To end this economic crisis, we must end the mortgage crisis where
it began. This all started when Americans took out mortgages they
couldn’t afford. Some were reckless, aware of the risks they were
accepting, but many were innocent, tricked by lenders out to make a
quick buck. With banks creating securities they could not value, and
regulators looking the other way, the problem began infecting the whole
economy, leading to the crisis we’re now facing.

One in ten families who owns a home is now in some form of distress,
the most ever recorded. This is deeply troubling. It not only shakes
the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American
Dream. There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call
your own. It’s not just a place to live or raise your children or
return after a hard day’s work — it’s the cornerstone of a family’s
financial security.

To stem the rising tide of foreclosures and strengthen our economy,
I’ve asked my economic team to develop a bold plan that will
dramatically increase the number of families who can stay in their
homes. But this plan will only work with a comprehensive, coordinated
federal effort to make it a reality. We need every part of our
government working together — from the Treasury Department to the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the agency that protects the
money you’ve put in the bank. And few will be more essential to this
effort than the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From providing shelter to those displaced by Katrina to giving help
to those facing the loss of a home to revitalizing our cities and
communities, HUD’s role has never been more important. Since its
founding, HUD has been dedicated to tearing down barriers in access to
affordable housing — in an effort to make America more equal and more
just. Too often, these efforts have had mixed results.

That is why we cannot keep doing things the old Washington way. We
cannot keep throwing money at the problem, hoping for a different
result. We need to approach the old challenge of affordable housing
with new energy, new ideas, and a new, efficient style of leadership.
We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just
won’t do. That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional
growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the
opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs, and metropolitan areas.
No one knows this better than the outstanding public servant I am
announcing today as our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
— Shaun Donovan.

As Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York
City, Shaun has led the effort to create the largest housing plan in
the nation, helping hundreds of thousands of our citizens buy or rent
their homes. Prior to joining Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, Shaun
worked both in business, where he was responsible for affordable
housing investments, and at one of our nation’s top universities, where
he researched and wrote about housing issues. This appointment
represents something of a homecoming for Shaun, who worked at HUD in
the Clinton administration, leading an effort to help make housing
affordable for nearly two million Americans. Trained as an architect,
Shaun understands housing down to how homes are designed, built, and

With experience that stretches from the public sector to the private
sector to academia, Shaun will bring to this important post fresh
thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas. He
understands that we need to move past the stale arguments that say
low-income Americans shouldn’t even try to own a home or that our
mortgage crisis is due solely to a few greedy lenders. He knows that we
can put the dream of owning a home within reach for more families, so
long as we’re making loans in the right way, and so long as those who
buy a home are prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership.

In the end, expanding access to affordable housing isn’t just about
caring for the least fortunate among us and strengthening our middle
class — it’s about ending our housing mess, climbing out of our
financial crisis, and putting our economy on the path to long-term
growth and prosperity. And that is what Shaun and I will work to do
together when I am President of the United States.

Thank you.

Blago’s Chief of Staff John Harris Resigns

From the Sun-Times:

John Harris, chief of staff to Gov. Blagojevich who was charged along with him in a federal criminal complaint, resigned this morning, the governor’s office said.

No more news at this point.  The announcement follows action by Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan’s call on the Illinois Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unable to serve.

Governor, your turn, sir.

Lisa Madigan Seeks to Oust Blago

The state of Illinois has been plunged into a constitutional crisis this week with the stinging indictment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  Today, State Attorney General Lisa Madigan took it all up a notch:

Attorney General Lisa Madigan today opened an unprecedented legal attack against a sitting Illinois governor, taking the formal steps to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to declare Gov. Blagojevich unfit to hold office.

Madigan filed paperwork with the state high court this morning, invoking what is known as Rule 382 that would ask justices to rule on “the ability of the governor to serve.”

Madigan is seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, urging the state high court to oust Gov. Blagojevich “due to disability.”

The Sun-Times calls this an “untested legal front.”  You better believe it.  This move is without precedent in the state of Illinois.  If Blagojevich continues to insist on his innocence and remains in office, we are left with government essentially at a standstill.

Again from the Sun-Times:

Only 15 states, including Illinois, grant their state’s highest courts authority to remove a governor from office. The last time one of those states invoked that special power was in Indiana in 2003, when former Gov. Frank O’Bannon was removed from office after having suffered a stroke.

This will be much more difficult.  The man is innocent until proven guilty.  Madigan made a point of saying in her press conference on this matter that she was in no way making a statement about the guilt or innocence of the governor in these alleged crimes.  Her concern is that state government can no longer function.

Twice in one week, I’m completely blown away.

Blago Calls Obama a “Mother F***er”

Obama had no interest in “pay to play” politics with Blagojevich, according to the DoJ indictment:

ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “motherfucker [the President-elect] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will put “[Senate Candidate 4]” in the Senate “before I just give fucking [Senate Candidate 1] a fucking Senate seat and I don’t get anything.” (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he needs to find a way to take the “financial stress” off of his family and that his wife is as qualified or more qualified than another specifically named individual to sit on corporate boards. According to ROD BLAGOJEVICH, “the immediate challenge [is] how do we take some of the financial pressure off of our family.” Later in the phone call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that absent getting something back, ROD BLAGOJEVICH will not pick Senate Candidate 1.

HARRIS re-stated ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s thoughts that they should ask the President-elect for something for ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s financial security as well as maintain his political viability. HARRIS said they could work out a three-way deal with SEIU and the Presidentelect where SEIU could help the President-elect with ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s appointment of Senate Candidate 1 to the vacant Senate seat, ROD BLAGOJEVICH would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign, and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future.

DOJ Asked Trib to Hold Story on Blago Probe

The Chicago Tribune held off on publishing a story relating to the Bloagojevich probe.  The paper granted the request of Patrick Fitzgerald.

From Fitzgerald’s press conference this morning:

About eight weeks ago, before we had the bug installed, and before we had the wiretap up, we were contacted by the Tribune to comment or confirm or deny on a story that they were going to run. Had they ran that story, we thought we’d never have the opportunity to install the bug or place the telephone tap. And we made an urgent request for the Tribune not to publish that story. That is a very rare thing for us to do, and it’s an even rarer thing for a newspaper to grant. We thought that the public interest request that the story not run. It was a very difficult conversation to have because we weren’t allowed to describe what we were doing. And I have to take my hat off that the Tribune withheld that story for a substantial period of time, which otherwise might have compromised the investigation from ever happening.

Gov Rod Blagojevich Arrested by Feds

The Chicago Tribune has the news:

A source said today that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning. The U.S. attorney’s office would not confirm the information.

A Blagojevich spokesman said he was unaware of the development. “Haven’t heard anything — you are first to call,” Lucio Guerrero said in an e-mail.

The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor’s North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics.

When Blago was re-elected a few years back, a friend of mine in the legal profession commented, “Now we’ll know what it’s like to have a sitting governor indicted.”

And, strangely, I’m shocked when it finally happens.

Good job, Feds.

Chicago Heights to Give Tickets for Pot

It’s not often that I have something nice to say about government in neighboring Chicago Heights.  Too much patronage for my tastes.

But this is good news:

In Chicago Heights, getting caught with an “onion” of pot can get you a ticket. Yes, like a parking ticket.

The far south suburb this week became the latest to adopt an ordinance giving options to cops who find a roach in an ashtray.

In most cases—when the cop doesn’t tell you to just throw the stuff in the sewer—officers spend hours on arrests. There’s fingerprinting and paperwork, and then the officer has to go to court when you visit the judge.

A judge will typically make first-timers go to drug school, and eventually the case is dropped. It’s a lot of work for a few dried-up leaves.

But under the ordinance, 30 grams or less of pot (an onion is about 28 grams, or one ounce, enough for several joints) will yield a ticket and a $250 to $750 fine that won’t show up in a criminal record.

The best news of all, the city gets to keep the cash.

This is a huge step in the right direction.  Cheers for Chicago Heights.  I’ve heard too many police officers complain about all the ridiculous arrests they have to make for small drug possessions.  Worse yet, we create real criminals by introducing so many to the prison system.

Drugs are first and foremost a medical issue, not a legal issue.  We need to remember that, and treat them as such.

Cincinnati Zoo Cancels Deal with Creation Museum

Chalk one up for science!

From OneNewsNow:

The Cincinnati Zoo has canceled a joint ticket promotion with the nearby Creation Museum in Kentucky, which presents the Bible’s version of natural history.

Some scientists and bloggers had complained that the zoo should not work with a religious museum that rejects the theory of evolution. The promotion, granting 2-for-1 admission to the zoo’s holiday light show and the Creation Museum’s live nativity performance, was on the zoo’s website Sunday, but was gone by Monday afternoon.

Creation Museum president Ken Ham said, “We certainly understand why they’ve had to do this, but again it comes down to intolerant people who are intolerant of the Christian position in this nation — and unfortunately we see that sort of intolerance growing.”

Sorry, Ken.  This is not an intolerant response.  Rather, this is an appropriate response on the part of the zoo to a blatantly anti-scientific position.

How anthropocentric of some in the human race to have ever beleived that the entire universe only came into existence when our species first became aware.

Two Chicago Teens Shot in the Head

It’s a sad sign of the times when the Chicago Sun-Times has taken to writing one “two-fer” article to report on couple of recent shooting deaths in Chicago.

Today’s paper carries one story about two unrelated homicides from Wednesday, December 3.  According to police, Sergio Dukes, 18, was shot in the head twice and once in the chest in the 9600 block of South Indiana Avenue, after leaving a high school basketball game at Harlan High School.  Christopher Hanford, 19, was shot in the face in the 900 block of North Lawler Avenue, according to police.

Detectives are investigating both incidents, and no one is yet in custody.

Two lives lost, one article with barely any details about the men who died. Two unrelated lives lost in two unrelated instances, and one article article to show.

My criticism is not with the Sun-Times.  I know revenues have been down, there are fewer reporters, and there are oh-so-many homicides in Chicago.

Rather, I’m calling our attention to who we are once again, who we have become.  We hear no outrage from Chicago’s City Council or Mayor Daley on these deaths.  These men were not shot at the city’s lucrative Taste of Chicago.  The pols are not posturing as they did this summer.  No one is calling Jodi Weis in to testify this time.

Two men shot dead and nary a whimper.

We need to ask the big questions about who we have become as a society.

One group not afraid to ask the big questions is CeaseFire Chicago.  I heard CeaseFire make a presentation once at a workshop at Prairie State College.  They involve themselves with gang members for the express purpose of lessening gang violence.

From their Web site:

The Chicago Project has designed and tested a new intervention — CeaseFire — that approaches violence in a fundamentally different way than other violence reduction efforts. CeaseFire works with community-based organizations and focuses on street-level outreach, conflict mediation, and the changing of community norms to reduce violence, particularly shootings.

CeaseFire relies on highly trained outreach workers and violence interrupters, faith leaders, and other community leaders to intervene in conflicts, or potential conflicts, and promote alternatives to violence. CeaseFire also involves cooperation with police and it depends heavily on a strong public education campaign to instill in people the message that shootings and violence are not acceptable. Finally, it calls for the strengthening of communities so they have the capacity to exercise informal social control and to mobilize forces — from businesses to faith leaders, residents and others — so they all work in concert to reverse the epidemic of violence that has been with us for too long.

The group has had funding issues in the past, but received $400,000 in grants this past summer, thanks to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis:

The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded two grants to CeaseFire to continue its violence intervention work in Chicago’s West Garfield Park and West Humboldt Park neighborhoods.

The grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice total $400,000 and will allow CeaseFire, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, to keep workers on the street to intervene and mediate conflicts and to stop shootings and killings.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Chicago) expressed strong support for CeaseFire as an integral part of a comprehensive strategy to stop violence, especially shootings, in Chicago and elsewhere.

“In recent months, the Chicago area has seen an alarming increase in gang-related shootings and violence. Half of all homicides in Chicago have been linked to gangs,” Durbin said.

“We must continue to fight gang violence through a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes gang enforcement, prevention and intervention measures. Today’s grant for the CeaseFire program will help strengthen the overall effort to reduce gang violence in the region,” Durbin said.

“CeaseFire is an evidence-based program that really works, and we’re very pleased to see that the Justice Department is responding by providing some resources to work with it,” said Davis.

A recent three-year evaluation of CeaseFire, commissioned by the Department of Justice, validated the CeaseFire model as an intervention that reduces shooting and killings and makes communities safer. The report, led by Wesley Skogan of Northwestern University, found the program to be “effective,” with “significant” and “moderate-to-large impact,” and with effects that are “immediate.”

In one of the many missteps of his administration, Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut the state’s entire $6.2 million allocation for CeaseFire in August 2007.  In the aftermath of these cuts, 96 of the program’s 130 conflict mediators lost their jobs, and gang violence escalated yet again in Chicago.

Thanks to Durbin and Davis, CeaseFire has some solvency again.

But it’s not enough.

Mayor Daley and the rest of us need to whine about the killings again.  The State of Illinois needs to fund CeaseFire again.

We can’t afford any more “two-fer” homicide articles in the Sun-Times.