History Is Interesting


Jeffery Toobin reminds us (or in my case, informed me) of the former Governor of Illinois, Otto Kerner Jr., whose corruption came to light when somebody tried to deduct a bride they paid him from their taxes. Cost of doing business and all.

Otto Kerner, Jr., is usually remembered, if he is at all, as the leader of the Kerner Commission, in 1968, which evaluated the riots and other unrest that was then rocking American cities. He was governor of Illinois at the time, and went on to serve as a federal appeals court judge, but his later claim to fame may be of greater historical note. In 1969, he was charged in a corruption case where he and a subordinate received bribes from a racetrack owner in return for an expanded racing schedule. That particular scandal came to light because the owner tried to deduct the value of the bribes on her taxes. Paying bribes to the governor was, in her view, an ordinary business expense in Illinois in the late nineteen-sixties.

I don't know nearly enough history to have any perspective on the prevalence of public corruption now vis-a-vis the rest of American history.

On the one hand, it seems that political machines and party bosses have had their power drasctically curtailed since the days of Tammany Hall with the rise of media and technology (television, tape-recording, phone-taps, blogs). On the other hand, perhaps that's naive and the corruption has just become more sophisticated (Gov. Blagojevich noteably excepted).

Does anyone have any other, possibly more informed, thoughts on the matter?

Smelling Like Roses

This is a pretty fascinating story of corruption, if only for the sheer audacity of Blagojevich. It was common knowledge that he was the subject of a rigorous corruption investigation, his predecessor is currently in prison, and the eyes of the nation were watching what he would do with the Obama senate seat, and what does he do? He goes about trying to sell it to the highest bidder!

Fortunately, Obama is not only not implicated, but he actually comes out of this looking pretty good. It seems Obama's people wanted Valerie Jarret to be appointed to fill Obama's seat, but according to transcripts of taped Blagojevich calls, Obama wasn't willing to offer Balgovich anything in exchange for it.

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.

I love the picture of Blagojevich calling Obama a "motherfucker" for being unwilling to offer Blagojevich a bribe.

Drinking Liberally Tonight

As some of you know, every Tuesday night from 6pm to whenever a bunch of Philly liberals meet to drink and talk politics. Come on down if you're interested, everyone's invited.

DL Center City Philly Chapter for Tuesday, December 9th
6 p.m. - whenever (usually 9)
Triumph Brewing Co.
117 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA
$3 beers, $4 wine, $5 mixed drinks.
Food specials, too.

It's an interesting mix of people, and sometimes politicians and authors stop by. If you're really lucky, you may even spot me!

Seth Williams Announces for District Attorney

On Saturday morning Seth Williams, a former ADA, former Inspector General, and all around good guy, officially announced his candidacy for District Attorney of Philadelphia. Seth spoke eloquently and at length about not just his experience and community involvement in Philadelphia, but about the challenges the DA's office faces, and his concrete agenda for addressing them. I won't try to relay his remarks from memory, but his plan for neighborhood prosecutions as part of his agenda to improve the effectiveness of the DA's office earned him plaudits when he ran in 2005, and he is still advocating for it. It was exciting to hear him speak about the need to smarter policies, not just tougher policies, and he stressed the overlapping areas of education, economic development, community development, and crime prevention.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of Seth for DA (and co-chair of Philly Students for Seth Williams), and according to the first poll of this race he is off to a strong start. This is a race that I think college students in Philadelphia can and will stay active for. We have a tremendous opportunity coming off the recent Presidential election, where all the first time voters we registered in the fall can vote in the primary. It's unusual for college students to become involved in local politics, but everything I'm seeing and hearing indicates that people are still excited and engaged. Change starts at home.

Prop 8: The Musical

This is old, but it's funny and easier than writing a real post on a Sunday morning. Enjoy!

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Renato's Obama Experience

Renato, our Obama intern, recently posted this video on his Facebook and on YouTube. It's an account of his experience and I wanted to post it because it really is an account of all of our experiences too. There's also a few shots of the staging location and of the party truck. Check it out!

Understanding Republicans By Understanding College Republicans

At dinner with my little brother and cousin the other night we were discussing my absolute favorite story about College Republicans; When a former chair of the NJ State College Republicans, Steve Damion, got a little too big for his britches and started trying to extort money out of a Republican campaign. The College Republican blog "Truth Caucus" published an exchange of emails, and it's really a sight to behold. Steve starts it off by setting the tone;

I would be more than happy to give that information to you and the Forrester Campaign, but I am looking at you to help us out as well.

[...]

Keep me posted on this. If there is a 3,000 dollar check waiting for me I am coming running and the campaign will have total access to our resources at all times, no problem.

The State Chair of the real Republican party responded with an epic smackdown. Some choice excerpts;

Let me suggest that you need to re-read what you wrote, think about the people your working with, and spend this weekend thinking about the reasons I shouldn’t share your email with every legislator and county chairman in the state (I can promise you that if I do, the few dollars you’ve raised will be the last you see from any Republican organization or candidate) and then contact the national CR office to have your ass removed. Your approach is 100% out of line – not to mention quite possibly illegal.

[...]

The first thing you’ll do is get Sean exactly what he asked you for first thing Monday AM with your apology and assurance that he will have from you complete and unqualified cooperation from now on.

[..]

Now that I see what you’re all about, I’d also like by then a complete accounting for the CR account for the past 2 years. I want to know where every dollar came from and every penny went. I’d also like a monthly report from you detailing the same info.

Give Thanks for Obama

Some holiday blog filler here. Has it sunk in yet?

Change Is Coming

This story is about a week old by now, which is decades in internet-time, but I didn't want it to pass without mention here. Henry Waxman (On the left, with the power mustache) challenged and defeated John Dingell for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which was about a 6.5 on the political Richter scale. John Dingell has been the ranking Democratic member of this committee since 1995, and assumed the chairmanship when the Democrats took control of the House after the 2006 elections. Dingell has always been a staunch advocate for the auto companies (and by extension the oil companies), and has been blocking regulations aimed at curbing global climate change for years and years.

Oftentimes when people aren't acquainted with how the federal government really works, they'll read about a problem, like, say, climate change, with some widely agreed upon measures that need to be taken, and say "why doesn't the government just do that?" Nine out of ten times the answer is because of someone like John Dingell; A congressman or senator with seniority and a chairmanship who uses his or her power to myopically advocate for a narrow constituency.

I'm a Nerd

Take the quiz. Yes, I know the ISI is a bit of a right-wing institution, but I have no particular problem with any of the questions. Just for fun.