Friday, April 15, 2011

How Rahm Retaliated Against Bad Press

So much for the new-and-improved, "I'm not a bully," Rahm Emanuel.

Since returning to Chicago to run for mayor, Emanuel has shied away from the public outbursts and vulgar language that famously earned him the nickname "Rahmbo."
But I've learned the new-and-improved Rahm has a way to punish the press when they report on stories he doesn't like. He cuts off access.

This week NBCChicago and Ward Room published details of the Emanuel Inauguration, which includes a plan to charge donors up to $50,000 for a premium seat at the swearing-in on May 16th. While noting that there will be "free, open and accessible" events around the ceremony, our writers took him to task for being the first Chicago mayor to charge a fee of any sort for his inaugural.

The Emanuel team says that money will pay for the event and save the taxpayers.

So the day after the "Mini White House Inaugural" was reported, the Emanuel team refused to notify NBC of rare one-on-one interviews allotted to our competitors. The TV business is competitive, but typically politicians and public figures who are involved with big events grant the same access to all-comers.

When we asked why we were left out of the mix, the Emanuel communications team implied they weren't happy with the coverage of the VIP inauguration. They didn't challenge facts, but were upset with tone. So they left us out.

It's an old game ... kill the messenger not the message; cut off the access.

The story continued on Friday, when during a press conference about Chicago Public Schools changes, Emanuel abruptly left the podium before taking questions about his inaugural, nor would he comment on a report about incoming communications director Chris Mather, who has racked up nine personnel complaints during her time at the USDA (See the above video for the Emanuel reaction and how I tried to follow up him.)

Remember what outgoing Alderman Berny Stone said about preparing Emperor Emanuel? Which Rahm replied "My family says I don't look good in a toga."

I have to agree.
BY Mary Ann Ahern // Friday, Apr 15, 2011 at 03:47 CDT


Monday, April 4, 2011

Flip Flop-9/11 suspects will be tried at Guantanamo,

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., in a major reversal for the Obama administration, 'reluctantly' announces that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other suspects in the September 11 terror attacks will be tried before a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rather than in a civilian court in New York.

By Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau

2:11 p.m. CDT, April 4, 2011
WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced "reluctantly" that the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and four other suspects will face justice before a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay rather than in a civilian court in New York.

The decision marks a major reversal both for President Obama and Holder, especially since the president initially promised to shut down the prison at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay — where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the others will now be tried.

"Sadly, this case has been marked by needless controversy since the beginning," Holder said, revealing that a 2009 indictment against Mohammed and the four others has sat for months under seal in federal court in New York, without ever proceeding. "But despite all the argument and debate it has engendered, the prosecution for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators should never have been about settling ideological arguments or scoring political points."

Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, who vigorously opposed a federal civilian trial for the alleged Sept. 11 plotters welcomed the news that the White House and Holder had reversed their earlier decision to move the defendants from Cuba to New York.

"For the sake of the safety and security of the American people, I'm glad the president reconsidered his position,'' Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor. "Going forward, this model should be the rule rather than the exception."

In late 2009, the attorney general said that the trials of the five men would be held in the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, a decision that at first was met with general public approval.

But by early 2010, Holder and the Justice Department were running into steep opposition from New York politicians from both parties, along with much of the public, who were concerned that a civilian trial would cost too much, place New York once again in the terror spotlight, and possibly endanger the New York public. At the same time, there were mounting protests over a new Muslim mosque center near the trade center site as well.

Republicans were so incensed that on Capitol Hill, joining with a good number of Democrats, they passed legislation to prohibit spending any federal funds to move terror detainees from the Cuban prison to the U.S. for civilian trials.

That move in essence blocked the administration's attempts for civilian trials, and last month Obama announced that he was restarting the military tribunal process at Guantanamo Bay.

Supreme Court supports tax breaks that subsidize religious schools

The court rules, 5-4, in favor of Arizona tax credits for those who give money to parochial schools and says the credits cannot be challenged as unconstitutional. Justice Elena Kagan dissents, objecting to the court's distinction between tax breaks and tax subsidies.

By David G. Savage

1:16 p.m. CDT, April 4, 2011
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court opened the door to a new form of state support for religious schools, upholding special tax credits in Arizona for those who give money to church schools and ruling that critics may not challenge such a plan as unconstitutional.

The 5-4 decision goes further than ever before to shield government subsidies for religion from being challenged in court.

In the past, the court has said that taxpayers can go to court and sue if a state or a federal agency violates the 1st Amendment ban on subsidizing "an establishment of religion." Acting on such suits, courts struck down a series of state laws in recent decades that gave public money to parochial schools.

In Monday's decision, however, the court's conservative bloc ruled that dissenting taxpayers may not sue to challenge special tax breaks that subsidize religious teaching. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said a tax break differs from a direct subsidy because the money comes from the wallet of the person making the donation, not from the state.,0,1500419.story

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Republican Numbers in Chicago

Most Republican Wards in Chicago*

Ward Percentage Democratic voters Percentage Republican voters
41 74.3% 25.7%
42 76.3% 23.7%
43 78.8% 21.2%
38 81.1% 18.9%
45 81.4% 18.6%

Most Democratic Wards in Chicago*

Ward Percentage Democratic voters Percentage Republican voters
34 99.3% 0.7%
8 99.2% 0.8%
6 99.2% 0.8%
17 99.2% 0.8%
21 99.1% 0.9%

* based off ballots pulled during February 2010 primary election

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rahm Emanuel nearly swept black neighborhoods in mayoral victory

Rahm Emanuel’s big victory in last month’s mayoral election was so resounding that he carried more than four out of every five precincts, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis that offers the first neighborhood-level look at how the mayor’s race was won.

Emanuel came out on top in 2,106 of the city’s 2,570 precincts, the analysis found.

Beyond that, it found that despite the presence in the mayoral election of former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who emerged as the consensus African-American candidate, nearly every majority-black precinct went for Emanuel, whose campaign got a show of support from his former boss, President Obama. That helped Emanuel win 55 percent of the votes — enough to win the mayor’s race outright and avoid a runoff.

Second-place finisher Gery Chico carried 411 precincts, while Miguel del Valle won in 52, and Braun came out on top in only one precinct.

Chico — whose paternal grandparents came from Mexico — carried heavily Mexican-American neighborhoods on the city’s Southwest Side and Southeast Side.

And Chico’s campaign promise to try to avoid cutting pension benefits for city workers in the face of severe budget problems appears to have helped deliver Beverly, Edgewater and Edison Park — each home to many police officers, firefighters and other city workers. Emanuel did not make that same campaign promise.

A cluster of largely Puerto Rican precincts helped del Valle, who was born in Puerto Rico, carry his political base of Humboldt Park. It wasn’t quite enough to win him an entire ward in the mayoral voting — but he came close.

Some nearby precincts in which Mexican Americans now outnumber Puerto Ricans went for Chico, the analysis found.

“Other than political party identification, race is the most important clue to voting,” says Dick Simpson, the former alderman who is now a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Of Braun’s fourth-place showing, Simpson says that despite the common view that “people think it’s mostly because Carol Moseley Braun ran a bad campaign, it’s not clear [U.S. Rep.] Danny Davis or [state Sen. James] Meeks” — who dropped out of the campaign and supported Braun — “would have done much better.”

Simpson says of Emanuel’s ability to carry heavily black neighborhboods, “It is progress to the extent that it is not an automatic race vote. Voters are taking into account who will best take care of their needs.”

The lone precinct carried by Braun was in the Fuller Park neighborhood around 43rd Street and Wentworth Avenue on the South Side. Most of its voters live in the Minnie Riperton apartments, a Chicago Housing Authority senior citizens mid-rise complex.

Among them: David Whitehead, 71, a retiree who was a frequent — and unsuccessful — candidate for alderman and other public offices in the1980s and 1990s, including a loss in a 1996 Illinois Senate race to Obama.

Whitehead says he worked to get out the vote for Braun at the Riperton complex.

“I told people that, with my experience and what I know about these candidates . . . that Carol would be a better person,” says Whitehead.

Braun carried the precinct with 83 votes, to Emanuel’s 59.

Whitehead figures Braun would have done even better there if his old opponent hadn’t backed Emanuel.

“The president came on the TV and WVON radio saying, ‘I support Rahm Emanuel, he’s a good guy, he’s qualified,’ ” Whitehead says.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Revive Yucca Storage Facility

Before the nuclear disaster in Japan, most people probably didn't know that there is something potentially worse than a nuclear reactor core meltdown. That's the breach and exposure of containers holding hundreds of radioactive rods of spent nuclear fuel.

That's what crews are battling at the crippled Fukushima nuclear facility.

Here's why that is potentially a bigger problem than a meltdown: In the Japanese reactors — as in many U.S. reactors — the spent fuel is housed in large water-filled pools in the reactor building but outside the concrete-and-steel fortress that surrounds the reactor core.

If the core melts down, any radiation released is likely to be partly bottled up by the containment vessel.

Not so for the spent fuel pools, which often contain far more radioactive material than in the reactor. If the water that keeps those rods cool drains or boils away, the used fuel can catch fire. Result: A dangerous plume of extremely high radioactivity spewed into the air.

Obvious question: Why do nuclear plants store spent fuel that way?

Obvious answer in the U.S.: Yucca Mountain isn't open. In the 1980s, the federal government launched plans to ship nuclear waste to a storage lair carved into the mountain in Nevada and let it slowly and harmlessly decay.

But lawsuits, politics and environmental challenges stalled the project for decades.

Last year — 12 years after it was supposed to open — the Obama administration declared Yucca dead and created a panel to study "alternatives."

"We're done with Yucca," White House energy adviser Carol Browner said at the time. "We need to be looking at other alternatives."

Alternatives that, presumably, weren't in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's backyard.

The decision to mothball Yucca was a huge mistake, and the Obama administration should recognize that in the wake of the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan.

The storage caverns at Yucca would be 1,000 feet below the surface and 1,000 feet above the water table in the Nevada desert. They would be geologically stable. Water seepage from the surface is minimal.

Wake-up call: Illinois is home to more spent fuel rods than any other state in the nation.

The U.S. doesn't have another three decades to dither about where to store nuclear waste. Those spent fuel rods are piling up in reactors near major cities — including at the scuttled Zion nuclear power plant here. About 1,100 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel rods stand about a football field away from Lake Michigan. Another 6,100 tons are stored at other Illinois plants.

A breach of those fuel pools and a release of huge radioactive plumes could create a disaster as bad as, or worse than, Chernobyl.

In 1997, the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island studied the worst-case toll of a spent fuel conflagration. The scary results: 101 immediate deaths in a 500-mile range, 138,000 eventual deaths, 2,170 miles of land contaminated. Estimated economic damages: $546 billion.

Until the Japanese earthquake and tsunami ruined the Fukushima reactors, the likelihood of a spent-fuel cataclysm seemed remote. No, we're not going to have a 9.0 earthquake in Zion or tsunami on Lake Michigan. But let's not mask that there is substantial risk to stalling on a central, secure storage location for the nation's spent nuclear fuel.

In the short term, America's nuclear industry can reduce risks by moving more spent fuel from reactor buildings into dry casks — sturdy concrete and steel containers nearly the size of a truck trailer — elsewhere on site.

In the long run, however, nuclear waste shouldn't be scattered near population centers across the country. It should be entombed in Yucca Mountain.

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blacks and Republicans

Thomas Sowell

San Francisco's irrepressible former mayor, Willie Brown, was walking along one of the city's streets when he happened to run into another former city official that he knew, James McCray.

McCray's greeting to him was "You're 10."

"What are you talking about?" Willie Brown asked.

McCray replied: "I just walked from Civic Center to Third Street and you're only the 10th black person I've seen."

That is hardly surprising. The black population of San Francisco is less than half of what it was in 1970, and it fell another 19 percent in the past decade.

A few years ago, I had a similar experience in one of the other communities further down the San Francisco peninsula. As I was bicycling down the street, I saw a black man waiting at a bus stop. As I approached him, he said, "You're the first black man I have seen around here in months!"

"It will be months more before you see another one," I replied, and we both laughed.

Actually, it was no laughing matter. Blacks are being forced out of San Francisco, and out of other communities on the San Francisco peninsula, by high housing prices.

At one time, housing prices in San Francisco were much like housing prices elsewhere in the country. But the building restrictions-- and outright bans-- resulting from the political crusades of environmentalist zealots sent housing prices skyrocketing in San Francisco, San Jose and most of the communities in between. Housing prices in these communities soared to about three times the national average.

The black population in three adjacent counties on the San Francisco peninsula is just under 3 percent of the total population in the 39 communities in those counties.

It so happens that these are counties where the voters and the officials they elect are virtually all liberal Democrats. You might be hard pressed to find similarly one-sided conservative Republican communities where blacks are such small percentages of the population.

Certainly that would be hard to find in states with a substantial total population of blacks. In California, a substantial black population has simply been forced by economics to vacate many communities near the coast and move farther inland, where the environmental zealots are not yet as strong politically, and where housing prices are therefore not yet as unaffordable.

With all the Republican politicians' laments about how overwhelmingly blacks vote for Democrats, I have yet to hear a Republican politician publicly point out the harm to blacks from such policies of the Democrats as severe housing restrictions, resulting from catering to environmental extremists.

If the Republicans did point out such things as building restrictions that make it hard for most blacks to afford housing, even in places where they once lived, they would have the Democrats at a complete disadvantage.

It would be impossible for the Democrats to deny the facts, not only in coastal California but in similar affluent strongholds of liberal Democrats around the country. Moreover, environmental zealots are such an important part of the Democrats' constituencies that Democratic politicians could not change their policies.

Although Republicans would have a strong case, none of that matters when they don't make the case in the first place. The same is true of the effects of minimum wage laws on the high rate of unemployment among black youths. Again, the facts are undeniable, and the Democrats cannot change their policy, because they are beholden to labor unions that advocate higher minimum wages.

Yet another area in which Democrats are boxed in politically is their making job protection for members of teachers' unions more important than improving education for students in the public schools. No one loses more from this policy than blacks, for many of whom education is their only chance for economic advancement.

But none of this matters so long as Republicans who want the black vote think they have to devise earmarked benefits for blacks, instead of explaining how Republicans' general principles, applied to all Americans, can do more for blacks than the Democrats' welfare state approach.