The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rod finds a dumbass to appoint senator

Anyone willing to accept Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment as Illinois' U.S. senator should be considered too stupid to hold the job.

Incredibly, the besieged governor actually found someone crazy enough to agree to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat. That person is Roland Burris, a lifelong creature of smarmy state and local Democratic politics, a former one-term state attorney general and three-term state comptroller.

Read more in RealClearPolitics

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Give optimism a chance

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

On the cusp of a new year, America has gone bipolar. Barack Obama's election has precipitated tears of joy, fresh zephyrs of hope brushing our cheeks and dreams of goodness and kindness shadowing us forever. The economy has kindled the fires of fear, unseen since the Great Depression and World War II. The popular mood is perfectly described as bipolar, a disorder characterized by abnormally elevated feelings approaching mania, paired with grinding episodes of depression. While the two extremes usually are separated by periods of normal feelings, America has been seized by the acute version, in which alternating cycles of depression and mania rapidly replace, if not overlap, one another.

Exhilaration one moment, despair the next. Gaiety in the morning, misery at night. Optimism squelched by pessimism. Is there a pill for this? If so, can someone write a prescription for 305 million of them, one for every American, so that we can get on with our lives? There's no begrudging the joy that slightly more than half of American voters are feeling after they elected their elixir for the eight years of President George W. Bush. It's easy to get swept up in the jubilation, and I'm hoping the optimism can drag us out of our wretched economic mood. As the nation is on the verge of plunging into the worst state of public indebtedness relative to the gross domestic product since World War II, even some conservatives harbor the hope that Obama will succeed.

Working against the optimism, however, is an emerging, perhaps permanent, sense of pessimistic fatalism that has gradually eroded the buoyancy and confidence that long has defined the American character. Sadly, doom and gloom have become the plan of the day. Our disposition has turned sour and skeptical, as we have become a nation consumed with bad news. We have obsessed about acid rain, the ozone hole and now global warming, the latter requiring no less than geoengineering, an elaborate human conceit that says we can control our climate on a global scale.

In the past year, we fretted about the plastic in baby bottles that could cause obesity and illness. We discovered that we can get cancer from hot dogs, that heavier rainfall can cause autism in children and that our shower curtains can poison us. These well-publicized alarms have been debunked by the Statistical Assessment Service, a non-partisan organization that closely examines bad science and media abuse of statistics. Yet, the debunking never receives as much attention as the initial alarms because, I've concluded, we'd rather be alarmed than relieved. "Don't sweat the small stuff" used to be a popular expression. Now every caution morphs into a dire warning, every forecast a prophesy of ruination, every disquiet a budding calamity. Premonitions and forewarnings greet us in every edition and newscast. Our demise awaits.

If you're as fed up as I am with all this, perhaps you'll join me in my one New Year's resolution: Look for the favorable, the upbeat, the good news. Knock off the bad-mouthing. Brush off the accusations of being Pollyannaish, naive or, worse, Republican. Exult in the prospects, understand that we can pour whatever trillions we can get our hands on into the economy, but it won't do any good unless we, ourselves, look forward with trust and confidence. Apply the same excitement and optimism you feel about the new Obama administration to the economy. This should not be a partisan thing. With Democrats entering the White House, I fear Republicans now will take every opportunity to remind us how bad things are or will be, just as Democrats did when Republicans were in office.

The constant bad-mouthing, beyond what reality requires, got us to where we are now, turning a limp economy into a poor one, threatening to turn a recession into a depression. Whatever the underlying economic fundamentals, whatever policies the new administration and Congress institute, nothing will pull us out of our slump if we continue to say, as a CNBC anchor did: "I think . . . things are worse than we think." Whatever that means.

Stop whining and act like grown-ups. The end is not near. The end is far.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dear Santa Claus, how about some credit?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Hello, Santa's hot line?

This is Santa Claus. How can I help you, Dennis?

Wow, I got through to you instantly, no press 1 for English, no long menus to select from. Didn't even have to say, "representative."

Well, if I can fill every stocking in the world in one night, don't you think I can arrange a little thing like direct dial? Look, lad, I don't have much time; I've gotta get outta here tomorrow night. What is it you want?


Well, you've got it, my boy. You've done good. I give you a lot of credit for that.

No, no, Santa, not that kind of credit. Actually, what I meant is the kind of credit that you can use to buy stuff with. A house, car, plane tickets to get the hell out of here for someplace warm.

OK, son, I'll put a Visa card in your stocking. How's that?

That'd be fine, except I don't need another credit card. Those banks keep sending me a bunch of them, even though I never ask for them. What I meant is credit for everyone. A mortgage in every stocking. A Macy's credit card for every consumer. A car loan for every driver. Haven't you heard? The problem with our economy is the lack of credit.

Been kind of busy, Denny. Explain it to me.

Nobody's buying anything because they can't get any credit. Banks aren't lending because they're afraid that they won't get their money back. It started because greedy bankers were giving mortgages to homeowners who didn't deserve credit. Now, everyone is panicked, people 'fraid of getting laid off.

So, the problem is that everyone had too much credit, and the way to fix it is to give everyone more credit? Look, I might be a jolly old fat man, but I'm no fool.

No, seriously. The economists tell us that's the only way to get us out of our depression, figuratively and literally. They say empirical analysis reveals that market disturbances combined with aggregate demand shocks as well as inconsistent short-term interfacing of prices and money supply contribute substantially to rampant economic fluctuations, which in turn produce the credit complications that we're . . .

Dennis, stop with the gibberish.

Sorry, got to thinking like an economist there for a minute. Thanks for slapping me out of it, Santa.

So, how much credit you want from me?

Hard to say, Santa. Here's what we're in hock for: Start with the $700 billion in TARP funds, dozens of billions more for the auto industry, another—what?—$600 billion to $850 billion for the economic stimulus President-elect Barack Obama wants, reworked home mortgages by Freddie and Fannie, an economic stimulus package that didn't do much, plus all the government, corporate and consumer debt already outstanding, plus all the unfunded debts like Social Security and Medicare. That'd be about $70 trillion, give or take.

Impossible. There's not that much money in the entire world. How can anyone ever pay it all off?

Who's saying we should? It's not actually money we need; it's credit. No one uses money anymore. You just borrow it from someone, who borrows it from someone else, who borrows it from someone else, and so on and so on.

Wait, this sounds like a gigantic Ponzi scheme. Except instead of using cash, you're using credit. An endless chain of borrowing.

Now, you're getting it.

But who's going to lend me the kind of money you think that I should be handing out so that we can climb out of the recession? A lot of folks don't even believe in me.

Are you kidding? Who has a better credit rating than Santa?

Every year, you give out hundreds of billions of dollars in Christmas presents, without borrowing a red cent. That's called collateral, Santa.

But what happens if I default on all my loans? Won't the banks call in my collateral and take all the toys that I want to give to all the good little girls and boys? What about the children?

Oh, I wouldn't worry about them. Instead of presents under the tree, just slip them some IOUs. We've been doing it for years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pat Quinn compounds our mess

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

In a famous but widely misquoted observation, Lord Acton, the British man of letters, said: "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Exhibit A is the discredited Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn appears to be trying to make himself Exhibit B.

The populist Quinn looks ridiculous with his wavering on whether he or voters should name who gets to sit in President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat. First, Quinn was for an election. Then he said if he became governor that he would appoint the next senator, no election necessary. Now, he says, he would be amenable to only appointing a temporary replacement until an election can be held.

One wants to shake him by the lapels and demand that he make up his fool mind.

Only political calculations beyond our ken can explain his inexhaustible wishy-washiness, and in this, the self-professed independent has turned himself into just another Illinois politician.

If Illinois voters need anything less now than an appointed senator—even a temporary one—I can't think of it. No appointed senator—even if named by Simon Pure, or if he's Simon Pure himself—will escape the taint attached to Blagojevich's alleged efforts to hawk the seat to the highest bidder. Only a special election will help palliate the stink that now is attached to the seat.

Quinn would have us believe that his motives are untainted, that he would appoint a senator because Illinois "needs two senators" while "important issues" are being debated in Washington.

As if having our own president isn't enough.

Earlier, after he said we should have an election, he said we shouldn't have one because it would cost too much.

Sure. We've heard this from Quinn before, when he successfully pushed a constitutional amendment that reduced the size of the Illinois House and eliminated the "cumulative voting" system of electing its members. That system, which guaranteed a minority party member from each district, produced some of the finest lawmakers in memory.

It created a bloc of honest and able lawmakers willing to blow the whistle on the villains and creeps that populated Springfield, a bloc that wasn't blotted by the campaign cash doled out by the leadership to keep the sheep in line.

Cumulative voting didn't cure all Springfield pestilences, but it was a useful check.

Nonetheless, Quinn seized the issue as an opportunity for his long-simmering political ambitions, camouflaged as championing the rights, wisdom and virtues of the common people.

He successfully sold an electorate, ignorant of the benefits of cumulative voting, on the idea that the system was too expensive, when, in truth, the cost of lacing the capital dung heap with even a small amount of emollient was worth the expense.

Quinn has been a publicity hound from the start. For years, reporters routinely knew that if it was Sunday, Quinn would be holding a news conference on the light news day, about something, anything.

At every turn, the man called for a referendum on something; he wouldn't miss a single issue in which he would take "the people's" side.

On Sunday, I turned on my TV set, and there was Quinn again, on national TV this time, unveiling his latest great thinking.

One can only speculate which of Illinois' political machinations accounts for Quinn's indecisiveness. But the changing political landscape requires reflection on several points: Whoever is appointed Obama's successor, even a temporary one, would enjoy the advantage of incumbency, however brief—in the special election. Democrats, fearing opening the door for a long-shot Republican win in a special election, may prefer that Quinn, a Democrat, do the appointing. Or perhaps not, because Quinn isn't trusted by fellow Democrats, and could fail to appoint the "right" replacement.

Whatever smoke the politicians are blowing for what they are saying or doing right now, one thing is clear: No one should be appointing anyone to the position. Whoever is appointed would be suspect from the get-go, whatever his or her merits. But more important, Illinois voters put us into this mess, and they must now get us out of it. We don't need a benevolent dictator. If anyone doesn't believe that we can do the right thing, you can look at it this way: We couldn't do worse than electing another Blagojevich.

Monday, December 15, 2008

SNL itself is the joke

New York Gov. David Paterson's office lashed out at an impersonation of him on the final 2008 episode of "Saturday Night Live" that made him into a blind, bumbling, whack job with a drug problem that may (or may not) be classified as "a former one."

His office said, "The governor is sure that Saturday' Night Live,' with all of its talent, can find a way to be funny without being offensive."

No it can't. Saturday Night Live hasn't been funny for years, insulting or otherwise.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Unsung Hero--the other Fitzgerald--Behind Blagojevich Arrest Could Fill Senate Seat

By Dennis Byrne
Human Events

Is it possible that the next U.S. senator from the persistently blue state of Illinois could be a Republican?

It’s not out of the question, thanks to the state’s current monumental political scandal -- the arrest of its sitting Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, for allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat and assorted other shakedowns.

Of course, the only chance of a Republican succeeding Obama is if the state Legislature decides to take the power to fill an empty Senate seat away from the governor, and call a special election. At this moment, a tide is growing among state legislators to do just that.

Blagojevich, if true to form, could try to stymie that plan by sitting on the legislation for 60 days before letting it become law -- enough time to throw a wrench into the works by unacceptably delaying the primary and general election into mid-2009. He also could try to use his amendatory veto to insert unacceptable provisions, such as pushing back the date of the election.

If the Legislature manages to take away his power to appoint, there may be no better Republican candidate than the unheralded hero of the Blagojevich scandal: the former Republican senator from Illinois, Peter Fitzgerald.

Credit rightfully is being heaped on the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation), for running the investigation that led to Blagojevich’s arrest. But if it weren’t for Peter Fitzgerald -- who preceded Obama in the state’s junior senator’s seat -- there would never have been a Patrick Fitzgerald here who has done such a marvelous job of rooting out corruption.

Read more in Human Events

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"You need a little corruption to make government work"

At least that's what we're told. But here's another example of how Illinois' seamy reputation costs us big: State delays $1.4 billion debt offerings

Thanks, Rich Daley

Forbes magazine names Bensenville as America's fastest dying town. Bensenville says it's not dead yet, but blame Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's plans to expanded his pot-of-gold, O'Hare Airport, for threatening the town's existence.

Read it in the Daily Herald

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More baloney from the New York Times

In a long article, the New York Times implies that President-elect Barack Obama's good government motives are what inspired him to push for an Illinois ethics bill that indirectly led to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's downfall.


The truth is that Obama had to be pushed to do it, as explained in my Chicago Tribune column at the time.

Pressure had been growing in the good government community for Obama to live up to his image as a reformer by picking up the phone to call Sen. President Emil Jones, a Blagojevich ally who had blocked a vote on the ethics legislation. Obama acted only after his stubborn refusal to involve himself threatened to seriously tarnish his good guy image during the campaign.

None of this was made clear in the New York Times article, but what do you expect?

Illinois Has Long Been For Sale

By Dennis Byrne

So, do the rest of you now have some idea of the depth of corruption in Chicago and Illinois, and why some of us were so concerned about electing a president who emerges from this cesspool?"

Read it in RealClearPolitics

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Axelrod says Obama and Blagojevich had spoken about the open Senate seat.

But wait, didn't President-elect Barack Obama say today that he had not spoken to the governor or his office?

Here is the television interview in which Axelrod made the statement.

Then--voila--here is the statement Axelrod later issued that said he was mistaken.

You decide.

Illinois voters: Can you top this?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

The question on everyone’s lips isn’t so much whether the arrested and disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich is guilty as it is: Is the man nuts? Instead of going to prison, shouldn’t he be tossed into the loony bin?

The feds have been sniffing around his office since 2002, and as recently as last week he allegedly was actively trying to ring as much as $300,000 from a politician who’s interested in getting appointed by Blagojevich to President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat.

Only a fool, knowing that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI are breathing down his neck, would simultaneously try to enrich himself by selling a senate seat, extort money for his signature on legislation, hold up legitimate state business to silence editorial criticism, and this, most incredibly, squeeze a $50,000 campaign contribution for an executive of a children’s hospital at the expense of sick kids.

You gotta wonder when he had time to be governor.

The man-is-crazy theory receives suppor...

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Just dump Holder now

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Bill Ayers is right; he's not a terrorist. He's a joke.

It's not Bill Ayers that soils President-elect Barack Obama's terrorist-fighting credentials; it's Obama's attorney general nominee, Eric Holder. And if Obama truly wants to unite us, he should dump Holder now.

Or at least make Holder fully explain his role in President Bill Clinton's grant of clemency to 16 terrorists from the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish acronym FALN. It's a question Holder has been dodging for more than a decade, and the one he will have to answer if he expects to be confirmed by the Senate.

For Chicagoans, terrorism carried out by the FALN, a radical and violent Puerto Rican independence group, is no mere political matter. It set off 120 bombs in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them in Chicago and a few in Schaumburg—at Marshall Field's, Sears, J.C. Penney, the federal and county buildings, Great Lakes Naval Training Center, several banks and Cook County Republican headquarters. It was in Evanston that the law finally caught up with them. U.S. attorneys from here and the New York area opposed the clemency, as well as the Justice Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons. Former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno called them an "ongoing threat" in 1999, before Clinton sprung them. The FALN terrorists were not convicted of killing anyone, but Congress, which overwhelmingly condemned the clemency, concluded the FALN terrorists were responsible for five deaths. By standard practice, the clemency petition should never have reached Clinton's desk because none of the terrorists had applied for it. So, who did? How did Clinton get it into his head (or did he originate the thought) that the terrorists should walk?

The conventional wisdom points a finger at Holder, then deputy attorney general, and Holder has provided little evidence (other than his denials) that the process was on the up and up. Documents have revealed that Holder met with Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and other Democratic congressmen with Puerto Rican constituents to discuss the case beforehand. Holder suggested that congressmen get the prisoners to issue an expression of remorse to speed their release. Why? In congressional hearings, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tried to find out, but in Holder's clumsy evasiveness just about all that Hatch could get out of him was an admission that no one bothered to question the bombing victims. Otherwise, Holder steadfastly pleaded executive privilege. Documents later revealed that Holder's (or whoever's) analysis reached Clinton's desk without the standard go or no-go recommendation.

Much has been made of Obama's relationship with Ayers, famous for his role as the co-founder of a radical idiots group called the Weather Underground. While the Weathermen were violent, the FALN overshadowed them. For all the heat generated by the Obama-Ayers affiliation, the president-elect has a lot more explaining to do to justify Holder's nomination as the nation's chief law-enforcement officer.

Ayers denied in a recent New York Times op-ed that he was a terrorist, and his reasoning (he didn't kill or hurt anyone) is goofy. You get a better reading of him from his book, "Fugitive Days," an adolescent attempt to rationalize a juvenile fling. Presumptuously comparing himself to John Brown and Nat Turner, Ayers fails to appreciate that his '70s rhetoric is as dated as bell-bottoms. Yet, he still takes himself seriously.

Forget him.

Much of the criticism of the Holder nomination so far has focused on his role in Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive who owed $48 million in taxes and faced 51 counts of tax fraud. His wife, Denise, made substantial contributions to the Clinton presidential library and Hillary Clinton's senate campaign. President Clinton also granted pardons or commutations to his half brother, Roger; to Susan McDougal, for her role in the Whitewater scandal; and our own convicted congressmen Dan Rostenkowski and Mel Reynolds. (All of which should be kept in mind if President Bush pardons—which he shouldn't—Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby.)

Why Obama wanted to resurrect all these troubling memories by nominating Holder is beyond me, especially in light of his campaign rhetoric about "bringing us together." I know, anyone who questions the Holder appointment will be accused of driving us apart, as if we have no right to ask for an explanation. But an explanation for this outrageous freeing of the FALN terrorists is required in an age when the threat of terrorism has worsened. It raises a question: What precisely does Holder plan to do with all the terrorists now in custody? It's more than a fair question.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Modified Loans Do Little to Help Homeowners

Why does this surprise anyone?

Virgin America to start hub service

But not at O'Hare Airport.

Only a couple of days after Virgin withdrew its unsuccessful effort to land at O'Hare,, the airline announced that it would launch service from Boston to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Too bad Chicago.

Virgin pulled out of Chicago because it was unable to negotiate access to O'Hare gates. And why is that, especially now with so many unused gates there?

Because United and American, which control 80 percent of the traffic there and most of the gates, didn't want the competition. Nothing against Virgin, they just don't want anyone else showing up, offering lower fares, better service or connections to unserved markets.

Wait a minute: Isn't the airport publicly owned? Don't taxpayers pay for it? Shouldn't the city of Chicago, the landlord, recognize that the airport needs more competition?

The answers are yes, yes and yes. But the cozy relatiionship between the two airlines and City Hall prevents any significant competition at O'Hare. We don't need no stinkin' competition.

So, screw the airline passengers. And screw the taxpayers.

Friday, December 05, 2008

George Ryan for U.S. Senator

Here’s who Gov. Rod Blagojevich should appoint to fill president-elect Barack Obama’s set as U.S. Senator: George Ryan.

Wait, wait. It’s perfect. Kill two birds—as it were—with one stone. All the stress would be lifted from the shoulders of local and state political creatures in one fell swoop. They could return to their primary occupations of doing bigger and badder things by resolving the two biggest issues weighing them down: Should President George W. Bush (or Obama when he becomes president) grant clemency to convicted felon and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan? And who should be Illinois get Obama’s seat.

The solution is flawless. It is the consummate intersection of two apparently unrelated bafflements.

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Justice for Park Ridge and Des Plaines?

Several years ago, Park Ridge and Des Plaines withdrew their opposition to the expansion of O'Hare Airport. In Des Plaines, voters elected a pro-expansion mayor after years of opposition, thanks to some heavy footwork done by the Democratic patronage army in the east part of town. Before that, the Des Plaines mayor withdrew his town's membership in the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a consortium of communities opposing O'Hare expansion.

Having sold out, the towns now are full of angry residents complaining about the increased noise that the new northern runway at O'Hare has brought to their communities. According to the Chicago Tribune, no one expected the runway to carry as much traffic as it does, so now Des Plaines and Park Ridge are suffering from the consequences of their folly by lower-flying planes and increased numbers of flights. Apparently, they believed Chicago when it assured everyone, especially in those communities, that the northern runway would not have that much impact on their quality of life.

Perhaps Des Plaines and Park Ridge will have second thoughts and rejoin the opposition.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Experts" blow their Black Friday predictions

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

The dismal retail sales figures are in for Black Friday and the news is . . . good?

Wait a minute, the news was supposed to be bad, awful, ghastly, dreadful, etc. Analysts, almost to the person, were predicting that retail sales would decline from last year's level, if not plummet. Some forecast economic calamity, because so much depends on consumer spending.

Not to pick on anyone in particular, but here are a few examples of pre-Black Friday conjectures:

• Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with NPD Group, said "this could be the worst holiday [shopping season] ever."

• ABI Research analyst Michael Wolf said Black Friday could end with consumers spending less than usual.

• A Wall Street Journal headline predicted a "Bleak Friday for retailers."

But as I write this, the weekend sales figures are starting to trickle in and the sages look like they're turning out to be all wet. Chicago-based ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said sales not only didn't fall, but actually increased 3 percent over a year ago, to $10.6 billion. PayPal saw almost 34 percent more transactions and a 26 percent increase in sales online over last year's Black Friday. The National Retail Federation's 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey found shoppers spent an average of $372.57 over the weekend, a 7.2 percent increase over last year's $347.55. Fourteen percent more shoppers spent $41 billion, it said. In short, the analysts and many of my media colleagues who delight in amplifying any negative prediction—the worse, the louder—blew it. Too bad; maybe if they had been right, there would have been no crowd of idiots at a Wal-Mart store to trample an employee to death.

This wouldn't be worth writing about if the sages weren't so universally wrong, if we didn't give them so much weight and if so much of the economy didn't turn sour every time they opened their mouths. The fact is, despite their golden credentials, the initials after their names and affiliations with the high-end financial institutions, they don't know any more about the future than you or I. Yet, they and their grim prognostications appear as an endless parade on the business television network CNBC and on the financial pages. "The market hasn't bottomed out yet." "The recession will be deeper than anything we've seen since the Great Depression." "We're in for another three years of economic reversals."

"Baloney. Bushwa. How do you know?" I shout at the TV screen. They don't. Michael Lewis told us that from personal experience in his book, "Liar's Poker." He explains it again in Conde Nast's December "To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grown-ups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall."

He went on: "I'd never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable."

I dare that his predictions then were just as good as the predictions we hear today. Lewis said this nonsense was unsustainable, yet here it is, more than 20 years later, and we continue to see the same kind of specious advice flowing out of Wall Street and the media. Upon this, Americans continue to make decisions on how much to spend and invest, and the more we listen, the worse the economy becomes.

When oil was hovering around $150 a barrel, the same folks guaranteed us that the price would go even higher and that high energy costs were a permanent condition that would fundamentally change our society. I'm not saying that that day won't come. But now that oil is about $50 a barrel, can't we be equally glad? Gasoline and home prices have dropped precipitously; that's bad for some, but great for others.

As the start of the Christmas shopping season tells us, there are bargains everywhere and, since when are low-priced homes, cars, electronics and other goods really horrible things? Can't we at least pretend that there's some good news to be heard?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks

Wonder how much the bailout compares with other national catastrophes? Check this out.

Hat tip to Newsalert

Durbin asks Bush to commute Ryan sentence

The surprise is that some people might be surprised by Durbin's request to spring this convicted felon. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, who doesn't want Ryan sprung, says he respects Durbin and urged him on Sunday not to proceed with this foolishness. Here I depart from John; my view of Durbin is closer to Steve Neal's, the late Sun-Times columnist, who never ran out of names--appropriately so--to call this senator whose practice, until now apparently, is to stick his thumb into the air to see which way the opinion was blowing.

That Durbin would buck the overwhelming public sentiment that Ryan should serve more of his term shows where his loyalties are: with the corrupt good old boys and the public be damned. Having just been re-elected to another six-year Senate term, he figures he can get away with it, and considering the wisdom of Illinois voters and who they have put in office, the odds are with Durbin.

Durbin also chose to spit in the eye of one of the jurors in the Ryan trial, reaffirming his decision that Ryan is guilty. That, too, for Durbin counts for nothing.

Thus is revealed the true Durbin. The whole thing is cheesy and sordid beyond what we can usually expect from Illinois politicians.

Who will hold Daley accountable for O’Hare?

Dan Curry asks the question. Who, indeed?

Blame the media

This New York Times writer blames the media for the crowd that trampled a Wal-Mart employee to death in a frenzy to get to the marked-down Christmas sale merchandise. As much as I like to blame the media for lots of stuff, I think this is a stretch. The writer, David Carr, postulates that media coverage of the deals worked the shoppers into such a lather over buying "stuff" that they would literally kill for it.

He misses a bigger point. Black Friday and the holiday shopping mania is the result of turning a religious celebration into a commercial fetish. Carr doesn't mention the contamination of Christmas by the secular, and that makes him as guilty as the rest of the media.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sam Zell speaks

For those who ask me about the future of the Chicago Tribune, you might be interested in this lengthy interview with the man who would rescue the newspaper business.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bailout Spending is Out of Control

By Dennis Byrne

Has anyone bothered to ask: Why $700 billion? Why not $800 billion to bail out the economy? Or a trillion? Jeez, as long as the dam has burst, why not make it a cool $7 trillion?

Okay, $7 trillion it is, and if you think that's an exaggeration, you're wrong. In this year alone, we have committed an amount that is more than half of our entire annual gross national product to assorted bailouts and guarantees. No, that doesn't mean that we have diverted half GNP for bailouts; it means that we have created half our gross national product virtually out of nothing.


Iraqi Parliament Approves U.S. Security Pact

Do you think that President George W. Bush will get any credit for this?

This was one more thing that the anti-war left said would never happen--just like the surge wouldn't work or that yes, "while the surge might have worked, there will be no political solution." Where is the permanent "civil war" that the Bush haters said that Iraq would plunge into?

This is the country that Vice President-elect Joe Biden said should be divided into three, because they'll never be able to get together.

Do you think that anyone now will admit that we have won in Iraq and the war is virtually over?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Garbage in Chicago's Budget

By Dennis Byrne
The Chicago Daily Observer

If I don’t look fast, my suburban garbage truck will have come and gone without my noticing. And unlike in Chicago, which has three people working each truck, my scavenger service has only one—the driver.

The holy writ in Chicago is that you can’t have just one, and therein lies one of the reasons that Mayor Richard M. Daley’s city is in such awful financial shape: Chicago’s government doesn’t exist for the benefit of those who pay for it; it’s purpose is to feather the nest of the people who run it.

How better to explain the recently approved $6-billion city budget that had to levy new taxes to eliminate a $469 million deficit? Of course, Chicago attempted to blame the sagging economy for the shortfall—and that’s surely part of it—but the bigger part is the waste and corruption built into the Machine.

Consider the deal that requires three-man crews on each garbage truck—one to drive and two labors to load....

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Durbin may seek to commute former Gov. George Ryan's sentence

More evidence of the palsy relationship between Democrats and Republicans in Illinois that Tribune columnist John Kass calls the "combine." At the front end, they combine to shaft us with their insider deals and graft; at the other, they get each other out of prison. A great tag team.

Illinois' bad joke

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

If Illinois were a country, it would be Iceland.

That's the country whose high-flying economy collapsed recently, the first to fail in the global economic slump. Crowds, angry at the government's failure to prevent the crisis, have taken to the streets and called for an immediate election.

Don't expect any mobs to show up in Illinois demanding the expulsion of our government for Illinois' fiscal mess. Illinois voters are so tolerant that the government could sell the state to the Outfit for a box of trinkets and no one would notice. Illinois voters have no reason to feel smug about letting conditions get as far out of hand as they did in Iceland.

Illinois is facing a budget deficit of more than $2.5 billion and its backlog of unpaid bills is $4 billion. But, unlike Iceland, Illinois can't blame the global collapse of the credit markets for its financial mess. This has been going on for years, and unlike Iceland, there's no German bank standing by to bail us out. The fact is that no one is standing by but us, and we have shown ourselves to be as incompetent as the American banks that bought hundreds of billions of worthless mortgage derivatives.

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes tried recently to rattle our cage with another dire prediction of the morass we're creating, but who's listening? It's such boring stuff, you know. Except for what Hynes warns is coming: poor families denied medical care; schools crying for money; local governments failing to meet payrolls; state police cars parked; mass transit cutting service or raising fares.

Hey, Democrats, these are your people, the ones you supposedly care the most about. Hey, Democrats, the people running the state are yours too. But you keep putting them back into office year after year, despite their incompetence, petty quarreling and whatever else occupies their wee minds. The only one of them doing a good job is Hynes, whose latest warning should make everyone wonder: If our economy is in such a mess, and our 401(k)s have gone to pot, and the federal government is setting stratospheric records for borrowing, and no one is making loans, then how will Illinois ever get out of this mess?

Hynes said the $4 billion in unpaid bills could balloon to $5 billion by March. The state is three months behind in paying its suppliers and by spring it could be five months behind. Keep this up and the state might bankrupt the businesses it needs for products and services.

If you were a doctor or a hospital, how long would you continue to give away your services under these conditions? About 2.2 million people—17 percent of the state's population—rely on Medicaid. Most are children, low-income adults and low-income pregnant women. But the elderly, disabled and blind consume the greatest proportion of aid. When the state goes bankrupt, there will be the usual whine: "How come no one warned us?" And, "Somebody do something!"

Frankly, I don't know what can be done. Hynes recommends urgent short-term borrowing that will keep suppliers going for now. He also wants some form of federal aid, such as paying the state its Medicaid reimbursement before services are provided (in effect, turning reimbursements into advances). He also wants the state to eliminate "Catch 25" (actually Section 25 of the Illinois Finance Act), which requires the state to pay all its bills in the same fiscal year in which they were incurred, with a few exceptions, such as Medicaid. This is a giant loophole that allows the state to push the huge pile of unpaid Medicaid bills into the next fiscal year, and use the money that should have been set aside for Medicaid for other purposes, so that the state budget (fraudulently) looks in better shape than it actually is.

I'm not sure how well any of that will work; it might already be too late. Who would lend Illinois money in its current financial condition? How can we count on the federal government for help when it is borrowing every dollar in sight for its assorted bailouts, mortgage purchases, bank and financial institution assistance and impending auto industry loans coming to more than $1 trillion?

Oh, that's right. In Washington, the answer to any problem is to borrow more. And more. Look for Washington to pull Illinois out of the fire and let us cheer all the taxpayers in the other 49 states.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

O’Hare expansion is on life support

Is the major airlines’ rejection of further O’Hare Airport expansion a death knell for the $15-billion-plus project, or is it, as the Daley administration asserts, just a hiccup in the process, caused, in part, by the current economic downturn?

Predictions are risky, but without the airlines shoveling billions of dollars into the expansion, as the Daley administration was counting on, it’s hard to see where the money will come from. Except from you, the passenger, in the form of exorbitantly higher taxes.

Chicago had trouble enough overcoming the many objections for Phase I of the expansion project, which included the new northern runway opened today with great fanfare. Financing always has been a problem, and the airlines never committed to funding Phase II. Now, the airlines have gone even further, by telling the Federal Aviation Administration that the expansion should be stopped.

Rosemarie Andolino, the city’s director of the project, ridiculously claimed that the airlines refusal was nothing new, and if she believes that, she should look at the loss in value of the O’Hare bonds after the story came out this morning. The city several years ago engineered an increase in the seat tax charged to passengers to help fund the project, but the tax could never produce enough revenues to complete the project, even amortized over the next generation.

The airlines’ objections also re-open a new front in the controversy: the technical viability of the project. Specifically, they ridiculed the idea of a new terminal on the airport’s western boundary as “ill-conceived,” reflecting the opponents’ criticism. Chicago never explained—even to the airlines, we now discover—how the new western terminal, sitting in isolation miles from the main terminals—would work. Extension of the airport’s people mover between the terminals? If so, how much would that cost? And why isn’t that cost included in the overall project cost estimate? And where would the money come from?

That’s just one of the important questions that the city skips over. For example: the real restriction on O’Hare capacity is the crowded airspace serving O’Hare and Midway airports. That’s one of the reasons that the FAA and other aviation experts said that airline capacity expansion only can realistically come from a new south suburban airport. Chicago never has explained how it would expand the sky to accommodate the unrealistic number of flights it maintains the expansion could support.

Or this: Where would the promised, new western entrance go to accommodate the long-sought completion of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway—now a freeway to nowhere—and a long-promised “ring road” around the airport. Project maps have never clearly shown the new route; the administration has failed to answer convincingly the most fundamental question of whether it would be on or off airport property. By almost everyone’s reckoning, the airport has no room for it. If it goes off the airport, it would lead to even greater dislocations of homes and businesses. No money is shown in the plan for this either.

Andolino laughably asserted that the inauguration of the new runway has proven expansion opponents wrong. If anything, it has revealed the dishonesty of the Daley administration: The new runway, the city originally asserted, would increase airport capacity. It won’t. About the only thing it has a chance of accomplishing, according to the FAA, is delay reduction delays, by an unimpressive average 30 seconds.

Too many obstacles, financial, technical and otherwise, stand in the way of the completion of the vast expansion project. Any rational person would say that the project is, or at least should be, dead, dead, dead. But then again, the project was never rational to start with.

United CEO supports O'Hare expansion

At least that's what he says.

But that's not what the airline said in writing, to the Federal Aviation Administration, and that's what counts. If the expansion still has the airline's full support, Glen, show us the money, but more of our own goes down the drain.

Who will put Bensenville back together again?

The east side of Bensenville, a working class suburb, has been virtually destroyed for an expansion of O’Hare Airport that looks now like it will never happen.

So, will Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and his city pay to restore what was once the largest and most successful community of affordable housing in DuPage County? They should, but don’t count on it.

What Daley and his greedy cronies did to Bensenville, a community that had minded its own business for more than 100 years, borders on the criminal. Daley and airport planners knew that they did not need to destroy hundreds of Bensenville homes for years, until later phases of O’Hare expansion were scheduled. Yet, they launched an unprecedented political, economic and government attack that exceeded bounds of decency.

To review: Bensenville, with DuPage County, state and federal assistance, had successfully nurtured this neighborhood of hundreds of homes and businesses. It was modest neighborhood, yes, but it was a viable, clean and healthy neighborhood, exactly what affordable housing advocates (Daley counts himself among them) say that is needed in the job-rich northwest suburbs. But Bensenville sits southwest of O’Hare Airport, in the path of one of the unprecedented, unworkable and dangerous six parallel runways that Daley wanted to install. Daley wanted it at all costs.

The costs, of course, were paid by us taxpayers.

Standing in the way of Daley’s blind hunger to take control of east Bensenville, years before necessary, was long-time Bensenville President John Geils, and his Elk Grove Village ally, Mayor Craig Johnson. When all around them—once proud expansion opponents in neighboring suburbs in the Suburban O’Hare Commission—were being picked off one-by-one by Daley, the two stood firm, together.

Among the obstacles to Daley’s covetedness, was a serious legal one. To obtain the Bensenville properties, Chicago—as O’Hare’s owner—had to threaten condemnation. Trouble was, Bensenville was a separate municipality, in another county at that, and one municipality didn’t have the legal power to condemn property in another one. Long story short: Daley and his allies (in what Tribune columnist John Kass calls the state’s bi-partisan combine of greedy and corrupt politicians and special interests) simply passed a law, no problem. Now Chicago could cross borders and raid another town’s homes. And, by the way, any challenges to that authority would have to be heard in a Cook County court, where the Chicago Machine pretty much control who gets appointed to the bench.

Daley could have held off the acquisition, but in what only can be a fit of spite brought on by a small-town mayor challenging his power, he proceeded. One by one, Chicago picked off the homeowners and renters, many who had become resigned to their fate by the constant barrage of negativity in the media and elsewhere about the future of their neighborhood. Chicago’s intent was to create momentum, by buying and tearing down enough homes to create near-panic selling. In Chicago, that’s called blockbusting, and it is illegal when real estate agents use it to flip a racially changing neighborhood. But apparently it’s okay when Daley wants to use it for his “greater good.”

Bensenville has refused to issue demolition permits to Chicago to tear down the homes it owns and turn the area into something akin to a bombed-out city. Chicago has sued the village to permit the teardowns and the question is now in the courts.

That might have been the most egregious attack on Bensenville and Geils, but it certainly wasn’t the only one. Geils faced a multitude of personal attacks and once in a re-election campaign, he was ruled off the ballot for the most minor of technical errors. Still, he won by a write-in vote. In Springfield, the Legislature and others have targeted various Geils programs, such as combining the police and fire departments (among the handful of Illinois communities that have combined departments, only Bensenville was targeted). Daley’s strategy was to isolate Geils and Johnson, to make them appear to be small-town quacks that were standing in the way of progress. Much of the media and the public bought this slander.

Geils and Johnson now have a taste of justification. The communities hired some of the most knowledgeable and independent aviation experts in the nation, including a former acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, to analyze Daley’s expansion plans. Their criticisms of the plan now have been echoed by the airlines, which want out of future expansion plans, portions of what they called “ill-conceived.” United, in a letter to the FAA last summer, said, “Unfortunately, the city did not accept the more modest and financially prudent approach.”

Could that have been the approach that Geils and Johnson have long proposed: a “modest” O’Hare expansion that made more sense without the huge disruptions caused by Daley’s plan, along with a south suburban airport? That’s what anyone who’s interested in the welfare of the region would advocate. Daley won’t.

Time to support a better alternative to O’Hare Expansion

The airlines’ stinging rebuke (see below) to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s O’Hare expansion plans leaves an obvious question:

If O’Hare expansion isn’t the answer to the crowded skies over Chicago, what is?

The answer has been out there for decades: a new south suburban airport. And fortunately, the groundwork already has been laid. A commission of Chicago suburbs won agreement from two international public works developers to design, finance, build and operate the new airport—at virtually no public cost.

Sadly, Daley and his cronies have stymied those plans, so what could have already been is still a cornfield. It now will take a major shift in political, civic and business alliances to restart the project, if it is not too late. The economic downturn and the credit crunch may have cooled the developers’ interest—which had previously remained strong despite Daley’s assault on the project.

One of the first issues that needs to be settled is: Who would control the new airport? Interest for the new airport had stagnated while Daley was pushing O’Hare expansion, until a group of southern suburbs plus O’Hare neighbors Bensenville and Elk Grove Village got the project untracked. Under the bi-partisan leadership of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and the late Rep. Henry Hyde, the group formed a commission that was close to signing up the international developers, until Daley, seeing his cherished O’Hare jobs and contracts threatened by the competition, “put a brick on” the development.

In this, he rounded up a wide array of allies in the public and private sector, but in his most effective move, he created a competitor to the Jackson group. Will County, which had previously shown no interest in the airport, suddenly insisted that it, and not the Jackson group, had the exclusive authority to build the airport. Daley was able to work this magic because Democratic influence was growing in the previously solid Republican county, and whatever quid pro quos the powerful Democratic Chicago mayor could offer were eagerly sought and accepted there. Opposition to the Jackson plan was the price they willingly paid.

In an irrational and wasteful twist, the Illinois Legislature and the Illinois Department of Transportation, did the un-Solomon like thing and spilt the baby. Rejecting the developers who were on the doorstep and ready to begin, they gave the competing groups equal—as it were—standing to build and run the airport. Back to square one in the lengthy bureaucratic board game, the two now are seeking separate approvals from the FAA (which years ago had backed the project) and the state. So now the state has become so mired in “process” that the airport’s start is nowhere in sight—an outcome that suits Daley just fine, giving him time to make his O’Hare expansion a fait accompli.

One thing was wrong, however, with Daley’s scheme. The expansion plan was bound to fail of its own weight. He was blinded by his determination to hold on to O’Hare patronage and put too much faith in the yes-people who surrounded him, and assured him that the expansion was “doable.”

How now to re-energize the south suburban airport? The first gigantic hurdle is to get the major players who supported the expansion to admit that they were wrong. Daley might never do this, but the business, civic, media and labor community that so gladly fell in behind the mayor’s ego can perhaps turn the tide. They owe it to the body politic.

The Federal Aviation Administration, too, will have to reassert its expertise, instead of collapsing as it did before powerful political forces in the city, state and Washington that were aligned with Daley. The FAA years ago had said that the south suburban airport was the best solution, and nothing has changed to justify abandoning that position.

Now comes the hard part: Anything that happens will need state approval, and Illinois is so racked with mis- and mal-governance that it is hard to imagine rational decision-making ever happening. That state is $4 billion—almost $5 billion—in the red, and no solution is in sight. Perhaps the prospect of privately financed jobs and contracts—which will be so rare in the near future—would help them decide to back the new airport.

As for Daley, Jackson’s group had repeatedly said they would be glad to split the patronage with the mayor. It was a price they were willing to pay to move ahead with a solution that would be beneficial for the entire region. Sharing the spoils may look a bit more attractive to Daley now that the airlines have thrown a wrench into the O’Hare works. Then, again, sharing has never been one of Daley’s strong points

Airlines at last say no to further O’Hare expansion

In a stunning reversal and a slap at Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s grandiose dream to expand O’Hare International Airport, the major carriers have rejected costly city plans for additional runways and terminals the airport.

The significance of the reversal, disclosed today by Chicago Tribune reporters Jon Hilkevitch and Julie Johnson, would be difficult to understate. In rejecting further expansion, the airlines have reversed their long-held support of Daley’s expansion plans, and now have sided with long-time critics. Among them were a former acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and other prominent airline industry experts hired by expansion opponents to analyze the plans.

Aside from vindication for the opponents, the apparent delay, if not death, of the expansion plans raises significant questions for the Chicago region, now to be honestly faced. Chief among them is the fate of the proposed south suburban airport, which has been moldering on the drawing boards, thanks in great part to Daley’s opposition.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quashing low-fare competition at O’Hare

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

The upstart and lower-fare Virgin Airlines’ plans to initiate service at O’Hare Airport, and thus bring competition, more jobs and economic development to the Chicago area, appears jeopardized by the sweetheart deal between the Daley administration and the legacy airlines that control the airport.

Which raises the question: When will someone, especially in the business community that is so dependent on air travel, finally get mad on the lunatic ways of O’Hare Airport.

Virgin Airlines, which provides international service from both coasts, has been planning a major expansion into America’s heartland, with O’Hare as its base. But it has been stymied because it has been unable to lease gates at the airport, even though more than enough are sitting idle. Virgin said it will have to decide in a few weeks whether to cancel its O’Hare plans and look for another alternative. Meaning, I assume, another Midwest city in which to locate its hub.

The reason Virgin can’t secure one of those empty gates? Because the gates are controlled by United and American airlines, which have a lock on some 80 percent of O’Hare’s business. And how can they get away with a duopoly at O’Hare when the airline industry is supposedly deregulated?

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GM should file for bankruptcy

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

President-elect Barack Obama and Democrats are facing the first important test of their promise of change, and they are about to land heavily on the side of the status quo in the most embarrassing and contemptible way.

In their hyperventilated drive to "save" General Motors (read: the United Auto Workers union), they are deploying our wallets to save a failed business, when real "change" would be bankruptcy, from which would emerge a better and more competitive enterprise.

The $25 billion lifeline, to be sliced from the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program meant for the financial industry, rewards GM for decades of incompetence, greed and sterile thinking. We should scram as far as possible from GM's legacy, not resuscitate it. But if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President George W. Bush, with Obama's blessing, put GM on life support, they would be wallowing in exactly the kind of capitulation to special interests that just weeks ago Democrats condemned.

The UAW has spent $24.6 million in campaign contributions, virtually all to Democratic candidates, in the last 20 years, while GM has spent $10 million on lobbying in just 2008, according to the non-partisan A few weeks before the election, the UAW announced a $3 million ad campaign in support of Obama.

These millions don't include the uncounted piles of dough that the company and union have spent in the last few weeks to pressure Washington into a bailout.

Over the weekend, Pelosi assured us that GM and the UAW wouldn't get off scot-free, that the $25 billion would come with "strings" attached, such as requiring Detroit to embrace the technology of more fuel-efficient cars—never mind that a different $25 billion of our money already has been set aside in loans for that purpose. Pelosi said the additional $25 billion wouldn't be "new money" because it was coming from "existing" bailout funds. You mean that $700 billion, which suddenly showed up in the last month from who knows where, isn't new money? Stop it, Nancy.

Pelosi's other strings would include a vague company "restructuring" to assure its "long-term" viability. Yeah, sure, we can trust the auto industry and UAW, which made this mess in the first place (GM's car sales began sliding a long time before the current financial crisis arrived), to do what it should have done decades ago.

The best, and perhaps only, way to accomplish what needs to be done is for a bankruptcy judge and his appointed trustee to oversee a top-to-bottom reorganization of the high-bound, uncreative and sluggish company. (For example: How about breaking up GM, which has too many models and divisions, into separate companies, freeing themselves of the brain lock imposed by a lumbering bureaucracy and an unimaginative central management?)

What's needed is a start-over. And a bankruptcy judge has the power to force the company to go back to square one by, among other things, forcing a recasting of the ridiculously rich union contracts. Stockholders, bondholders and other creditors and suppliers will be hurt by a bankruptcy, so why should organized labor escape whole?

If there absolutely must be a government cash infusion, New York University business professor Edward Altman says it should only be made on the condition of GM declaring bankruptcy, to protect the public's interest. No one can predict that the economy won't suffer greatly if GM is ushered into bankruptcy, but anyone who insists that he knows that a nationwide depression will surely follow if we don't cough up $25 billion more for GM is a faker, even a liar.

Declaring bankruptcy doesn't mean that plant and dealership doors would be padlocked the next day and hundreds of thousands of workers would be instantly on the street—an impression that GM and UAW propagandists would like everyone to believe.

Bankruptcy requires an orderly process, prescribed by law, under which the company can be reorganized and emerge strong and resilient. Reorganization would allow the assembly lines to continue running while arranging reasonable warranties, maintenance and service for customers.

Sure, it will take creativity and skill to handle a meaningful transformation, but that will never happen if the Washington friends of GM and UAW plop $25 billion in their laps.

Your comments are welcomed here or at the Tribune Forum

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time to give race a respite

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

A young black woman looked up at my white face from where she was seated in the classroom and said, "Yeah, right."

I was teaching a class of students studying for their high school general equivalency diploma, and said they could be anything they wanted, that it took perseverance, courage, blah and blah. The young woman looked up and said, to the general amusement of the mostly black class, "Yeah, right; I'll be the state attorney general."

The state was Georgia, the city was Athens—deep in the heart of the old South—and the year was 1967. Boycotts, fire hoses, freedom marches and other events of the civil rights movement weren't history then; they were everyday news. The South was reeling from a national frontal attack on a century of legalized and institutionalized racism. The civil rights movement had started a decade before, but deep, abiding racism remained. The student was right; she had no chance of becoming the Georgia attorney general. Then.

Now, four decades later, that same state gave our first African-American president elect, Barack Obama, 47 percent of its popular vote, not enough to win its 15 electoral delegates, but unthinkable back then.

Much has changed in those four decades, and Americans can be justifiably proud of what they have accomplished. Obama has been elected to the highest and most powerful office—in the public or private sector—in America, if not the world.

This towering achievement begs us to honestly and humbly reconsider affirmative action.

Obama achieved this campaign victory on his own merits, without any racial set-asides or goals to "level the playing field" among the many ambitious, talented and resourceful white politicians who coveted the job. Obama's win is more than a powerful symbol; it is reality. A reality that the many affirmative action programs—too many to count at all levels of government, business and education—must now acknowledge. If there is anything that challenges the national unity that Obama seeks, you need to include the mandated, favored treatment of certain races and ethnic groups given in hiring, promotion, college admissions and contracts.

Affirmative action has strayed far from what President John F. Kennedy intended when in 1961 he issued an executive order requiring all federal contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to race, creed, color or national origin." It was a mandate to be energetically non-discriminatory.

President Lyndon B. Johnson expanded on Kennedy's "colorblind" approach when he said, "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and say, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair." Whatever you may think of the merits of the policy, it was indisputably a mandate to favor some over others.

Racial discrimination still can be found in America, but the appropriate follow-up question that eventually cannot be ignored is: For how long is discrimination against one race required to compensate for past levels of discrimination against another? Don't kid anyone: The many who have patiently stood in line while others have been escorted to the front, even though they may not have directly felt the sting of discrimination, is a source of deep animosity that stands in the way of the kind of racial reconciliation that Obama seeks. So are the battalions of affirmative action and race consciousness enforcers who have engineered a good living by spotting, exaggerating and "remediating" racial tensions where few or none exist.

This is not to say that Obama's election has ushered in an Eden unsullied by lingering, even persistent racism. And it might be a fool's quest to urge a rational and calm re-examination of the pros and cons of affirmative action as it now exists when a black president and a Democratic Congress have been swept into office.

But if not now, when? If we want a frank and honest discussion on race and whether affirmative action should be returned to its original race-neutral intent, isn't it appropriate to consider modifications to the programs to reflect current realities? And to weigh whether class, cultural and economic circumstances are holding back more African-Americans now than racial hatreds?

Is affirmative action to forever continue in its now constituted and overreaching form, which even Johnson would not recognize? How do we know when the kind of legalized racial imbalances imposed by some affirmative action programs are no longer required? If one of the signs that we should be moving in that direction isn't the election of an African-American president, then what is?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A tough time for comics with Obama as president? Yes, they can worry where to find the funny --

The comics have concluded that it indeed will be a tough time for comics, concerned that with Obama they won't know where to find the funny.

Seems to me that they can start by finding something funny in a guy from Chicago getting elected president. But, really, the comics shouldn't worry about it; they've already turned themselves into a joke by their endless fawning over Obama.

Secret Order Lets U.S. Raid Al Qaeda in Many Countries -

Will Barack Obama, when he becomes president, rescind
this order? Who leaked this story, and why? Whether it was to embarrass President Bush or to put Obama into a box, it was wrong to leak it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Remember when Martin Luther King tried to march through white Chicago neighborhoods?

The argument back in the 1960s that he shouldn't march in support of open housing because he was "stirring up trouble," "inciting riots" and "endangering public safety." He marched anyway, as he should have, and for his efforts was hit in the head thrown by a racist in the crowd.

So, now we have another case of the right of free expression being restricted as a man is arrested for wearing a McCain shirt at an Obama victory rally. Where's the ACLU when you need it?

Hat tip to Blithe Spirit

I'll bet they did

Chicago Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani reported that many members of the media cheered at Barack Obama's Grant Park victory celebration. I congratulate Falsani on her honesty, even though I'm sure her confirmation of media bias was unintended.

ABC News: Emanuel Was Director Of Freddie Mac During Scandal

And this is news to the national media? Obama's connection to Rahm Emanuel was well known, as was Emanuel's directorship of Freddie Mac. Why did ABC wait until after the election to make this a big deal?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

It’s not Obama’s fault

An item from the I-wouldn’t-have-believed-it-if-I-hadn’t-seen-it-myself department:

How did the media report the 486-point crash of the Dow-Jones industrial average on Wednesday, the day after Barack Obama was elected president?

According to most media reports, the crash had little or nothing to do with a new president who is pushing redistributive wealth, higher taxation and other anti-business policies. On WMAQ-TV (an NBC station in Chicago on Channel 5) the words “Obama” or “election” weren’t mentioned in the brief item about the huge sell-off. It was as if the election hadn’t occurred, or that it was unthinkable that investors might have taken Obama’s election negatively.

The New York Times’ lead paragraph in its story reporting the huge Dow loss began: “Stocks erased all their gains from Tuesday’s rally—the biggest on a presidential Election Day in 24 years—as investors banked their profits and dealt with another round of bleak economic news.”

[Emphasis added] Not a mention of the election in the story until the end when it noted:
For those curious about the connection between stock markets and presidential elections, Wednesday’s declines fit in with historical precedent. Since 1888, on average, stocks fell 0.5 percent from Monday to Wednesday of a presidential election week when the Democrats took the White House, according to Jeremy J. Siegel, a professor at the Wharton School. (A Republican victory brought an average return of 0.7 percent.) This week, stocks fell about 1.5 percent over the same period.

Over the full four-year term, stocks have historically fared better under Democratic administrations.

“For those curious…” How condescending, as if the writer was stooping to explain it for those of us who are too stupid or audacious enough to think that Obama’s election might have at least a smidgen of something to do with the disastrous day. Notice that there is no attribution in the last sentence, which suggests that the business world prefers to have Democrats mucking up the free markets. If, indeed, stocks have performed better under Democrats, I anxiously await from the writer an explanation for the causal connection.

Of course, there was no mention in the story that, according to the Wall Street Journal story, Wednesday’s losses were the Dow’s “worst percentage decline ever on the day after a presidential election, surpassing the 4.5 percent drop on he day after Franklin Roosevelt’s first election in 1932.” No, mentioning that would have thrown dirt on Obama’s victory.

The Journal story rightly explored the other reasons for the massive decline (“renewed economic worries, coming on top of an unsustainable series of market gains,” as well as expectations for a bad jobless report on Friday), but it also gave attention to the possible Obama factor:
“Some commentators concluded that Wall Street was welcoming Barack Obama with a Bronx cheer. While polls had favored Mr. Obama for weeks, the reality of a new president and uncertainty about how, and how successfully, he will handle the financial troubles may have contributed to the losses, which left the Dow down 5.1 percent at 9130.27.”
I haven’t done a systematic survey of newspaper financial reports on Wednesday’s market drop, but I’m surprised at how quickly the media that I saw in my regular watching and reading so quickly discounted any relationship between the market and Obama’s election—except like the New York Times, which was quick to credit Obama for the previous days big increase, but dismissed any notion that Obama might have something to do with the loss.

It’s what we can expect for four more years.

(For one view from the business community about the impact of Obama’s policies, read the next post.)

Obama’s doing God’s work

These are excerpts from private correspondence between a Florida businessman and others. It is part of an exchange of e-mails discussing how to respond to Barack Obama’s election. Here is what a correspondent had e-mailed him earlier:
As one of my Republican friends said...she has to hope and believe that maybe this is a sign from God that Obama can help some of those people who really need help and see this as something that they really need right now. Maybe this is what our country needs right now. I don't know if I believe that. But it is the only way that I can think about this.
What follows is his levelheaded response. I was so struck by it that I asked him for permission to circulate it, which he granted. I have chosen to leave out the identities of the correspondents because I don’t want to subject them to the kind of uninvited responses I receive from the radical left.

I like the thought. However, I don’t see much desire to do God’s will coming from any politicians. What I see looks more like self will run riot. The desire to tax not to balance budgets, but to address fairness looks more like a desire to play God, than the humble desire to do His will.

I employ the middle class. I have the high privilege of being boss, steward, friend, creditor. How can Washington employ the masses? Can they redistribute enough to substitute for a job? Can the masses go to their congressmen and ask if they can have an advance to put a down payment on a car? Why isn’t anyone talking about jobs? Where did all the manufacturing jobs go? Why did no American firms even bid on the Dubai Ports deal? What effect does wetland impact fees have on jobs? What effect will cap and trade have on jobs? All we hear about is climate change, what is the other side of the balance sheet? What is the effect of our right-minded legislation? I see the effects. I don’t think they can see them from Washington.

I am hopeful that the American spirit, freedom, free enterprise, ingenuity, hard work will not be snuffed out in a tsunami of taxes and regulation that is sure to come. God Bless us all.
Here’s another, earlier view from the same businessman:
The current financial crisis should not be underestimated now that the market has stopped its precipitous slide. We employed 185 people at one time, we currently employ 80. Our company is one of the fortunate ones to have some work. Those 105 workers were not assimilated into the employment rolls of other construction companies. Many of them are still unemployed. I have never seen an environment that was so difficult to maneuver in. If the government has not taxed us into oblivion, they have regulated us into stagnation. I see it firsthand. It is not to be taken lightly. Now we have asked those who created the problem to fix the problem. Government has never been the solution. The worst fact of all is that we have succumbed to the illusion that they are.
Eloquent words from a man who makes his living by literally getting his hands dirty—something that you don’t get sitting at a keyboard hailing our “transformation” into wherever Obama wants to take us when he says, "We can get there."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama’s Cheney

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

In the time it took to grab a quick night’s sleep, Barack Obama trashed his dream of ushering in a new Era of Good Feelings by offering the White House chief of staff job to Rahm (the hatchet) Emanuel.

Emanuel is the abrasive, vindictive and partisan Democratic congressman from Chicago’s North Side whose willingness to crush the opposition is legendary. Several news organizations this morning are reporting that Obama has offered the top job in his administration to Emanuel, but he hasn’t yet decided to accept. If true, at this point only Emanuel can save Obama from Emanuel by turning down the job. Whether he will depends on which way his powerful ego steers him: To the second most powerful man in the White House, or eventually to his coveted job as Speaker of the House.

Even Jane Hamsher warns in the far left The Nation magazine that Emanuel’s appointment would be a “sharp slap in the face,” and a serious threat to an Obama administration’s ability....

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Finally--maybe--an end to the economy bashing

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Thank God it's over.

No, I don't mean the longest presidential campaign ever, although I'm glad it's done. Even though some commentator Tuesday night, as soon as the votes are counted, will be the first to kick off the next campaign by proclaiming that so-and-so now is "well-positioned" for a run in 2012.

Instead, I'm talking about how we no longer will have to be instructed that we are in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. That has been political hogwash, slopped on us by Barack Obama and the Democrats. If Obama wins Tuesday, the Great One no longer will need to scare us with that economic boogeyman and the positive news will start flowing. However, if John McCain wins (which we are assured he won't), look for Democrats and their media parrots to thwack his "failed economic policies" for our miseries, oh, woe is us, for another four years. Just as they blamed President George W. Bush's "failed economic policies," even though the same policies pulled us out of a bad recession that he didn't cause. Even though their president, Bill Clinton, was the first to push for the relaxation of mortgage loan requirements that led to the current wreck of a housing market. Truth is, we're not in the worst economic times since the Great Depression, when, at its peak, one out of four Americans was unemployed. Unemployment now, running about 6 percent, rose to more than 7 percent several times between the Depression and now, hit 9 percent in the mid-1970s and hovered a little less than 11 percent for some of the 1980s.

Yet, not letting facts stand in the way, Obama repeatedly deployed the Great Depression fabrication, which, in fact, added to our economic woes by eroding consumer confidence, stock market and housing values and credit availability. The collapse of the dot-com bubble and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks produced a recession that lasted 22 months (the Bush tax cuts helped pull us out of it). A recession in the early 1990s, brought on by a restrictive monetary policy, declining consumer sales, the insolvency of the government-backed fund guaranteeing savings-and-loan deposits and other factors still being argued, lasted 23 months. Those were nothing compared to the lengthy 1980s recession that featured 14 percent mortgage interest rates and lengthy gasoline lines. We had earlier recessions, even in the supposedly booming 1950s, but I guess those don't count either.

Sadly, many of my media colleagues have been struck by amnesia as they failed to report how we have gone through harder times, mindlessly repeating the Obama assertion as if it were a given. Keep it up long enough, and it will be a given, which is why I'm kind of hoping that Obama is elected so that it just might staunch the unremitting flow of predicted bad news.

Ever since Bush took office, we've had a ceaseless barrage of "we're-in-for-it-nows" from Democrats and liberal media. They have relentlessly repeated the r-word, even in good times, and soon enough, like a self-fulfilling prophecy and to Democratic good cheer, we got an economic slowdown. If you keep saying we're in a recession long enough, sooner or later, because of the economy's cyclical nature, you can claim that you're right, hurray, even though we still have not officially entered one.

Since I'm rash enough to challenge Obama's economic inventions, I'll go even further and suggest that the "recession" might well be over even before it started, or soon thereafter. The most recent gross domestic product numbers didn't tank as badly as the oracles predicted. Skyrocketing crude oil prices ("It's Bush's fault"), once considered the prime cause of our miseries, have plummeted. Funny how energy prices, when they are high, "ricochet like a deadly bullet through the economy," but when they nose-dive, it doesn't matter. Now, we're told, housing is really the problem. Except for the fact that housing sales, according to the data, have turned positive in the last month. But that, I gather, doesn't matter either because now it's tight credit that matters. Even though the credit markets have begun to loosen.

Not until Obama steps into the Oval Office will any of this be taken as a positive sign, and then guess who will get the credit for bringing us our newly discovered prosperity?

Monday, November 03, 2008

More Fireworks for Grant Park?

Talk about bad judgment, Barack Obama’s decision to hold a late-night victory rally in Grant Park is the exemplar. If this is the kind of horse sense we expect to see from Obama as president, then we’re in for a rough ride.

The Grant Park plans were cast as Obama’s brain, David Axelrod, was smacking around John McCain’s supposedly awful judgment for heading to Washington to debate the $700-billion financial bailout plan. As if it were a sign of awful judgment for a senator and presidential candidate to be involved in one of the most important public policy decisions of the decade. Naturally, the airheads and the media ate it up, taking Obama’s distant posing as a sign of great leadership.

But I stray from the subject at hand, which is Obama’s smug and/or stupid decision to celebrate his victory late at night in the heart of the nation’s murder capital.

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

The worm turns?

If the New York Times runs a piece confessing that the media, indeed, may have "baked the cake" against McCain, then it must be so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama Cites Questionable Study on McCain Ads

By Dennis Byrne
Human Events

Barack Obama’s astounding assertion that “100 percent” of John McCain’s campaign ads are “negative” is based on a study that is disingenuous, if not fraudulent.

It is exactly the kind of study that surfaces from academia that the media blindly report without questioning the methodology, the data or the conclusions -- especially if it conforms to the media’s biases.

Obama made the charge against McCain in the Oct.15 presidential debate, saying a look at the record shows that “100 percent, John, of your ads -- 100 percent of them -- have been negative.” McCain replied with something that sounded like, “It’s not true,” prompting Obama to come back with: “It absolutely is true.”

Obama apparently was referring to a study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project, affiliated with the University of Wisconsin’s political science department, reporting that “all” McCain campaign ads were negative for the week of Sept. 28, to Oct. 4 -- a timeframe that Obama neglected to mention.

Beyond that glaring factual omission by Obama, there remains the questionable methodology,,,

Read more in Human Events

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Proving once again that...

you can say anything you damn well please and get away with it. This is in reference to Barack Obama's upcoming closing argument speech
in which he, according to the Wall Street Journal, will lay claim
to the political middle, claiming, as numerous presidential candidates in the past have done, that he can end gridlock in Washington and its dependence on partisan politics and special interests. [emphasis added]
The middle? The most liberal presidential candidate ever?

Had enough yet? Vote for change

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Folks who are sincerely interested in "real change" should vote in next Tuesday's election for an Illinois constitutional convention.

Former Gen. Colin Powell said the election of Barack Obama would be "transformational," and if supporters of the Democratic candidate want the same kind of sea change on the state level, they can mark yes on the ballot question: Shall a convention be called to change the state constitution?

Without it, the state will continue marching toward insolvency and remain mired in corruption and incompetence. Sure, a revision of the state's 37-year-old constitution doesn't guarantee our rescue from the clutches of the bumbling, stubborn and shady politicians and interests that now run the state. But without the kind of improvements the convention and voters can force upon the state's power structure, you can wager that nothing will change.

The organized opponents of a constitutional convention—representing many of the same business, labor and political interests that have steered us to the brink—insist that constitutional change isn't what we need. The way to change government is to elect new people, they say. Sure, that has worked so well.

Then, after telling us that the way to reform government is to elect better people, the anti-con-con forces warn us a convention would be dangerous because voters would elect the same kind of convention delegates that they already elect to run state government. This argument is at war with itself. If we can't elect true reformers to a con-con, then how are we going to elect true reformers to man the helm of state government?

The anti-con-con forces could have made a better case for themselves if they had said: To reform government, we need to elect better people, and we're creating a coalition of the reform-minded to do just that. Our coalition will cross party lines and back a consensus slate of candidates for the 2010 election, in which the governor and all leading state officers are elected. That they haven't shown any interest in that demonstrates that in opposing a convention they are mainly interested in tamping down reform efforts.

Certainly, some opposition is reasonable and well-intentioned, based on fears, for example, that the convention would draft a worse constitution or fall into the hands of single-issue delegates, such as those who want to write into it protections against global warming or for traditional marriage.

One such thoughtful opponent is Ann M. Lousin, a John Marshall Law School professor, an experienced hand from the 1970 Con-Con and a scholar in the field. In a 52-page paper, "Will Illinois Hold a Constitutional Convention?," she outlines some major issues and how they might be addressed without calling a convention.

Whether they are confronted at a convention or some other way, Lousin lays out a worthy agenda for consideration that is a rebuke to those who say there's nothing for a convention to do: replacing judicial elections with "merit" selection; funding public pensions; financing public elementary and secondary education; and instituting a system of recalling state and local elected officials.

Other issues ripe for consideration are:

Returning to the "cumulative voting" system of electing state representatives, to help depolarize the current system; improving the system of redrawing legislative districts, to eliminate "redistricting by lottery"; imposing term limits; combining overlapping offices, such as state treasurer and controller; eliminating some offices altogether, such as lieutenant governor; revising home-rule powers and eliminating the multitude of special districts; reforming the state income tax; removing the corporate tax that was designed years ago to replace the personal property tax; requiring a legislative supermajority to raise taxes; broadening citizen initiative and referendum rights to bypass a gridlocked legislature; restricting the power of government to condemn private property for private development; and rethinking tax-increment financing districts.

Other issues abound, all sounding technical, uninteresting and only indirectly connected to solving Illinois' current problems. So, boredom and apathy are on the side of anti-con-con forces. Those forces also have the advantage of money, institutional power and a focused agenda. Pro-con-con forces are fragmented, ill-funded and devoid of comparable organizational resources. As outsiders always are.

But if you are fed up with the Blagojeviches, Madigans, Joneses and all the others who know how to play the system, I'd suggest you vote yes on con-con, to yank the system out from under them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chicago Goes To Washington

Oh, boy, it has started already, a week before they even start counting the ballots.

David Axelrod, Mayor Daley's pal and Chicago Machine political consultant, is reportedly interested in serving in a position in the Obama administration.

Rahm Emanuel, the sharp tongued North Side congressman, rich La Salle St. guy and member of the Clinton administration, reportedly could end up as Obama's chief of staff. As the congressman from the north side district, Emanuel succeeds such bright lights as Dan Rostenkowski, Frank Annunzio and Rod Blagojevich, which says it all.

These are the first, I presume, of a flood of Chicago pols that Obama would bring to Washington. And they thought Texans in the White House under George W. Bush were bad, wait until everyone gets a load of what Chicago offers.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More reporting incompetence at the New York Times

Here's why the public has such a low opinion of the media. While the real estate market was tanking, it was big news. Now, when there's a glimmer of hope--well, it's still bad news.

Notice in the lead paragraph, the writer reports the turn-around in sales, but immediately dismisses it with an unattributed, subjective and perhaps inaccurate comment (i.e., the credit crisis has intensified since those home sales occurred).

If the writer had been paying attention on Friday and earlier, most of the reports and analysis suggested that credit was loosening up. But whether it is or not, the first paragraph is not the place for such an unattributed statement. When I was in journalism school, the professor would have climbed all over me for shoving it into the lead. Or using it at all if I didn't have it attributed to someone.

Judge tosses lawsuit challenging Obama citizenship

This lawsuit has been hot on the Internet, and now we have a conclusion, in which the judge said "any" or "all" voters lack standing to bring this lawsuit because "...any harm from an allegedly ineligible [presidential] candidate was too vague and its effects too attenuated...."

I am puzzled. If a voter (or a citizen) doesn't have standing in such a case, then who does? If the damage done by a violation of the Constitution, in this or any other case, is "too vague" for a citizen to bring a case, then what is the legal remedy to this alleged constitutional violation?

I'm not anxious to see such a case move forward and send our electoral process into a tail-spin, but, like I say, I am puzzled. Perhaps a constitutional lawyer (not Obama) out there can enlighten me.

Here is the story about the suit's dismissal:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Barack Obama's qualifications to be president.

U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick on Friday night rejected the suit by attorney Philip J. Berg, who alleged that Obama was not a U.S. citizen and therefore ineligible for the presidency. Berg claimed that Obama is either a citizen of his father's native Kenya or became a citizen of Indonesia after he moved there as a boy.

Obama was born in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father. His parents divorced and his mother married an Indonesian man.

Internet-fueled conspiracy theories question whether Obama is a "natural-born citizen" as required by the Constitution for a presidential candidate and whether he lost his citizenship while living abroad.

Surrick ruled that Berg lacked standing to bring the case, saying any harm from an allegedly ineligible candidate was "too vague and its effects too attenuated to confer standing on any and all voters."

An Upturn in the Housing Market?

Is it possible that the housing market has turned?

Blamed for just about everything bad that has happened recently to the economy, housing sales, I dare say, are showing signs of picking up. At the risk of being considered a lunatic, I say this for reasons of systematically gathered data, personal experience and common sense.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Existing home sales jump sharply

How well to you think the media will respond to this? Is Wall Street listening?

Seeing as how everything bad that has happened to the economy has been blamed on housing, this news should be shouted from the rooftop. My guess? It won't.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Racism among Obama's supporters.

Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington demands ("President Obama will have debts to pay") that if Barack Obama is elected, he must carry out a "black agenda." Said she:

...[H]e will step into the Oval Office courtesy of overwhelming turnouts dug out of the red hills of Georgia and the gritty concrete of Newark.

There will be a debt to pay.

Amazing. We have been constantly reminded that the Obama campaign has been devoid of "race." The PBS Newshour tonight spent an entire segment analyzing just how large a factor white racism has played in the election. (The panel seemed to conclude that it was a "second tier" factor.) Overlooked was a discussion about how important black racism has played in the election. Judging by Washington's demand, it has played a big factor in the minds of some of his supporters.