Sunday, September 30, 2007

Some Updates

The article Another Crappy Day has been cross-posted at

An update on the "To The Kingdom of Idiots, And Step On It", explaining what's happened since:

In the time since this article was written, the number of carrier groups in the Persian Gulf grew to three, then declined to one, led by Enterprise. According to this article, that number will soon climb to three again.

As I predicted, Senator Webb's proposed legislation has gone nowhere. To coin a phrase,sometimes I just hate it when I'm right.

In other words, little has changed.

Finally, people at have asked for an explanation of that "wanna be crook" label I put on Barack Obama. Fair enough.

Obama's actions in the MySpace incident and the implications of the Rezko deal, in which he got a break on a land deal with someone who is now under indictment for extortion, together with his having a reputation for throwing his weight around in his own interests, just strikes me as those of someone who loses track of his moral center. The Rezko deal wasn't illegal, Obama just benefitted from it, and the person he did that deal with has turned out to be a very unsavory one:

For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago's South Side.

It was just four years after the landlords -- Antoin "Tony'' Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru -- had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.

Rezko and Mahru couldn't find money to get the heat back on.

But their company, Rezmar Corp., did come up with $1,000 to give to the political campaign fund of Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator whose district included the unheated building.

Obama and his Rezko ties

The article I'm quoting goes on to detail what the Chicago Sun-Times could find out about their relationship. The effect it's had on Illinois politics is unclear, but for a lawyer whose area of interest is low-income housing to have such a close relationship with such an individual raises serious concerns.

As the LA Times article notes, he's also gotten props for sponsoring or voting for a couple of pieces of anti-corruption legislation while he was in the Illinois Senate. It then goes on to note, however, an interesting tit-for-tat deal with former political foe Yesse B. Yehudah:

As a presidential candidate, Obama has been critical of the congressional system of doling out money for pet projects. But he is no stranger to pork-barrel politics and the practice of spreading government money around his district. In Springfield he once directed state funds to a nonprofit group headed by a Republican and former ballot foe, Yesse B. Yehudah.

Yehudah barely registered a ripple of meaningful opposition, drawing only 10% of the vote in his 1998 challenge of Obama.

The following year, a nonprofit run by Yehudah, a social services organization called Fulfilling Our Responsibility Unto Mankind, began seeking state support. At the same time, Obama was considering mounting an ambitious challenge to U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, a fellow Democrat.

Former foe Yehudah stepped up early to help. In November 1999, five people who worked for the Republican's nonprofit organization each gave $1,000 checks to Obama's congressional campaign committee. Yehudah makes no secret of his goal.

"We want [politicians] to know that when we sit down, we're serious," Yehudah said. "They know it when a $1,000 check comes in."

Obama lost his congressional bid. President Clinton backed incumbent Rush, who received twice as many primary votes as Obama. Obama was left with a $40,000 debt.

Later that year, Yehudah associates pitched in an additional $5,000 to help retire Obama's debt. The contributions were recorded on Oct. 7, 2000, three days after the Illinois Senate, at Obama's behest, approved a $75,000 state grant to Yehudah's nonprofit, state records show.

Obama: a fresh face or an old-school tactician?

Yehuda has had his own legal problems. Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan filed a civil action against Yehuda's FORUM in 2002, alleging misuse of the charity's funds. I can't find any references to that case, so I don't know how it turned out.

Obama's never crossed the line from questionable to illegal acts as far as I'm aware, and may never, but there are troubling signs. Part of that impression comes from the fact that he's succeeded in Illinois politics - not the best place to keep one's reputation intact.

"Wanna be crook" may not be the best description of such a person, but ethically he just strikes me as a high-wire act. He brings to mind an image of one of those young guys hanging around with the bad crowd, but never quite being a part of it.

For further reading, you may want to check out this bit of oppo research by a supporter of Hillary Clinton's. It's overly dramatic, to be sure, but follow the links.

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