Friday, August 07, 2009

Why I find it easy to be cynical about government
Part 2: Politicians and the Great Game

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
— John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (Lord Acton)


One of the earliest memories of political skulduggery I have was the case of Paul Powell, Illinois Secretary of state.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,942440,00.html
Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell had a simple definition, expressed in the negative, of a successful politician: "There's only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one." For 42 years, Powell was an undefeated politician. Now, three months after his death, at age 68, his executor, the Illinois attorney general and the Illinois Bureau of Investigation are taking the true measure of his success. Powell, who in his lifetime of public service never earned more than $30,000 a year, left an estate worth more than $2 million—$800,000 of it in bills packed into shoe boxes, briefcases and strongboxes in the closet of his hotel suite in Springfield.
I once had a "Paul Powell Savings Bank" - it was part of a collection. It was a shoe box.


Illinois has a history of political corruption.

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/06/us/ex-illinois-governor-pleads-guilty-in-loan-fraud.html
Though to be fair, Dan Walker went to prison for something he did AFTER he was governor. (Savings and Loan fraud)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-060417ryantrial,0,455299.story
George Ryan was convicted for corruption in office


The current Jr. Senator for Illinois, Roland Burris, has decided not to run for reelection. He has various stories on this - mostly lack of funds. The truth is probably a bit more complicated. He is essentially political Kryptonite in Illinois, because of his association with Blago. (More on him in a minute...) Burris has answered several questions (and refused to answer) on whether or not he was ready to engage in Pay to Play with Blago for Obama's Senate seat. This bit of snark sums it up nicely. http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/vox_pop/2009/02/roland-burris-resign.html
Let’s see if we have it right: Burris had zero contact with any of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s cronies about his interest in the Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama— unless you count that conversation with former chief of staff Lon Monk, and, on further reflection, the ones with insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma and, oh yeah, the governor’s brother and fund-raising chief, Robert Blagojevich. But Burris didn’t raise a single dollar for the now ex-governor as a result of those contacts because that could be construed as a quid pro quo and besides, everyone he asked refused to donate.

Do I need to recount the misdemeanors of Milorad "Rod" Blagojevich?

Probably not. Let's look at the man behind the curtain (or one of them anyway). Tony Rezko.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Rezko (Not the most definitive source, I know, but I have a headache, so staring a screen is painful - sleep is unthinkable)
Antoin "Tony" Rezko (born July 1955) is a political fundraiser, restaurateur, and real estate developer in Chicago, Illinois, convicted on several counts of fraud and bribery in 2008. Rezko has been involved in fundraising for local Illinois Democratic and Republican politicians since the 1980s. After becoming a major contributor to Rod Blagojevich's successful gubernatorial election, Rezko assisted Blagojevich in setting up the state's first Democratic administration in twenty years. Rezko was able to have business associates appointed onto several state boards. Rezko and several others were indicted on federal charges in October 2006, for using their connections to the state boards to demand kickbacks from businesses that wanted to do business with the state. While the others pleaded guilty to the charges, Rezko pleaded not guilty and was found guilty of 16 of the 24 charges filed against him.
Rezko dealt with both sides of the aisle, and most politicians not actively feuding with the Machine. Including structuring a sweetheart real-estate deal for an Illinois Senator.
http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/124171,CST-NWS-obama05.article
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama expressed regret late Friday for his 2005 land purchase from now-indicted political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko in a deal that enlarged the senator's yard.
Obama bought a house, and Rezko bought a vacant lot next to that house for $600,000 and change. Obama later a "strip" of Rezko's land for about 100 grand. (later paragraph) What this article doesn't mention is that by selling that piece of land to the Obamas, Rezko made the remaining property into default park land. The lot does not have enough setback to meet Chicago zoning requirements. No one can build on Rezko's property. Which to some people implies that Obama really has control of the whole of the Rezko property at 100 grand, not 600 grand. It looks like a $500,000 gift on which no taxes were paid. Appearances can be deceiving, but this is Chicago.


This litany doesn't even touch on the truly horrible things governments (and politicians) have done over the centuries. (I leave you to do a web search on anything you aren't familiar with.)

The Trail of Tears and other acts against Native Americans by the US government or the states individually.
US Grant's General Order 11
Turkish Extermination of Armenians
Soviet Extermination of Ukrainians (Holodomor -or Starvation- of 1932 to 1933, killed 14 million Ukrainians)

Nazi Extermination of Jews and "undesirables" in the Holocaust. (6 million Jews, 3 million others)
Hutu and Tutsi Conflict (800,000 - more or less depending on who is counting - died in 1994, but millions have died in total.)
Great Leap Forward (1957 to ? at least 16 million died as a result of famine, not including political purges)

You could reach farther back.. the Edict of Expulsion (1290) and the associated atrocities. The Inquisition was not exactly a government's doing, yet had they support of governments. Pogroms of the late 1800s, early 1900s.

If you call the Huns' tribal leadership a government... Or read what the Greeks did to one another in "The History of the Peloponnesian War," by Thucydides.

Now, ask me again why I am cynical about government.




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