Thursday, December 18, 2008


Our society doesn't need to squander a single additional dollar incarcerating former Gov. George Ryan for public corruption. And bravo to Senator Dick Durbin for championing commutation of his six year sentence to the single year served.

Crooked politicians engage in corruption because its hard wired into their brains and their character, and being put in charge of the cookie jar becomes an irresistible temptation. They watch as dozens, hundreds of their colleagues destroy their lives and go to jail and they still do it. No sensible politician tempted to such shenanigans could look at seventy-four year old Ryan getting out of jail to die at home in disgrace and say to themselves, "Gee, his personal destruction and year in the joint is not a bad punishment for the risk I take".

Our now bankrupt country wastes billions of dollars a year incarcerating aging and harmless folks like Ryan while adequate police and rehabilitation resources go unfunded, allowing crime to escalate. America is mired in make believe wars in the Middle East that have killed over a million and our economy is collapsing before our very eyes. Yet the hard-hearted haters are coming out of the woodwork en mass to rant about a truly insignificant issue to the public good.

If they are so obsessed in having Ryan rot in jail till he's almost eighty they should take up a collection to pay for it and let our precious and disappearing tax dollars go for more urgent needs.

Originally published in Naperville Sun, December 11, 2008
Also published in Glen Ellyn News, December 17, 2008 and
Daily Herald, January 3, 2009

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The likely resignation of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich next week will begin his well earned descent from well paid, high profile politician with limitless ambition, to a broken man soon to be pondering his fate in prison.

As a former supporter I will remember fondly his last public act in his favorite role as populist champion of the society's underdogs. On Monday, December 8, the Gov showed up to lend his support to the 240 laid off workers of Republic Windows and Doors, who occupied their shuttered workplace December 2nd to protest their firing without getting severance, accrued vacation and two months of health care benefits, all of which would normally be granted employees of a planned plant closing. Blagojevich was the most prominent of a number of local politicians and power brokers lending their support to a mostly minority work force, utterly powerless as individuals, but utterly righteous in their collective cause, and ultimately successful beyond even their expectations.

The settlement offered the day of the Governor's arrest wasn't hindered, and may have been facilitated by his very public support for the workers' cause and his charge to state employees to cease dealing with Republic's creditor, Bank of America, till they resolved the factory sit-in satisfactorily. The Governor's next public appearance was a perp walk from his home in handcuffs to end what Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called a "public corruption crime spree".

Rod will have years, maybe decades, to figure our how such a talented and charismatic soul with enormous potential for good went so terribly wrong. Early on, he must have attached himself to the wrong role models, fools to whom power and wealth mean everything. If he is truly wise he will study the likes of Republic employees and union leaders Armando Robles, Mark Meinster and Mel Maclin, who did the right thing when they and their union comrades were pushed to the edge of an economic cliff. And he should remember his last public act in furtherance of the Republic settlement as one worthy of what he could have done full time.