17 December 2008

Da Machine

Da Machine
by Schmutzie
12/17/2008, 12:22 PM #

As I read yet another reference to "the machine" in Chicago politics yesterday, and a half-assed attempt to connect Rod Blagojevich's scandal with business as usual in Chicago, I was tempted to tell the poster that he obviously has no clue what he's talking about, but I refrained because there's really no reasoning with people who argue for fun, especially the self-righteous kind of person who argues for fun.

The post itself was uncharacteristically brief for this particular poster, simply a link and an off-the-cuff remark about "loving Chicago politics." A clear tip-off that there is no substance to an argument is brevity and poor follow-up.

I understand some people have a burning need to be seen as clever, and feel a need to have an opinion on any hot topic, but seriously, if you don't have an informed opinion....maybe just shut the fuck up until you educate yourself. When it was pointed out that Springfield is where the Illinois governor's mansion is, the poster opined (out of his ass) that the way to get to Springfield is through the Democratic party in Chicago, and "the machine."

Our previous (corrupt, and now in jail) governor George Ryan is a Republican. I already posted something about this piece of human excrement, so I won't go back into that. Ryan served as Illinois governor between 1999-2003.
Former governor Jim Thompson also a Republican, served for 14 (1977-1991), the longest term in Illinois history. Thompson and Richard J Daley, the man behind "Da Machine" were enemies.

Jim Thompson has been both Chairman and CEO of Chicago legal giant Winston & Strawn, and was the driving force behind the firm's decision to comp $10million in legal fees defending the despicable George Ryan.

Dan Webb, the enormously talented and highly respected prosecutor turned defense attorney was lead counsel, and that was at the direction of Jim Thompson. Thompson is also a director and head of the Audit Committee for Hollinger International, Conrad Black's little enterprise, now under investigation by the SEC. I always considered Thompson to be the kind of corrupt politician who is smart enough to keep the real dirt at arm's length, but my sources tell me that he did have some peculiar tastes in late night companionship.

In the last 31 years, Illinois has had 18 years of Republican governor. So much for the argument that to get to Sprinfield you need to be cozy with Chicago Dems.

Jim Edgar, a Democrat, was the gov between Thompson and Ryan (1991-1999). Edgar is seen across the state as a real straight shooter, and has a career untainted by any scandal (outisde of the goofy decision to declare an L Ron Hubbard Day)...or connection to "the Chicago Democratic Machine." Edgar sparred regularly with Richie The Corrupt Daley over the issue of bringing a casino to Navy Pier. Richie The Corrupt (John Kass calls him Mayor Shortshanks, which I absolutely love) wanted that casino so badly he could taste it, but governor Edgar wouldn't play along.

Another example of Springfield having a mind all its own, and another 8 years of Springfield not being cozy with Chicago City Hall...go figure.

Incidentally, speaking of Springfield, that's the home district of Dick Durbin, our senior Senator.

Which brings me to Blago, and "the Chicago machine."

Blago's connection to Chicago's City Council is through his father-in-law, Richard Mell. They hate each other. The Chicago "machine" is not behind the corruption charges now facing Blago. Apparently living in Ravenswood is enough for the uninformed types around here to simply toss Blago into the Chicago hopper, but that's just a lazy man's attempt to sound clever. Rod Blagojevich doesn't enjoy, nor has he enjoyed, the support from the Democratic party in Chicago, or Cook County for quite some time now, so that pretty much buries the Springfield/Chicago machine connection for good. It's a myth.

Pat Fitzgerald has been investigating Blago for over 2 years. The initial investigation centered around a few players, namely Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine and Rod Blagojevich, who were trying to shake down Illinois hospitals, and the contractors involved in expansion plans for those hospitals. These hospitals were located in places like Crystal Lake, a far northwest suburb, and Naperville out in the southwest. Neither of those examples fall under the influence of Chicago's City Council, or Cook County's Board.(since neither are in Cook County) There are numerous other examples, but I think you get the idea.

Springfield corruption is totally seperate from Chicago corruption.

When this Blago scandal broke, and I posted about it that morning, I immediately suspected Tony Rezko pointed Fitz in the right direction in hopes of lessening his upcoming sentence. I still think that.

Rod Blagojevich's corruption charges can be traced to one thing. Greed. Blago's approval rating in Illinois was at 13% BEFORE his eBay auction for Obama's vacant Senate seat, and now hovers around 7% which is astonishing in and of itself. The reason Blago was making this wild-assed cash grab is because he knows (or knew) that come 2010, he's out of a job. You've probably heard the word "radioactive" connected with Blago in the last week or so. Very true, and it has been for some time. Hell, even Blago knew he was being watched by the feds. Everybody knew. My late cat Ralph knew.

And that's why I'd be absolutely stunned if any of these taped conversations involving Rahm Emanuel turn up any pay-to-play offers from Rahm. Rahm is smarter than the average cat. Rahm knew that Blago controlled the appointment, and so it only stood to reason that Rahm would contact Blago's office with Obama's preferred choice of replacement. Same with anyone else interested in the job, including Jan Schakowsky, Tammy Duckworth, Jesse Jackson Jr, and others.

Now, a word about the Chicago "machine."

Back in the day, Richard J Daley was Mayor of Chicago, and also had a push-button control over the Cook County Board. That's a lot of control, and that's when the term Da Machine was coined. That's when Da Machine was operating smoothly, and it's a period well documented in books by both Mike Royko and Len O'Connor.It simply refers to the City of Chicago operating like a well oiled machine. A push-nutton operation run by Richard J Daley, The Boss. That's when we called Chicago "The City That Works." Ahhh, those were the days.

Control of the Cook County Board is not a luxury enjoyed by Richard M Daley, just ask Todd Stroger. Also note, that David Orr, Michael Bilandic, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, and Eugene Sawyer all served as Chicago Mayor between Daley's. (Also note that the Cook County Democratic Party did not support Richie Shortshanks in his bid for Cook County State's Attorney in the late 80s, for which he's never forgiven them.)

When people try to act like they know about Chicago, they invariably invoke Da Machine.

Da Machine died in December 1976. (the "Da" part of Da Machine is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the way the old man pronounced the word "the"....duh.) We don't all talk like dat here,....know what I'm sayin'?

What is in place now in Chicago, "the machine", is a very strong LOCAL Democratic party, but it isn't in the same universe as Da Machine. If you don't believe me, just read about how our side-streets are still covered in snow this morning (a mistake that cost Bilandic the Mayor's job back in '79), a mistake The Boss would never have made.

I'm not suggesting there isn't wheeling and dealing that goes on at 121 N. LaSalle. There certainly is, and I could write 10,000 words on that subject. But this idea that corrupt Chicago politicians, and some sort of version of Da Machine is at the root of Blago's troubles is utter nonsense. If there is a machine in Chicago, its a strong Dem influence that attempts to run the city, not the entire state, nor the US Senate, nor the White House, and it ain't nuthin' like the old man's Machine. (which incidentally did not put JFK in the White House either.)

That Blago has had contact with certain area politicians is unsurprising. You may include Richie Shortshanks as one of those politicians, and the common link, John Harris, may prove fatal for Richie the Corrupt. Harris was Richie's budget director, and presently Chicago's finances are a shambles (something that never would have happened under The Boss.) However, implying that Daley's efforts to get state money for Chicago, and Blago's efforts to get flush before he gets unemployed, are in some way connected,.. is fantasy.

Springfield is not Chicago. Springfield has had its own problems recently, with corruption tainting both Republican governor Ryan, and Dem governor Blago. Chicago has its own problems and corruption. It's the difference between state government and city government.Two different entities. Chicago "machine" politics is all about getting things done here, and splitting up the left over money among friends. It's about patronage hiring.

There may be a Chicago influence in the careers in both of these scumbags, but in a state like Illinois, that is absolutely inevitable. There's 5 or 6 million people jammed into about 4% of the state's area. As I told someone else here, Illinois without Chicago is Nebraska.

I understand how Chicago politics work, and I understand how Illinois politics work. They may be similar in some regards, but the same can be said of politics in general, and in every state. Politics is horse trading, and deal making. What Blago is accused of (and what Ryan is in prison for) is pure stupid greed, and has nothing to do with a machine (there's a reason they call it a machine ya know?), or the long since mothballed... Da Machine.

Those days are gone, the days of Da Machine, but I've eften thought of how The Boss would have liked the US Attorney representing the Northern District of Illinois.

If there were typical 21st Century Chicago politics at work behind the filling of Obama's seat, nobody would have been calling anybody, they'd have just talked it over at Tavern on Rush and done the deal. (and maybe Fitz would have bugged the booth)

If The Boss was still alive, if Da Machine was still functioning, and was somehow involved in all of this, ....you'd have never heard a word.

You will also find this essay at Schmutzie's blog, Out of the Loop.

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