Friday, January 23, 2009

Inaugural Leftovers

Just a few interesting pieces in the aftermath of this week's coronation inauguration:

  • A supposedly easy question with an interesting answer: who was our first African-American president? Would you be surprised to know that it might have been Condoleeza Rice? Read here for more of this interesting (if somewhat far-fetched) argument.
  • Watching all of the inauguration hoopla, this question plagued me. Might there just be a hint of a double standard in American political discourse (that's a rhetorical question).
  • Barack Obama, Libertarian? His first few days on the job have been encouraging.
  • I am not afraid to admit that George F. Will nailed my take on the inaugural address. Not that I agree with the substance, but that is how I interpreted it.
  • A great piece on the drama of civil religion that are inaugurations. Another interesting article from the same site on the "Oprafying of Obama."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Did Blago Win?

I happen to think that he won, lost and drew all in the same week. To wit:

Roland Burris: Blago's Win

I know I painted a bleak picture for Roland Burris's chance of being seated in the Senate.

I was wrong.

I will explain why below, when I talk about Blago's Draw.

Through a circuitous route, an unlikely (or not) roll-over by Senate Democratic leaders and a series of dramatic removals of Burris from the Senate precincts, it appears that he will be sworn in this week.

For Burris, these unlikely events must seem like walking out of the fog to find yourself somewhere new and wonderful. He pretends to be surprised, but as I will discuss below, I think he knows exactly how this all went down.

So, on the affair of Roland Burris (click here for Saturday Night Live's take), it seems that Blago won.

Something else happened to him, though...

Impeachment: Blago's Loss

Yes, this is a pretty BIG loss.

This week, Blago became the first Illinois governor ever to be impeached.

Seeing as all the members of the General Assembly save two voted to impeach, it seems like a pretty resounding message to Blago, even from scions of his own party.

The message: "Your ass is grass. Your career will soon be over. You might even go to jail."

The particulars of the trial are being worked out and the lawyers are being sized up.

One thing that you can be sure about, though, is that the Senate wants this over quick and they want the decision to be decisive. Keep an eye on that.

Blago's Draw: How The Deal Went Down

So, it seems that Blago won on Burris and lost on impeachment. How could he also draw.

Here is what I think happened (CAUTION: SPECULATION AHEAD).

All of the noise around Roland Burris and the Senate seat in Illinois grabbed national headlines along with the crimes (alleged, for now) of Blago. This all was happening at the same time that a new Democratic administration is taking over the White House, filled with no small count of people from Illinois.

The most important Prarie Stater there is, of course, President-Elect Obama. He saw that the Senate Democratic leadership, mainly Harry Reid and his former colleague from Illinois Dick Durbin, were holding Burris back. By doing this, Senate Democrats were keeping this story in the public eye for too long and questions were being asked about Democrats that Obama didn't like.

This situation was about to become Obama's problem, like it or not. He wanted it killed. Now.

So, I suspect that he went to Reid and Durbin and told them to seat Burris, stop holding this back and end the arguments over the wisdom of this political move. He also made them force Burris to agree to not seek re-election in 2010. Burris gets his two years in the Senate, that top line on his tombstone and all are happy. Illinois will have an election for a new senator in November of next year.

Do I think Obama talked to Blago through all of this? No, because Blago is a pariah at present and an imcoming president would do well to steer clear of him as much as possible. Obama could deal with it without having to talked to the doomed Blago.

So, Blago really drew on this whole thing and will most likely lose in the end. He got his guy into the Senate, he will most likely be impeached and Roland Burris will be more an interim senator than anything else.

As for the deal, I fully realize that this is a cynical view of The One, and how dare I say such things when we are on the verge of what is being hyped as the most important event in American history that has ever or will ever be.

Well, I cannot help but point out that Obama got his political education and his first political experience in Chicago and, in Chicago, that is how things often get done. Not through official channels, but through an unwritten "understanding" between people.

Let's just hope that this vaunted "change we can believe in" is not the nationalization of Chicago machine politics. I suspect it won't, but I don't think you can blame me for thinking about this more than a little.

So, Mr. Obama, keep a close eye on Springfield over the next few weeks. Hell, keep a picture of Blago in your wallet.

Look at it whenever you feel those old lessons from the wards of Chicago creeping into your mind.

Let's hope that the lesson of Blago is a lesson learned for our new president.

Multum In Parvo

A few more items of interest, taken from the blogs listed on the left sidebar of this very site...
  • Arnold Kling and Michael Cannon's paper on why "corporate" medicine is a good thing.
  • Edward Glaeser's excellent article on the need for "small government egalitarianism."
  • Eugene Volokh's take on the curious move by a U.S. Representative to repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment.
  • Stephen Dubner's exploration of the effect of eliminating trays in college cafeterias.
  • Don Boudreaux and Brad DeLong duke it out over partisanship and economic stimulus. Richard Posner takes a different view.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Multum In Parvo

Here are a few things of (possible) interest:
  • An interesting post from Tim Harford on becoming happy by association.
  • A very funny spoof on Blago's quoting of Kipling's "If."
  • Stephen Dubner's take on the cost of fearing strangers at Freakonomics.
  • Tyler Cowen's musings at Marginal Revolution on the geography of Johnny Cash songs.
  • Also at MR, Alex Tabarrok discusses historians, economists and the Great Depression.
  • A great essay by William Burns at Cato Unbound about terrorism and risk assessment.
  • David Friedman's ideas on using World of Warcraft to teach economics.
  • Yesterday was Elvis's birthday. Enjoy this clip from the '68 Comeback Special. You can get the whole thing at YouTube.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

Yesterday would have been my mom's fifty-eighth birthday.

As you might imagine, it was a day of mixed emotions for me.

My mom really never liked where her birthday fell on the calendar. She always said that it was after the holidays, people were hung-over and out of money and (a lot of times) had to go back to work after vacation. She always wanted to move it to the first week of May or June. The weather is better and people are usually in a better mood.

This week, however, has been a challenge to me for a while now, though. My grandparents, my mom's parents, both died on January 6, two years apart from each other. I never really got to know my dad's parents; I honestly cried more when my dog died than when my grandfather did. My mom's parents, however, were different.

They lived close to us and we saw them all the time. Especially my grandfather. He had raised five daughters proudly, but I was told he looked forward to having me as something close to a son. He taught me how to play golf, made everyone laugh all the time and was just a great guy to have as a grandfather. I still miss him and my grandmother.

Ever since my grandmother died in 2002 and then my grandfather in 2004, this was a really sad week for my mom, her sisters and the whole family. Me and my brother and my dad did our best to keep Mom's spirits up, but we knew that that only went so far. She was going to be sad and down and that was it. I now know how she felt.

We never, even before her parents died, did anything extravagant for my mom's birthday. We would go out to dinner, have some cake at the house and just talk. This fact, I think, says a lot about the sort of person that my mom was. Not fussy, not extravagant, just wanted her family around. My mom always prided herself on the fact that she was a "cheap date," although I'm sure my dad would have gladly spent his last dime on her if that's what she wanted. Her birthday was no different.

It was things like this that made my mom the special person that she was. History will not note nor long remember this one person, but I sure as hell will. On her birthday, she just wanted us to be there.

And, really, isn't that the best things about moms? They understand that the most important thing is being there.

Yesterday we went to the same place we always went, ordered from the same menu and had a good meal as always. It could not, however, have been more different. I get the feeling that we will continue to do this, but that it will never be the same.

So, Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you and I will always love you.

That's something that will never change.