Who Is ‘Senate Candidate #5’ In Rod Blagojevich Story?

I am so amazed and shocked at the news coming out of Chicago today concerning the actions of Governor Rod Blagojevich.  It is hard to talk about anything but this story today.  Though the investigations of the Illinois Governor has been ongoing for years, the news today of selling a U.S. Senate seat, and having stunning tape recordings of the Governor making most outlandish comments about this process, is mind-numbing. 

There are countless angles to this story, and more shoes are bound to drop.  But perhaps the biggest question tonight is this, who is ‘Senate Candidate #5’  as discussed in the criminal complaint?

The FBI recorded Blagojevich last week saying to an adviser that “Candidate 5” might raise money for Blagojevich and even give him “some (money) up front, maybe” in exchange for being appointed to replace Obama, according to today’s criminal complaint (PDF) filed by the United States Attorney’s office in Chicago.

Indeed, Blagojevich allegedly claimed in a recorded conversation on Oct. 31 that “an emissary” of Senate Candidate 5 approached him with an offer that was hard to refuse: “We were approached ‘pay to play,‘“ the governor said. “That, you know, he’d raise 500 grand. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.“

Of course, this account comes only from Blagojevich, whose credibility is debatable.

Regardless, it seems worthwhile to explore who this mysterious Candidate 5 could be.

ProPublica has previously noted that top candidates include U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., another Democrat from Chicago. They both have openly coveted the position. Just yesterday, Jackson interviewed with Blagojevich for the position. Jackson left the meeting saying, “I am convinced that the governor has a very thoughtful process that he has put in place and is wrestling and weighing a number of issues in this enormous decision that he has to make.“

Today, Jackson said in a statement that he is “deeply concerned that this process may have been tainted.“

The government’s complaint provides only veiled hints as to this Senate Candidate 5’s identity. And U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald cautioned against speculation, noting that only Blagojevich and his chief of staff have been charged with wrongdoing.

Still, we can’t help but wonder. So let’s review the government’s hints:

  • On Nov. 10, Blagojevich was recorded talking to an adviser about leaking to a Chicago Sun-Times columnist that the governor was seriously considering Senate Candidate 5 for the open Senate seat.
  • Later that week, Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed wrote: “Gov. Blago, who will choose Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate, privately feels there may be only one choice that makes sense: His buddy, outgoing Senate President Emil Jones.“ Today, Sneed reported on another possible candidate: Illinois state Rep. Art Turner. Sneed wrote: “‘I’m told Turner, who is deputy [Illinois] house majority leader, is being given serious consideration by the governor,‘ said a source.“
  • Blagojevich allegedly said he had a prior bad experience with Senate Candidate 5 for not keeping his word. An adversarial past makes Jones an unlikely option for candidate 5. He was one of Blagojevich’s few remaining allies in state government.
  • Blagojevich also reportedly told a fundraiser that Senate Candidate 5 was a very realistic candidate, but the governor was getting a lot of pressure not to appoint Senate Candidate 5.
  • Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat, according to the government’s complaint.
  • Finally, Blagojevich expected that Candidate 5 would have the ability to raise a chunk of money for the governor, which seems to exclude the relatively unknown Turner. In fact, Blagojevich allegedly told a fundraiser that if Senate Candidate 5 is going to be chosen to fill the Senate seat “some of this stuffs gotta start happening now…right now…and we gotta see it. You understand?“

Blagojevich allegedly warned the fundraiser, “You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody’s listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me?“

Religious Case For Gay Marriage

Newsweek has as their cover story in the latest edition that reached the mailbox today, the provocative story of what the religious case is for gay marriage.  And yes, there is one.

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And it deserves a read.

Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: “The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition.”

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. “Marriage” in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call “the traditional family” are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews’ precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between “one man and as many women as he could pay for.” Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: “Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn’t God say, “Be fruitful and multiply”? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)

If the bible doesn’t give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on “Homosexual Practices,” the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, “possibly because it did not result in true physical ‘union’ (by male entry).” The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as “an abomination” (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who “were inflamed with lust for one another” (which he calls “a perversion”) is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book “The Arrogance of Nations,” the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. “Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all,” Elliott says. “He’s talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We’re not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We’re talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God.” In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.

Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as “the man and the woman.” But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.

And it continues with more great insight and views……read here.

Republic Windows Bought Iowa Plant Recently

Recall how cash poor Republic Windows and Doors were claiming to be…so much so that a couple of weeks before Christmas they ‘needed’ to let nearly 300 people go from their jobs in the Chicago area.

Be it far from me to say that corporations often screw the workers without first even giving a kiss…..but…….

This is outrageous.

A company managed by the wife of Republic Windows and Doors owner Richard Gillman recently purchased an Iowa plant that manufactures similar products, according to public records.

Gillman has come under fire in recent days for abruptly closing Republic’s Goose Island plant and refusing to provide workers there with the 60 days notice and pay required by federal labor law.

Echo Windows and Doors was created two weeks ago and lists Sharon Gillman as its manager, according copies of records obtained by the Daily News from the Iowa Secretary of the State. According to Cook County property tax records, Sharon Gillman is Richard Gillman’s wife.

The couple purchased a $2.6 million Oak Street condo together in 2007, according to property records.

The Gillimans could not be reached for comment today. But this afternoon, Richard Gillman released a statement confirming the creation of the new company.

Also, Amy Zimmerman, who has served as Republic’s marketing director, is now listed as the contact on the newly registered echowindows.com domain name. She refused comment today.

Republic officials have blamed the shutdown on Bank of America’s refusal to provide continued financing.

Republic employees have staged a sit-in at the company’s plant since Friday, and have enlisted numerous politicians in their cause.

Earlier today, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the state would stop doing business with the bank until it gives Republic the money it needs to stay afloat. Local elected officials, as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and President-elect Barack Obama, have urged the company to give the workers their 60 days of pay.

The Iowa plant was formerly operated by TRACO, a window company headquartered in Pennsylvania. Traco confirmed the sale to Echo in a news release last week.

Workers at the plant say Echo officials visited the plant on Thursday, informing them of the sale and shutting down production briefly to do a full inventory of the factory.

“Everybody seemed like they were just kind of confused the day that I was there,” says Herald Wiltshire, an employee there.

Two weeks ago, Traco switched from running two production shifts per day to just one, citing slowing orders for their windows, Wiltshire said. About that same time, the company announced layoffs at another one of its factories, in Bainbridge, Ga., the Post-Searchlight newspaper reported.

But on Friday, the Red Oak plant started up its second shift again, following the announcement from Echo, Wiltshire says.

Bank Of America Offers Loans to Republic Windows Workers

The workers won!!

Hot Damn! 

As I mused this weekend, what will happen in other situations if workers discover that they have power over their own destiny?  Today the workers at Republic Windows and Doors won what they were asking after a many day sit-in.  As I said before this is an example of the spunk and spine in workers and unions that I applaud.

Bank of America Corp. will provide a “limited amount of additional loans” to shuttered Republic Windows & Doors LLC in Chicago to pay employees occupying a building after the bank ended the company’s line of credit.

Bank of America isn’t obligated to pay Republic’s employees or make additional loans to the company, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank said today in a statement. Republic closed last week, sparking the sit-in by employees who blame the bank for cutting off the Chicago company’s credit.

The bank also said it must rely on Republic and its management to negotiate the employee claims because it doesn’t have a direct relationship with the factory’s workers.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represents the Republic employees, plans a rally at noon tomorrow at the Bank of America building in Chicago. The bank has received $15 billion from the U.S. Treasury as part of its effort to boost capital, while Merrill Lynch & Co., the securities brokerage it is buying, received $10 billion.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich Conscienceless

Readers know the process of government is one that I take seriously.  When it operates as the rule of law provides, the system though not perfect, is really quite a remarkable and awesome thing to behold.  Much good comes from a robust and ethical process. 

But when it breaks down, or is sullied by the actions of politicians that see only avarice and sheer manipulation as the reason for office, then we all suffer and feel collective embarrassment.

There are few words to convey the depth of my revulsion over the actions taken by Rod Blagojevich that were outlined by federal authorities today.  A complete lack of any shred of ethical conduct while in office, a desire only to make deals and craft political machinations by Blagojevich, makes not only a sad day for the citizens of Illinois, but also for the entire nation.

When someone like Blagojevich takes the actions he did as an elected offical he taints the entire political process at a time when faith in government is weak.  He makes a mark not only on his own record, but also makes it easier for the average citizen to think all politicians are less than they seem.

There will be many words to describe Rod Blagojevich in the days to come.  But the first one that comes to my mind is conscienceless.

Brigham Young University Censors Gay Art Exhibit

This is not one of those I am shocked and cannot believe it stories.  The sad fact is that the story below is all too believable.

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Hat tip for story and photo to Dan Savage.  And from the artist.

Brigham Young University pulled an art exhibit that featured the faces of a series of BYU students.  In each pair one of the faces was that of an openly gay person, and the other was a supportive straight friend.  But which was which?  The point of course is that who knows, and ultimately who cares.

But the keepers of all things ‘moral’, better known as the Mormons, working through the BYU bureaucracy, pulled the art exhibit and sent it packing.  Too risky for sure.  I mean, how can you teach people to become torch-wielding villagers if you have thoughtful exhibits that open minds and remove antiquated ideas?

When places of higher learning forget that the role of education is to open doors and break down barriers, then it might be time to consider some wholesale changes.  In the case of BYU it might just be time to bring in the Clorox and clean the gene pool.

The artist conludes with these words on his blog post concerning this matter….

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is an amazing philosophy that suggests that change starts within each of us. It is my hope that this body of work will be a vehicle for tolerance, support, love and change.

Breaking News: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich In Federal Custody On Corruption Charges.

UPDATED

This is stunning and stupid on the part of Gov. Blagojevich!

(A snowstorm AND fresh scandal all on the same day…pinch me!)

Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested at their homes this morning in a probe involving the governor’s quest to fill Sen. Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

The charges also include alleged attempts by the governor to influence the Tribune editorial board.

The governor threatened that if the Tribune didn¹t support the governor, he wouldn’t approve the sale of Wrigley Field.

The charges are contained in a criminal complaint and are unrelated to a more than three-year probe into alleged pay-to-play politics under the governor’s administration.

An 11 a.m. press conference has been scheduled by the U.S. attorney¹s office.

Read the criminal complaint.

More to come.

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A law enforcement official says Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in federal custody on corruption charges.

Sudan Will Really Miss The Judgments Of President Bush

The lack of will and determination from the Bush Administation to squeeze the balls of the Sudanese government in order to stop the horrors in Darfur has been galling.  Lip service from Washington has not been enough, and the carnage shows that to be true.  In fact, the situation has splintered into a number of groups and cross fighting that has made a horrible situation on the ground even worse after years of careless leadership from Washington, and most of the world.

The coddling days from the Bush Administration are about over.  And Sudan knows it.

There are many competing interests in Darfur to be sure, and long-term gains must be weighed as heavily as short-term ones, but one thing is clear.  The genocide must end, and those responsible must not escape the heavy hand of international judgement, nor the harsh act of justice.  While no one wants to make the situation worse, there is no moral rationale for doing nothing.  We have witnessed these past years that taking only token actions so to be seen as doing something just for political expediency is not an answer, but is part of the problem.   The people in Darfur that have been living targets need and deserve a response to this truly evil Sudanese government.  They have been burned out of their homes, raped as a form of warfare, stranded in refugee camps, and killed for no reason other than who they are. 

It is time for a new administration in Washington to find the moral code for international relations again, and apply it swiftly in regards to Sudan.  For me, and for millions around the world, this will be the litmus test that we apply to Barack Obama.  I have faith he will act with honor in Darfur, but I will not be quiet for anything less than what the situation demands.

“Compared to the Republicans, the Democrats, I think they are hawks,” said Ghazi Suleiman, a human rights lawyer and member of the Southern People’s Liberation Movement, which has a fragile power-sharing agreement with the ruling party. “I know Obama’s appointees. And I know their policy towards Sudan. Everybody here knows it. The policy is very aggressive and very harsh. I think we really will miss the judgments of George Bush.”

While the Bush administration most recently advocated the idea of “normalizing” relations with Sudan as a carrot approach to ending a crisis it labeled a genocide, Obama’s foreign policy appointees have pushed for sticks.

But an Obama campaign adviser who worked closely on the candidate’s Africa positions said the naive move would be to think it is possible to trust Bashir’s regime, which has a long history of broken promises and is highly unpopular across much of Sudan.

The adviser noted that the government only signed the deal with the south after the U.S. helped push it into a corner by indirectly arming the southern rebels. Eventually, the government realized it could not win.

Accountability should also be part of any long-term political settlement in Sudan, the adviser said; the leaders who orchestrated the campaign in Darfur must face their misdeeds, he said, even if that comes several years late.

If we accept the notion that the brutality we’ve witnessed from this regime over the past two decades is acceptable to bring about temporary stability, then shouldn’t we have done the same for the Nazis in Germany?” said the adviser, who was instructed not to speak to the news media.

Obama is likely to face choices on Sudan soon, as judges at the International Criminal Courtare expected to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Obama has pledged to increase U.S. cooperation with the Hague-based court and is expected to honor an arrest warrant for Bashir.

But the adviser said that military options, including covert operations and regime change, are likely to remain under serious discussion in the new administration.

“These people have been in power for almost 20 years ” the adviser said. “I doubt that the majority of Sudanese would cry if they were ousted.”