Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Blagojevich is free!

A few days ago I noted that the late Judy Baar Topinka was a one-time opponent to former IL Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2006. While Blagojevich would go down in flames in early 2009 due to his lame attempts at wheeling and dealing over federal wiretaps, we also learn on the flip side that over the years Topinka was a long-time federal informant on corruption in the western Chicago suburbs.

Well I'm noting all this to say, that Blagojevich who was sent to prison eight years ago for his corruption was released from prison yesterday. Released from federal custody by a commutation from President Donald Trump (and lets not forget Blagojevich was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice) he came home to Chicago the same day.

Then I find this article from Natasha Korecki who follwed the trial and she had this to say:
I’ve written hundreds of stories, blog posts, magazine articles and, finally, a book on Blagojevich’s case. There was one sentiment I heard over and over again, which went something like, “I know Blagojevich was guilty as hell, but 14 years is insane.”

That’s why President Donald Trump likely risks little political blowback by commuting the sentence of his onetime Apprentice contestant, even in the state that Blagojevich disgraced.
...
The prosecution long battled public perception of the charges against Blagojevich as overkill — despite a stockpile of secret recordings in which Blagojevich famously said of the Senate seat Obama vacated, “I’ve got this thing and it’s f---ing golden.” Questions always swirled around the criminal case: Wasn’t this just a ham-handed governor, emasculated and rejected by the political establishment, a politically isolated boor, who was talking big on the phone?

Yes, attempting but failing to commit a crime is still a crime, but it’s another thing to convince an average person it’s illegal and punishable, especially in city where standing on someone’s neck for a payoff is a way of life.

This undercurrent of government overreach long bubbled beneath the surface of the Blagojevich case, even though this was a much different era from the one we’re in today. Then, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (who happens to be the personal attorney to his longtime friend James Comey and the special prosecutor in the case against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, whom Trump pardoned) had ascended into an almost God-like figure; at long last, an incorruptible force who had spawned a golden era of public corruption cases.

But even Fitzgerald was second-guessed when, in 2008 — the day the sitting governor was arrested in his jogging suit — Fitzgerald declared “the conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.” The defense accused him of breaking Justice Department ethics guidelines forbidding extrajudicial comments and possibly tainting a jury pool.

The Blagojevich case provided additional ammunition to critics of law enforcement already screaming about government overreach. The most severe example was Blagojevich’s longtime friend, Chris Kelly. Prosecutors, attempting to turn Kelly into a government witness, brought three separate indictments against him. After prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his bond, Kelly, who battled depression, took his own life. With his dying breath he told his girlfriend: “Tell them they won.”
...
All this isn’t to say Illinois loved Blagojevich. Far from it. And the feeling was mutual, as one Blagojevich statement on a recorded phone call illustrated: “I f----ing busted my ass. ... I gave your f---ing baby health care. ... What do I get for that? Only 13 percent of you think I'm doing a good job, so f--- all of you.”
...
Even with Trump’s commutation, Blagojevich will have served eight years, a longer term than Ryan’s. (And yes, I’ve long gauged Blagojevich’s time in prison by my son’s age.) It will surprise no one here if Blagojevich almost immediately appears on TV, resuming the role of antihero that he began before he was sent to a federal penal institution.

But now Blago, rejected by the Springfield insiders who left him powerless in the final months of his governorship, has a new political ally, the president of the United States.
Perhaps for the last time on this blog - and I was all over this back then when he got arrested and impeached and removed from IL's governorship - Blagojevich after he leaves federal custody. I'm sorry to say or perhaps not that sorry to say now his cause is our broken criminal justice system which is unfair and racist. I want him to be remorseful as far as what led to his 8 years in custody at least. [VIDEO]
Wait! There's more! George Ryan was the 39th Governor of Illinois and Blagojevich's immediate predecessor who also went to prison for corruption. WGN spoke to Ryan to hear his thoughts on his successors commutation:
“He cut me up pretty good,” former Gov. George Ryan recalled in a phone interview Wednesday with WGN. “That’s okay, it’s over. It’s past and it’s a new chapter in both of our lives and we ought to just move ahead with it.”

Ryan called President Trump’s decision to commute Blagojevich’s sentence after serving a little under 8 years “probably the fair thing to do” and added: “I don’t know that another 5 or 6 years would have made any kind of difference in what he is going to do or isn’t going to do… so it relieves the taxpayers of taking care of him for another 5 or 6 years.”
Yeah, I think I agree with Ryan. Meanwhile now that Blagojevich is home from his sentence, we're going to hear more from him. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Judy Baar Topinka still making the news

Topinka is a long time state politician who died after winning re-election to the office of IL state comptroller suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2014. Before that she had been a one-time GOP nominee for Governor losing to Democrat Rod Blagojevich - who later got impeached and removed from his post. She was also a former state treasurer & had served in the IL General Assembly.

I heard about this on the radio yesterday and my mind got to thinking that the feds had gotten something on her. Then it turned out well she was an informant on corruption probes. Now that sounds more like her. We may have made the wrong choice years ago between her and Blago, however, there should never have been any doubt she was honest.
Judy Baar Topinka, long a popular Illinois state officeholder, secretly provided federal authorities information about possible corruption in the 1970s and 1980s, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

The longtime Republican state legislator, comptroller and treasurer died in 2014, which is why the FBI released its Topinka files, which are now part of the Sun-Times’ “The FBI Files” database.

Once someone has died, the FBI typically will release records it has on them on request, though usually with redactions.

Some of the material the agency released on Topinka is blacked out. But it’s still clear that the colorful, tell-it-like-it-is politician acted as an informant beginning in the 1970s, when she was a reporter for a newspaper in the west suburbs.

Topinka spoke with the FBI enough that a former aide has told the Sun-Times the conversations amounted to an “open dialogue.”

Topinka’s son Joseph Baar Topinka said he wasn’t aware his mother had helped the FBI but that he wasn’t surprised because she was often frustrated at how politics sometimes worked in the west suburbs.
Corruption is an issue throughout this state. Chicago may have more of this activity especially lately since there is a current corruption probe in the area where several Alderman have either resigned or didn't run for re-election. A few state legislators resigned and as far as the suburbs some officials such as mayors or county commissioners have been caught up in this probe. It's an ongoing thing needless to say... 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Review of "Star Trek Picard"

[VIDEO] For the first time I've purchased a subscription to CBS All Access which streams a number of original programming in addition to a library of classic TV programming owned by CBS and Paramount. This enables me to watch episodes of the new Star Trek series about Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

Picard in this series is a retired starfleet admiral who finds himself trying to get back into the saddle. He mourns the death of a friend he served with as Captain of the USS Enterprise. If I had nostalgia for the adventures I often watched from Star Trek: The Next Generation on WPWR-TV 50 here in Chicago it came back. We only see a quick look at the USS Enterprise D in this series looking better than it had the last time we saw that ship in Star Trek: Generations where it was destroyed.

One disheartening thing about the first three episodes I watched over the weekend is that Picard is treated as a pariah. I'm sure there was a variety of disagreements that occurred that led to this development, however, a man of Picard's stature and legend shouldn't have been treated the way another starfleet admiral treated him as he sought to return to duty to the service he faithfully served.

This transmission from Junkball Media mentions at least the drama I mentioned. We get the good and bad and some of this I would agree. The melodrama between some of the characters on this show leaves us numb, however, I think this series has time to develop.

What has been established so far has me interested in what's next. The next episode drops tomorrow and hopefully it's a good one.

BTW, one thing noted concerns me although I wish I had read up on it more. Do the people who wrote and produced this program have any great knowledge of the United Federation of Planets and the Star Trek universe. Unless some research is down by the creative team behind this series I can only wonder if this series is doomed, especially for long time Star Trek fans like myself.

Finally, it's probably about time I catch up to Star Trek Discovery. I hadn't seen a full episode since the series premire actually aired on the CBS Network on a Sunday in Primetime in 2017.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The failed relaunch of ECW

[VIDEO] I missed this from last year. There was an episode of WWE Untold that explored the relauch of ECW as a brand with both RAW and SmackDown. It's akin to what's going on with NXT in the Wednesday nite wars against the emerging All Elite Wrestling.

ECW I only had three short years with the renegade promotion that was on the heels of both WCW and WWE (or WWF). The wrestling I saw was gritty and definitely didn't have the production values of both WCW or WWF. Somehow I admired that quality as the polished I expect from the other two companies.

What I do agree with as I continue to learn more about the impact of ECW is that they were the disruptors. If creatively WCW and WWF was in a rut, ECW was the guide out of it. And they had the fanbase to prove it as they were part of the episodes I saw on TV for those three short years. It will always be in my head how ECW fanatics would chant the three letters of their favorite promotions or pop huge for their favorite performers.

Another think that caught my attention with ECW is the violence. There was truly a form of anarchy in ECW although matches do end when a referee calls a submission or counts a pinfall. Beyond that the match could go all over the building and weapons could be used or even outside interference. The referees were said to wear costumes similar to the apparel of MMA referees. The action I saw as the WWF attitude era was in full swing was something different from the fare I would be treated to during the Monday nite wars.

Of course as happens, I came to the party late. When I discover ECW the ratings domination between WWF and WCW was beginning to turn. The NWO storyline was beginning to fizzle by 1999 and WWF as ascendant with the Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon storyline. And by 2001 WCW would become a WWF property and also ECW was bankrupt.

Then by 2005 ECW would become a WWE property and while fans yearned for its return it was revived. Of course now that it was part of the establishment it became the one thing wrestling fans in the 1990s rebelled against. And that is the story you see in the video above.

I can see where the revival fell short of the original. I can also see that ECW as a third brand that aired on the former Sci-Fi (no SyFy) allowed some future WWE superstars to gain some exposure and get TV time.

If the ECW revival hadn't gotten the attention of advertisers and networks prompting the involvement of Vince McMahon, fans can only wonder the direction of the ECW revival with the leadership of yet another McMahon, Shane McMahon.  Oh man another thought just hit me.

What if WWE had been able to properly relaunch the aforementioned WCW as another brand? Ah well for both we'll never know!.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

What happens after Michael Madigan?

IL House of Representatives by Marie Beschen
I don't talk about state politics as much I used to here, however, Rich Miller's Crain Chicago Business column that he shared on his blog Monday was most interesting. Recently we saw the process run its course in Illinois' state senate as they elected a new presiding officer in state Senator Don Harmon a Democrat from Oak Park, Illinois.

The last state Senate President served over 10 years, this column is about what happens when current state House Speaker Michael Madigan finally leaves the scene. Madigan has been speaker for all but two of the last 36 or so years. Madigan in the years I've been following state politics is a true force.
What I can agree is anyone who succeeds Madigan will have a difficult time trying to fill his shoes. During the Blagojevich years it was definitely a good thing to have a man who knows how to use the levers of power and be the main adult in the room. He may have his secrets but certainly someone who wants his power should know to study him.

The column gives me a basic idea even if I'm nowhere near the levers of power. It's a good thing to take care of those in your caucus, that should be the main focus of a leader. I also know that trying to be like Madigan would be a mistake for the next person to try to take over as presiding officer of the Illinois state House of Representatives after decades of one man being a major force in this state.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Matt Hardy gets his YouTube award

[VIDEO] I'm sorry to have missed this Tuesday. WWE superstar Matt Hardy's YouTube channel finally got their silver award from the largest most important video site in the world. Although currently the subscriber count is at 261K, you're eligible to receive the silver plaque you see Hardy holding once you arrive at 100K subscribers.

Also at 1 million subscribers you get a larger gold plaque and at 10 million you get a diamond play button. There are other awards for becoming a YouTube channel with a large subscriber base as PewDiePie at 103 million subscribers has arrived at, but I won't mention that. It has to essentially be a stratospheric rise.

Congrats Marr Hardy, I hope that you will either return to the ring (and not to put someone over) or otherwise you find another role in wrestling. Hopefully you will continue to put out content on your channel. I've watched some of it and was greatly entertained.

Friday, January 31, 2020

My Mind's Eye

Was the name of two blogs that I had started since I've been blogging. One of the state purposes of at least the first iteration was more creative with the usage of images.

The first iteration was my favorite as Blogger had evolved and I used a special template called "live journal" for that blog. It featured a very simple layout a menu in the top left corner that expanded depending upon the function such as home, links, archive, etc. Of course back then if you want to update the blog you had better know html code to be able to customize accordingly.

Also you had a link for a permalink at the bottom and a time which was usually with the title at the top of the post. It was a very simple layout that allowed me to share whatever video or image I needed to share.

The second iteration was just about similar even if I had to ultimately evolve with the times. I also didn't devote a lot of attention to it and it seems when I did give it some update it was only for fits and starts. Either way I have a new idea for that name.

Stick with the idea of creativity in whatever form it may take. Perhaps it will be with images and certainly with video. And I have an idea for a future YouTube video and I don't expect it to be too creative just try to hone my skills in that area. Besides I've said this a while ago, my goal is to really just get started and see where it goes.

The title of that video or series of videos as it were is, My Mind's Eye. That name will have a purpose.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Using the first iPad in 2020

[VIDEO] I can't believe it's 2020 and I probably said that about 2010. Ten years ago the first iPad was released and it was quite a boxy device. Perhaps one day I will show you the first iPad I bought which was actually the iPad 2 which isn't as boxy and the form factor I do miss these days.

It's amazing to see how the tech has evolved from the iPad to the iPhone for example and I've been thinking about showing you my favorite and first iPhone of all time. Interestingly for the iPhone I see there could be a return to the form factor that I do like from the various designs.

Either way I never owned the first iPad but it was a nifty device. As a consumer my first question ought to be what can I do with it? I know what I do with my iPad now which is basically surf the internet, check my social media, and my emails. Sometimes take photographs and video and more often use it for streaming.

To see this review brings back some memories of playing with this device at the Apple store on Michigan Avenue. However little did I know that I'd be playing with other devices in addition to an iPad from Apple Inc.

As an aside I wrote this about available tablet devices such as the iPad 2 back in 2011.

Friday, January 17, 2020

What is impeachment? How is it different from a criminal trial?

I'm embarrased to say that I haven't really followed this as a political junkie. It's very possible that the President will likely be acquitted in his impeachment trial in the US Senate. It's a Republican dominated chamber unlike the US House which is dominated by Democrats as of the 2018 elections. Either way I'm not concerned about upheaval because of Trump being removed from office.

If you're unsure of the impeachment process I found this on twitter. Impeachment isn't criminal, just a political way to remove someone from office without having to wait for yet another election.
In my lifetime there was one other attempt at impeachment and it was Bill Clinton, although both houses of Congress were held by Republicans back then say 1998-99 Clinton finished the remainder of his second term. I'm sure the public is still divided over whether or not we should've gone through that process.

I'm sure back then as now many consider going through the impeachment process frivolous.

R.I.P. Rocky Johnson

[VIDEO] I'm a few days late on this, but it should be noted that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's father - the legendary Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson passed away on Wednesday at 75.

Rocky Johnson who in a long ago match with the late Rowdy Roddy Piper was referred to as "Rock" by the legendary late Gorilla Monsoon was a bit ahead of my time. In that long ago match his footwork caught my attention and Johnsons background included being trained in boxing. That would definitely work if you're throwing "worked" punches so you have to do that theatrically anyway. [VIDEO]

The only way I knew of him was because of The Rock who when he started in the WWF was known as Rocky Maivia which is a merging of his father's name and his Samoan family name. Evidently for his son at one PPV during The Rock's initial run made the save for him using that amazing footwork. Indeed, if you want to see clips of this I recommend you check out Something Else to Wrestle With on the WWE Network. They look at the development of The Rock from his start in the USWA through his time in WWE (WWE=WWF got it).

Rocky Johnson helped to train The Rock for his wrestling career. Rocky Maivia was a third generation performer who's father was not only a legendary performer and soon to be WWE Hall of Famer, his Samoan family were in the business as well. In fact The Rock has several cousins in the business as well that includes The Usos and Roman Reigns. The Rock's contemporary Rikish Fatu was also a cousin.

Any I've talked very little of the father of the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. Like I said he was just a bit ahead of my time. I understand that he was one half of the first Black WWF world tag team champions with Tony Atlas. I also recognize that when he started in the business during the 1960s it was probably a very hard time to break into the business as a Black man. He's paid his dues and certainly paved the way for his very successful son who has even transcended wrestling into the world of movies.

I just had to share this a young Dwayne Johnson in the crowd watching his father perform [VIDEO]

Saturday, January 11, 2020

How 1917 was filmed?

[VIDEO] I saw the first World War drama 1917 on New Years Eve. It was a great movie that showed a lot of "no man's land" in between warring trenches during the so-called "war to end all wars".

The story is of two young lance corporals in the British army charged with sending a message to a unit who was about to engage in a major assault against the Germans. The Germans appeared to have retreated from their lines only to establish a new line designed to trap the British into attacking them. Thus if the British thinks that the Germans were on the run, then the Germans could turn around and decimate attacking British units.

One thing that's noted in the above video is the shooting of this film. It does appear to be one continuous shot and is explored by Insider. The film is directed by American Beauty & Skyfall director Sam Medes who dedicated this film to a forbear who fought in that century old conflict.

If you hadn't a chance to see this film please do so.