Saturday, April 30, 2011

When the Levee Breaks

Cairo (pronounced CARE-o, alt Chicago mocking pron. KAY-row) is the southernmost town in Illinois. If you're aware of the term "spit of land" it applies to Cairo. It sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and is surrounded by levees.

When river travel was the way to go, Cairo was a hopping little town. Twain mentions it in Huck Finn, and in fact Cairo was the intended original destination for Jim and Huck as they fled up the Ohio.

It is the home of Fort Defiance, which was commanded by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War and was an important supply station for Union troops during the war. As the 20th century arrived, the town was doing well economically and the population reached over 15,000.

But there were issues in Cairo, racial issues, that stretched from the beginning of the century til the end.

Many in that part of Illinois were sympathetic to the Confederate cause, and supported segregation into the new century. There were lynchings, like that of Will James in 1909. And 60 years later, the racial tension and threat of violence was such that the National Guard was called into Cairo. A civil rights group called Cairo United Front led a boycott of white-owned businesses in Cairo that crippled the local economy, and it has yet to recover.

Currently, Cairo is the home to under 3,000 residents. Unemployment is high, more than half the children under 18 are living below the poverty level, and crime is a problem due to a reduced police budget. The town, despite being listed all over the National Historic Register, has become run-down. Buildings, abandoned years ago, have trees growing in them. Homes are boarded up. Businesses same. Very depressed, and sad.

The levees around Cairo rise 64 feet, which is roughly 4 feet higher than the current level of the Mississippi. The Army Corp of Engineers were brought in to inspect the levees, and they're reporting that despite the 4 feet of leeway the levees are "bubbling up" , indicating that they're failing from within.

Last week, plans were put in place to blow a hole in the levee down-river a bit, and allow approximately 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland to be flooded. The State of Missouri has been tying the move up in court for the last few days while the citizens of Cairo have busied themselves by sandbagging. In some cases, the water is lapping at their front porches. Front lawns submerged.

Earlier today, a judge gave the Army to OK to proceed, and Missouri's Attorney General, Chris Koster, said he's going to take his case to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

That may be, but the Army's plan is to blow the thing...maybe as I type this. The National Weather Service says that the crested river (assumin' no more rain and the creek don't rise) should begin to recede by Tuesday, while the Army is concerned that the levees can't stand 3 days of max-pressure like that.

Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois are in favor of the levee blast, and the flooding of 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland. Things are getting very tense down there folks.

On Wednesday, Missouri's Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley said that he'd rather see Cairo washed away than see a flood of his state's farmland. Tilley said "Have you been to Cairo? Okay, then you know what I'm sayin' then." He subsequently apologized for his insensitive remarks.

Cairo's Mayor, Judson Childs helped ease the tension by saying that if the levee isn't blown, Cairo,IL will become "the next 9th Ward of New Orleans."

Don't it make you feel bad
When you're tryin' to find your way home,
You don't know which way to go?
If you're goin' down South
They go no work to do,
If you don't know about Chicago.

Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

All last night sat on the levee and moaned,
Thinkin' about me baby and my happy home.
Going, going to Chicago... Going to Chicago... Sorry but I can't take you...
Going down... going down now... going down....

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friends of Rahm

Recent reports have put a price of $880,000 on Rahm Emanuel's legal battle over his residency in Chicago. Or, for purposes of comparison, approximate the same amount of money he'll earn in his 6 years as our new mayor. That's $880K of his own money, and I'm not sure how much was spent by those who challenged Rahm.

Some might question why a man would spend $880,000 fighting to get a job that will pay him about the same amount of money over a 6 year span. Seems like a wash, right? And thus a net loss, since I'm pretty sure Rahm Emanuel would have done better than break-even financially in his career AHOCOSJ (after his Obama's chief of staff job. It's an unwieldy acronym. Working on it.)

Love of Da Great City uh Chicago I'm sure.

What other reason could there be?

Rahm's said he's not in it for the money, that it's been his dream job since he was a lad chopping off his own bird. And now his dream has come true. He gets to sit on the 5th Floor at 121 N. LaSalle and oversee the operations of this great city.

His predecessor, Richard M. Daley, was a retard whose financial sensibilities rival those of Gary Busey.

Rahm is looking at a checkbook that's $500+million overdrawn for 2011, and a City Council that isn't in the bag.

He's already cozying up to Fast Eddie Burke, chairman of the powerful city finance committee. It wasn't two months ago that Rahm was talking about cutting Burke's police security detail, and there were rumblings that a "Clash of the Titans" was imminent with Mayor Emanuel poised to strip Burke of his powerhouse job. Well, Fast Eddie can relax, Rahm has come to his senses and has decided that Burke gets to keep shaking the Tree of Influence.

But the City Council is a problem for Rahm. Several of Daley's old cronies are out, which means an entirely new blueprint of graft will need to be drawn with patronage jobs, kickbacks, payoffs, and no-bid 24-9 contracts dangling in the balance.

In a recent moment of apparent madness, Rahm proposed cutting the City Council itself in half!

Rahm said he was just thinking outside the box when he asked the 50 Aldermen what they thought of cutting the number of Aldermen to 25. When reached for comment, 25 Aldermen who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity said "Hey fuck that idea. That's too far outside the box. Tell Rahm we like the box." Rahm said he was just spitballing potential ways to save money, but I'm thinking he might have been trying to keep his friends close and his enemies out of the picture completely. Easier to manage 25 crooked Aldermen than 50, and maybe if the cards fell right he could gerrymander his way into a rubber stamp City Council. Oh well, Rahm will have to try to herd 50 cats.

Then there's the matter of the unions. Rahm's not a big fan of government unions. Chicago is a city of influential government unions. If Rahm has any ideas about pulling a Walker Gambit and playing hardball with Chicago's teachers, firefighters, or police he's in for a very rude awakening. Said it before and now again, we'll make the protests in Madison look like a picnic in Sheboygan.

He's inherited a huge mess.

And into all of this strolls Rahm Emanuel, acting like he's got a plan.

Why on earth would anyone want this job?

I don't want to give the impression that Rahm's an unpopular guy. He's got lots of friends.

Take Barack Obama for instance, and his new Chief of Staff Bill Daley. Rahm's certainly got some pull in Washington, which may pay off. I know he's got friends in Hollywood, by way of his brother.

A guy named Haim Saban from Beverly Hills, CA (and from Fox Family Network) contributed $300,000. A woman named Cheryl Saban, also from Beverly Hills tossed in $100,000 followed by another $100,000 from that Haim Saban guy again. I wonder if they're related. (probably, they list the same Wishire Ave. address)

That would explain why a Mr. David Geffen from Beverly Hills, CA gave Rahm $100K last October. And a Mr. Steven Spielberg, from Los Angeles kicked in $75K.  Oh and, Mr. Jeffrey Katzenberg tossed in $25K

There's $25,000 from a Mr. Steve Jobs, and another $25,000 from a Laurene Powell who also goes by the name Laurene Jobs. They're in the computer business.

A group calling themselves "Friends of Rahm," who live in PO Box 101124 in Chicago,IL "transferred in"  a click over $1.1million.

It's not just the big bucks that are flowing to Rahm. A guy named Michael Dorf from 16 Vestry St. in New York, NY sent $16 to Rahm in March, which was after Rahm had already won the mayoral race. Rahm's friends are very enthused about him having the big chair.

There is one contribution that puzzles me....just 2 days before Christmas, a check for $50,000, and listing a return address of 725 5th Ave. New York, NY. That one came from a Mr. Donald Trump, who if I'm not mistaken is considering running for president as a Republican. Not only that, I seem to recall reading that Mr. Trump is suspicious of Barack Obama's citizenship. That's Rahm's old boss! And yet, for some reason, Trump felt the need to give 50 grand to Rahm Emanuel.

I wonder what they all think they're buying with their LINK to Rahm.