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Sunday: The Chicago Tammany Hall

That's us under the bus, er, Tiger

That's us under the bus, er, Tiger

Following up on what myiq2xu wrote below, Conason and the media are frantically trying to spin the newest scandal into the molehill that Whitewater was, er, before they spun that up into a mountain.  So, I guess we can just forget all the nasty things they said about the Clintons back then?  I just know someone at the Washington Post is going to step up to the mic any minute now and offer a heartfelt apology to Bill and Hillary for making their lives miserable for 8 years.  And while they’re at it, Frank Rich, MoDo and the rest of the NYTimes cwack political reporting team can say they’re sorry for peeping into Hillary’s underwear drawer at the beginning of the last election cycle to speculate on how many times a month she and Bill had conjugal visits.  I mean, now that we’ve acknowledged that Whitewater was a whole lot of nuthin’…

Anyone who knows me, understands that my knowledge of American history is spotty at best and just damn pathetic at worst.  Hey, when you change schools 14 times before you graduate, linearity is the first thing to get chucked.  But I do recall a period of time in our nation’s history, I can’t recall just *when* but I think it was the period before and after the Civil War, when anti-democratic political corruption and patronage was rampant especially in New York City.  Jeez, I’ll betcha if the Times goes through its archive, it will find all kinds of articles and columns about it.

Harper’s Weekly was all over it.  It was the Tammany Hall era and the biggest Mr. Moneybucks of all was a guy named William Marcy Tweed, aka “Boss”.  Maybe I shouldn’t complain.  The Irish immigrant population was the prime beneficiary of Tweed’s machine and my ancestors probably would have done well- if they hadn’t been working the refs in Chicago at the time.  But I digress.

Here’s how Tweed’s Tammany Hall worked:

In April 1870, Tweed secured the passage of a city charter putting the control of the city into the hands of mayor, the comptroller, and the commissioners of parks and public works. He then allowed contractors and others to submit invoices for inflated amounts or for work that was not done. The total amount of money stolen was never known, but has been estimated from $75 million to $200 million according to The American Pageant.[citation needed] Over a period of two years and eight months, while he had over 1,000 workers at his command, New York City’s debts increased from $36 million in 1868 to about $136 million by 1870, with few costs or expenditures to show for the debt.

Tweed was accused of defrauding the city by having contractors present excessive bills for work performed—typically ranging from 30 to 90 percent more than the project actually cost. The extra charges were said to have been divided among Tweed, his subordinates and the contractors. The most excessive overcharging came in the form of the Tweed Courthouse, which cost the city $13 million to construct (the actual cost for the courthouse was about $3 million), leaving about $10 million for the pockets of Tweed and others.[4]

Tweed’s downfall came when he refused to authorize the Orange Parade, an annual Protestant celebration. City Sheriff James O’Brien, whose support for Tweed had fluctuated during Tammany’s “reign”, gave The New York Times evidence of embezzlement in light of the Protestant-Catholic riot that ensued on parade day. The newspaper was reportedly offered $5 million to not publish the evidence. In a subsequent interview, Tweed’s only reply was, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”[citation needed] Accounts in The New York Times and political cartoons drawn by Thomas Nast and published in Harper’s Weekly resulted in the election of numerous opposition candidates in 1871. Regarding Nast’s cartoons, Tweed reportedly said, “Stop them damned pictures. I don’t care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures!”[5]

I am struck by the similarity of how Tweed’s machine worked to that of Tony Rezko and pals, what with him getting all of those dilapidated housing projects in Chicago that never got improved.   And who was his lawyer back then?  Anybody?  Don’t be shy.

Folks, what we got here ain’t no lousy real estate deal.  What we are dealing with is a vast political patronage machine with promises made and delivered for money and electoral outcomes.  There’s a little group of Stalwarts who select who the next big thing will be and they all pull in their chits to make it happen.  It may be centered in Chicago but there are tentacles in NJ for sure.  For all I know, the political machine in NY faced off against the one in Chicago and lost when NJ threw its weight behind the midwesterners.  And why would NJ do that?  Well, the Governor of NJ used to be the CEO of Goldman Sachs.  A lot of the financial industry may work on Wall Street but have sunk their roots in the swampy Meadowlands.  I dunno.  I merely speculate.  I can’t *imagine* why my Governor would lobby so hard to move up our (now meaningless) primary to SuperDuper Tuesday and endorse Hillary Clinton as soon as it was possible and then turn around and stab her in the back by giving every last one of our delegates to Barack Obama at the convention 9 months later.  Can you tell this really bugs the #$@% out of me?  Maybe it’s because she won this state by 10 points and she didn’t get a single delegate.  Not one.  Ok, I have to let it go.  {{breathing deeply}}

Anyway, Conason and his ilk are covering themselves in shame.  They are trying so desperately to save Obama’s ass from another presidential term of scandal after scandal.  If that was their hope, they should have gone with Hillary who had no skeletons.  But they were dazzled by the mahogany undertones of Obama’s skin while ignoring the Tweedy texture of his character. And that machine was in the pocket of some very, VERY wealthy people who had a significant interest in the outcome of the election.

What makes this scandal so much more significant than the teensy blip on the radar that Whitewater was, is that no voters were hurt over Whitewater, a faux scandal where the Clintons were innocent.  But this newest scandal perfectly illustrates the way that the electorate was sidestepped during the 2008 election season and voters may pay for this corruption with their livelihoods and retirement nest eggs.  The primaries were completely usurped by the spreading corruption from Chicago’s machine.  Hey, if they don’t want the association and there’s no THERE there, why did the DNC relocate to Chicago?  They might as well have put up a sign in neon declaring themselves bought and paid for.  THAT’S why this scandal may have legs and real, significant consequences for the players involved, including Obama.  Voters got screwed, royally, and there are bandits on Wall Street who made off with trillions of dollars in taxpayer money.  We know that Wall Street was firmly behind Obama and we know, because we witnessed it, how the nomination was stolen from Hillary Clinton.  And now we know that the Chairman of Obama’s National Campaign was all too willing to cough up more than a million dollars in political donations to Blogojevich in order to snag Obama’s senate seat.  What is really amazing is how this sheer brazen behavior could be tut-tutted by Conason and his pals so they can save face for supporting one of the biggest frauds in history.

If the rest of the country suddenly remembers its 19th century history class, the next four years ain’t gonna be pretty.

On another front: The biggest sexist in the Senate, Ted Kennedy, is still trying to shove Caroline Kennedy down the throats of New Yorkers, and the rest of us, by extension.  And now it seems that Caroline is interested in pursuing the job.  Isn’t that nice?  She’s sort of like Veruka Salt who has just discovered a shiny new thing that she just has to have.  Voile!  Carolyn Murphy, Kirsten Gillibrand and a handful of other more deserving female politicians in New York will just have to take an old, cold tater and wait.  Caroline won’t have to run at all and she can be counted on to passively carry out her Uncle’s wishes.  Wouldn’t it just be peachy if she helped push through healthcare reform and took the kudos away from Hillary Clinton who should have been leading that effort in the Senate?  Not to worry.  Caroline will help bring in much needed money to NY’s other financially strapped pols, like she wouldn’t do that anyway just as a concerned citizen who loved her state and country.

Come to think of it, what makes Caroline’s much ballyhooed ability to raise funds for elections any different from JJJr’s promise of millions of bucks for Blogojevich’s run?  Why, they seem exactly the same to me, except that JJJr. doesn’t have a giant Kennedy lion as his ally, breathing down the neck of the governor.  He only had some six degrees of separation from the President Elect of the United States.


Governor Paterson, don’t make me get my friends together and come up there to Albany.   Say a firm NO to Caroline Kennedy.  Appoint some other well deserving woman.

One more thought:  I have the perfect replacement for Obama’s senate seat who would kill three birds with one stone- Alice Palmer.  Bwahahahahhaahaaaah!