Bastet's Lair

News, book reviews, essays, interviews, fiction writing, politics, and my view of the world

August 28, 2010

Blago Brother Off Hook, Blago Retrial in 2011

By Lynn Voedisch

They're shuffling the deck in the federal re-trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Blagojevich's brother Robert Blagojevich on Thursday, saying he had less of a role in the federal corruption case. There were four felony charges against the ex-governor's brother and the jury was deadlocked on all charges in a recently ended trial.

A re-trial of Rod Blagojevich, which observers thought would take place during the run-up to the fall elections, will now take place in 2011, according to presiding judge James B. Zagel. Citing scheduling conflicts over the holidays, the judge denied the federal prosecutors an earlier start. The judge also requested a report on Blagojevich's finances to determine whether or not he is broke and qualified to receive legal help. He cut the ex-governor's legal team to two lawyers (he formerly had an entire team) and said he would appoint the advocates if it's determined that Blagojevich is in financial need.

The surprise announcements mean that the Democrats don't have as much to fret about this election season. Earlier, the party had been worried that Republicans would make hay with accusations about Democratic corruption with the Blago trial going on during election season. The truth, of course, is that Democrats have no lock on corruption, and former Republican Governor George Ryan is sitting right now in the federal penitentiary doing time for taking bribes while in office.

Although federal prosecutors complained about the 2011 court date, it gives them plenty of time to streamline a case against Blagojevich, since the 23-count prosecution clearly didn't work, ending in deadlock on 22 counts and conviction only on lying to FBI agents—a conviction Blagojevich will appeal. Look for the feds to knock off some of the lesser counts, bring in some some convincing witnesses, perhaps go for some "star" witnesses on its subpoena list such as Rahm Emmanuel, and hammer home the idea that quid pro quo cases don't always need to end up with the merchandise being delivered. If U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald waited until Blagojevich installed a new senator in President Barack Obama's old seat it would have been too late to stop the "one-man crime wave" Fitzgerald described.

As for Blagojevich's brother, it's long been considered that the case against him was small potatoes. Many considered him the "bag man," his protestations that "I have done nothing wrong" notwithstanding. Still, the prosecution loses nothing by dropping this attack.

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Article first published as Blago Brother Off Hook, Blago Retrial in 2011 on Technorati.

August 24, 2010

The Chicago Cubs Blow Their Last Game for This Fan

By Lynn Voedisch

I never thought I'd be saying it, but I'm hanging up my Chicago Cubs hat for the season, putting away the jerseys, and forgetting about any more games until next year. That's because Friday's game did me in. After so many seasons of broken hearts, this game raised so much bile and bitterness I had to go home and sleep it off for a while. After losing fan favorite and team captain Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves this week, the Cubs had to face him and the rest of Bobby Cox's hot team at Wrigley Field. It was weird enough seeing Lee at first base in a Braves uniform, and fans were uneasy, unsure how to react when he came up to bat. He was a beloved figure in Chicago and it felt felt wrong to boo him. Still when he popped out, they applauded heartily.

With so many long-standing Cubs veterans gone—Ryan Theriot, Ted Lilly, Mike Fontenot, and now Lee—the lineup looked bereft. New acquisition Blake DeWitt has done nothing to excite anyone. Starlin Castro, who got everyone pumped up in spring training has fizzled. And all those aforementioned star players were traded for AA and even single A prospects. Don't even ask about the pitching staff. My friends and I were poring over the scorecard trying to figure out who was left. However, pitcher Ryan Dempster did a fine job of making a game of it. He only gave up one home run to Omar Infante in the third and then held the Braves only one more score with run put together by a walk (one of the two he issued) by Martin Prado, who was driven home with a double by Alex Gonzalez.

On the Cubs side, they could have won. First, a group of nice small-ball hits sent De Witt home in the second inning. Then Amaris Ramirez came out of his zombie-like daze and hit a solo homer off of Braves pitcher Jair Jurgens in the fourth. Then Marlon Byrd hit a nice slice down the left field line into the territory by the foul pole for a triple and Ramirez repeated with almost the same move, driving Byrd home (although Ramirez, not as fast, only got to second). So, Cubs, 3, Braves, 2. It was looking good until the ninth inning and Dempster didn't need any relief.

Then Carlos Marmol stepped in. The good old closer we know and love. I remember asking in a Cubs story before, "what would we do without Marmol?" Well, now I know, because the man has taken the Crazy Train. Maybe he's been over-worked (there are hardly any pitchers, remember). Or maybe he's ticked off, for he struck out Lee with a vengeance. But he completely lost that steely-eyed focus he's known for. Instead he was whipping balls all over the place, over the plate, nearly at the batters, nearly to Milwaukee. He filled the bases and people started to groan. Still, he had ONE STRIKE TO GO for victory. The crowd was on its feet. The cheers started. He threw two balls in the dirt. The Braves fans started to cheer. And then the unthinkable happened. Rick Ankiel hit a triple bringing home two runners. Score, 5-3, Braves. The starch was out of the Cubs and they just pooped out.
I've never heard the crowd boo Marmol before, but they did today.

This is what happens when you dismantle a team as deftly as Jim Hendry has taken apart the Chicago Cubs. They may have started the season a bit slowly but they had all the working parts in order. Now he's sent anyone who was any good away, kept on hopeless chokers like Alfonso Soriano, has a stable of untested kids in AA, and has the nerve to tell fans, "I think you should be excited about the future of this team." Tell you what, Hendry. How about not? How about the fans giving up on your pathetic mess of a team? Lou Piniella is lucky he retired.

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Article first published as The Chicago Cubs Blow Their Last Game for This Fan on Technorati.