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What I wish I knew then…

Dilbert creator Scott Adams occasionally contributes to the Wall Street Journal, and today he came in with a gem.

Adams repeats a familiar refrain among critics of American higher education. We’re turning out too many art history majors and not enough people who know how to run a business or find opportunity. Art history and the classics are fine subjects, but they’re not an effective use of time, especially when college is as expensive and time consuming as it is.

Adams relates his college experiences, which are extraordinary. However, such opportunities and a curriculum that gives students the tools to find them and act on them.

Adams is a bit proud of his college experiences, but it does underscore something I missed when in college. More opportunity exists than you realize. That is the perfect time to try things and the best time to fail.

It’s worth a read as entrepreneurship is a skill we need more people to have.


This is somewhat personal to me as it involves a friend of mine. Today, I was jolted by the news that he sent an insane email to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. I’m at a loss.

I’m not going to link to the story, but the situation is thus: moved by Walker holding steadfast to his “Budget Repair Bill,” my friend e-mailed the governor to voice support. He then suggested Walker stage a physical attack — or even an assassination attempt — to somehow undermine labor’s standing among the media.

World class dumb.

Then he was confronted about it, as all of Walker’s incoming e-mails were made available to the public. He claimed his e-mail account was hacked and someone else wrote the e-mail. He went so far as to send an e-mail to everyone in his address book suggesting his account was hacked and to give a new e-mail address.

Yesterday, he fessed up to his boss, who was defending him when this all broke earlier in the week. After confessing, he resigned.

There’s enough in the e-mail that has me wondering about his well-being. To start, why would a guy as seasoned in both politics and law email advice on political tactics of any kind to the official office of the governor?

How does this scheme make sense? How do you hire someone to commit a felonious act and somehow represent himself as a member of the opposition?  Who’s signing up for that assignment?

I’m trying to wrap my head around this, because it doesn’t match the guy I know and respect.

The dangers of government intervention


My company has remained solvent, supports numerous charities and sponsors a PGA event. Thus I am clearly a criminal.

My company has remained solvent, supports numerous charities and sponsors a PGA event. Thus I am clearly a criminal.

The gentleman presenting Phil Mickelson with a trophy is Frederick “Rick” Waddell, the CEO of Northern Trust.  Just last week, Mickelson won the Northern Trust Open, which was once upon a time the Los Angeles Open. Mickelson shot a 62 on Saturday, and then rebounded from a terrible start to win. All of that is besides the point. The point here is that Northern Trust sponsored the event and spent several million dollars wining and dining their clients. 

All this after accepting — OK, being more or less intimidated into taking — $1.6 Billion of the $700-plus Billion in TARP money late last year.  Northern Trust is profitable. It’s well capitalized. It’s not a retail bank, and it did well to insulate itself from mortgage-backed securities.  At any rate, it took $1.6 Billion of the TARP money and had been making dividend payments to the government as if it were a preferred stock holder — about $20 million worth after just one quarter.

Meanwhile, Northern Trust is in the midst of its contract to sponsor what is now called the Northern Trust Open. Due to its contractural obligations, it must pay several expenses for the Open. It also has the opportunity to entertain its clients, which it did.  TMZ, a site that makes people dumber, was all over the concerts and bashes Northern Trust threw for its clients.

Northern Trust responded to TMZ, and listen again to the facts:


  • Northern Trust made $640 Million last year.
  • Northern Trust is well capitalized.
  • Northern Trust did not need TARP funds.
  • The government wanted Northern Trust to receive TARP funds.
  • Northern Trust accepted a fraction of 1 percent of the TARP funds.
  • The government was getting an actual return on the TARP funds.
  • Northern Trust continued to operate as usual.
  • Northern Trust raised about $3 million for Los Angeles-area charities, which in my opinion is remarkable for a bank based in Chicago.
Anyway, the Barney Franks and John Kerrys of the world are still distressed and are looking for some scalps. So Northern Trust has offered to return the cash.  Good for them. Hopefully the government will take the money back and go away. By the way, John Kerry and Barney Frank both accept government money, (presumably) take tax deductions, and spend my money. (Kerry and Frank each have spent more tax money than Northern Trust ever had.)  Perhaps they should live on just the bare essentials. No more high-priced dinners. No more first-class flights back to the district.
Bad companies slash marketing and sales budgets in times of a downturn. This is the time a company should reinforce its customers’ loyalty, build its brand name and find new markets.  The fact a company has survived a downturn quite nicely is another reason to avoid cutting marketing expenses.  Finally, corporate sponsorship beats government funding any day.  I like professional golf. Other people like it, too.  I might never be a customer of Northern Trust (although I’ll say they’re sort of an aspirational brand around here), but I did watch their event.  Is that any worse than the National Endowment for the Arts supporting crap that offends with my money?
Full disclosure: the charity with which I am most involved benefits greatly from Northern Trust’s generosity.  Their generosity extends further than the Kohl Children’s Museum. The bank is a major philanthropic force in Chicago, and they didn’t become such thanks to government bullying.
The moral of the story? Just butt out, Uncle Sam.

Schadenfreude Rally?

Via Steven Spruiell from the Corner:

Yesterday’s image from New York:

The Emporer Has No Clothes!

The most dangerous man in America, the poster boy for state Attorneys General (and Governors) running amok, Eliot Spitzer fingered in a prostitution ring!

Today’s news from New York.

Dow Jones: + 416.6

S&P 500: +47.28

NASDAQ: +86.42

Think traders went out for a few cocktails last night, and maybe kept the merriment going when the bell sounded? Hmmm, maybe? Sure, Bernake helped this morning, but Spitzer’s legal troubles probably didn’t hurt.

On a smaller scale, the revelation about Spitzer is similar to the downfall of Larry Bloom 11 years ago.  Spitzer will go down hard, and we’re all better off for him disappearing from the political stage.

Change the Illinois Way?

Get used to this mug, America.Tony Rezko might not be famous beyond the borders of Illinois right now, but expect his name to be on the tip of most Americans’ tongues by the end of March. Rezko goes on trial next week, and his name is attached to just about any elected Democrat politician in the state. This obviously includes Rod Blagojevich, identified as “Public Official A” in court documents before this week, and the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton pulled out the Rezko card in a Democratic debate last month, and sure enough a photograph of Hillary and Bill Clinton smiling next to Rezko surfaced. Oops.

Rezko and Obama are more than mere passing acquaintances. We all know they’re neighbors. What you might not know is that Rezko sat on the Obama campaign’s finance committee during the 2004 Senate camapign.

Should Rezko face the fate of Republican corruption poster boy Scott Fawell, will he, like Fawell, offer the U.S. Attorney the hides of some more prominent figures? Fawell testified against his mentor George Ryan. Do you think Rezko would hesitate bringing down Blagojevich, or even Obama?

That aside, Rezko shouldn’t be the only name to come up when talking about the “judgment” Obama believes qualifies him for president. Here in Cook County, our board president just made a deal with the reform Democrats to pass a new budget with a little bit of a tax increase:

Cook County commissioners and County Board President Todd Stroger were close to a compromise plan Friday evening that would more than double the county sales tax and double the county parking tax, just hours before a deadline for a new budget, several commissioners said.stroger.jpg

The path to end a five-month stalemate is based on an agreement between Stroger and Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D- Evanston), who would provide the crucial ninth vote to get the tax increases approved. In return, Stroger would agree to turn over control of county health services to an independent oversight panel for three years.

Yes, Suffredin and Forrest Claypool are reform Democrats who believe the County is plagued with patronage and other irregularities. Stroger, the son of his predecessor, John Stroger, doesn’t have time for such niceties. Claypool ran against Stroger’s father in the 2006 primary. Claypool had traction until a few days before the election when John Stroger suffered a crippling stroke. Stroger was never seen in public again, but won the primary anyway. The Democrats then caucused to pick a new nominee. The machine wanted no part of Claypool, instead choosing a young alderman, Todd Stroger. Stroger indeed was the guy to run against Republican Tony Peraica. Peraica made it a race, but Stroger did get the endorsement of the most popular Democrat in the state: Barack Obama.

Obama wasn’t shy with his endorsements the last couple of years, as his political capital was unparalleled within the state.

Alexi Giannoulias

Dorothy Tillman

Richard M. Daley

Emil Jones

Rod Blagojevich

Obama has pledged to change Washington, but he has either proved unwilling or incapable of changing Springfield and Chicago. Is this a pattern of displaying poor judgment? A case of owing the machine (“paying back those who sent you”)? A case of being just as crooked as the rest of them?

Consider that Obama also has ties to former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers. Sure, they’re loose ties, but McCain has had to answer for much looser associations.

McCain’s people would be best advised to look into Illinois, be entertained by the unmentionable corruption, and be reminded that Obama’s work here apparently was finished. People want to know his accomplishments in the U.S. Senate. How about looking at what he did in the Illinois Senate?

If you don’t care to sit through the 30-minute public access TV show, let’s cut to the relevant excerpts:

Former State Senator Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin): People need to know that Barack was not particularly bi-partisan. His voting record and Emil Jones’ were about 96% exactly the same. Barack did not vote for Republican bills. Barack was not a builder.

Jeff Berkowitz: He wants to change the way business is done. He says Washington is broken. So, he wants people to work together to bring about legislation—

Steve Rauschenberger: The same way he effectively did not work together in the Illinois Senate. The same way his and Kirk Dillard’s much heralded ethics reform—there hasn’t been a single person in the State of Illinois convicted or charged under that ethics legislation. It was obviously pretty effective ethics legislation.

Jeff Berkowitz: Well, what do you mean. Maybe this shows it worked. Has it stopped improper activity?

Rauschenberger: Well, no, there have been eighty federal indictments in the same period that Barack and Kirk Dillard’s bill has gone nowhere.

Truth be told, Illinois had a “change” senator, and elements from both the GOP and Democratic party chased him out. Peter Fitzgerald was the principled guy Obama likes to think he is. And Fitzgerald tapping Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) to be U.S. Attorney has effected more change in Springfield, Chicago and Washington than any Obama action could hope to.