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Illinois Chief Justice Anne Burke

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois Chief Justice Anne M. Burke has announced her retirement.

To the active and energetic mind, to the profound intellect, to the ever-restless curiosity, to the lifelong seeker after justice, the ease and indolence of retirement can often be harder to bear than continued labor in one’s metier.

Illinois Chief Justice Anne M. Burke will have no problems in this regard.

Although former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan may have wished that Illinois had a palace, its absence was no bar to the creation of his own palace clique of sycophants, not-so-brave adventurers, lobbyists, hangers-on, lackeys and lickspittles. And of this Madigan camarilla C.J. Burke was certainly the most important figure. Madigan had a live human wiretap into the highest, most important and most sensitive judicial deliberations in the state.

Madigan opposed the independent redistricting referendum, which came before the Illinois Supreme Court in 2016. Burke ensured that this measure, which favored voters’ rights and democracy in Illinois, was a non-starter. Any act or measure disfavored by Madigan that came before Burke’s Supreme Court would be condemned. In all matters Burke carried out Madigan’s will to the best of her ability.

Madigan, ever bashful, continually disclaimed having any influence or power over any one or any thing in Springfield, and he affected to be no more than a simple state rep and ward committeeman. But if he ever expressed his opinion on any issue, or, even less, granted or withheld his wink or nod, none could doubt what the final result would be. We miss Madigan’s ostentatious pretenses of powerlessness, humility, meekness and modesty. Well, at least we will until his criminal trial begins.

Then Commonwealth Edison’s Bribery Department (see July 20, 2020 Deferred Prosecution Agreement) offered its payroll to Madigan as a patronage machine to supply the place of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation Department. The influence of Exelon in the Illinois General Assembly became paramount, and the interests of and protections for Illinois ratepayers concomitantly declined. Chief Justice Burke ensured that as far as Exelon’s bespoke laws protecting its revenues were concerned, constitutionality was nothing more than a dangerous luxury. With Madigan’s wink and under Burke’s watchful eye, Illinois legislation became Chris Crane’s own pull-toy. Sadly, Exelon must now do without either Mike Madigan or Anne Burke. Crane must know how Napoleon felt when he bade farewell to his Imperial Guard before setting sail for Elba.

Today, abortion. Tomorrow marriage equality and contraception.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. This was expected, given the recent leaking of the Alito draft opinion.

The Alito opinion purports to determine the validity of the most fundamental rights of American citizens not by any contemporary legal or moral principles, but rather by turning the clock backwards by two or more centuries to see what the Founding Fathers meant by the words they used in the Constitution. In practice, this amounts to an exercise in historical fiction by the six conservative justices as they attribute their own policy preferences to their favorite Founding Fathers.

At any rate, the high court’s Dobbs decision should not be viewed as some sort of sudden or unforeseeable event. Dobbs is neither an earthquake, tornado, nor any other kind of surprise, even before the Alito opinion leak. Not at all. Dobbs is the result of the basic structure of the United States Constitution.

Contrary to what the GOP politicians spout, the Constitution wasn’t written by a benevolent deity. It was written by a group of white men, many of whom were slave-owners. Indeed, slavery and concessions made to the slave states to induce them to sign on to the Constitution (e.g., the Three-Fifths Compromise) comprise the ultimate foundation of the U.S. Constitution. Chief among those concessions, and a leading cause of today’s Dobbs decision, is the Electoral College.

The GOP’s smart move was to recognize the Electoral College for what it really is: the single greatest gerrymandering device in all of American law. The Electoral College means that there really is no such thing as a national presidential election. Rather, the Electoral College means that competing candidates for the U.S. presidency run for governor in each of the fifty states, and if one wins enough states to obtain a majority of the Electors, he or she wins regardless of the popular vote.

The popular vote for president is still important, but not on a national basis. It’s important only on a state-by-state basis, that is, within each individual state. That accounts for the GOP’s long game on voting rights, because for most of the states, if they can flip a state by as little as one vote they get all that state’s electors. Just look back to Karl Rove’s efforts to fire a bunch of U.S. attorneys who said they had more important things to do than going after voter fraud. Moscow Mitch McConnell then piled on to make sure that Obama didn’t get to appoint Merrick Garland, while Trump got to appoint three far right conservatives. McConnell violated some “traditions” of the U.S. Senate, but what he did was neither unconstitutional nor illegal.

The take-away here is that the GOP has had a long game of using the Constitution as it exists to enforce their minority rule, and Dobbs is just the latest evidence of that. Marriage equality and even the right of Americans to obtain and use contraceptives are next on the 6-3 Supreme Court chopping block. That’s no exaggeration. Clarence Thomas has expressly said he wants to eliminate those rights.

What’s required goes far beyond just getting out the vote this coming November. The GOP has been working, and will continue to work, on sabotaging Americans’ voting rights. If that includes the federal seizure of state voting machines because Italian satellites were allegedly switching votes from Trump to Biden, so be it. Trump sent the U.S. Gov’t. off on a wild goose chase to investigate that, and as yesterday’s January 6 Committee hearing showed, only two or three sane officials in the Justice Department stood between the United States and a constitutional crisis.

No, what’s needed is a new Constitutional Convention so that we can scrap what is essentially a constitution designed to embrace slavery and advantage slave states and bring it into the 21st century. I, for one, am rather tired of listening to right wingers tell us what a group of 18th century slaveholders and slavery enablers might have been thinking.

Alito

Justice Samuel Alito

Alito’s Leaked Opinion
Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked majority opinion in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, _ U.S. _ (2022) discloses that the U.S. Supreme Court is primed to overrule both Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa v Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the two leading cases holding that the right to an abortion is protected under the United States Constitution.

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune reported that when the U.S. Supreme Court officially hands down its opinion, twenty-six (26) states, including Texas and Florida, are either certain or likely to enact laws that either severely restrict the right to abortion or ban it outright. (“If Roe is overturned, ruling could have secondary effect on Illinois’ economy,” Chicago Tribune, June 13, 2022). The Tribune article suggests that corporations may seek to relocate their headquarters to states like Illinois, in which the right to obtain an abortion will be protected. The article concedes that it may take years for such changes, and their related economic effects, to come about.

Assuming that there’s sufficient political will, the economic effects on renewable energy from overturning Roe could occur much sooner.

That there exists any tangency at all between energy law and reproductive rights may sound unusual, but the response to Alito’s ruling should take advantage of the principles Alito himself announces in his leaked opinion. In particular, Alito stresses that our nation’s historical understanding of ordered liberty should enable the people’s elected representatives to decide how abortion should be regulated (Dobbs, pgs. 6, 31). Elected representatives in other states are likewise at liberty to respond to Dobbs by deciding how to regulate certain aspects of renewable energy.

How Renewable Energy Works
Because one electron is indistinguishable from another on the grid, electricity generated by renewable resources (wind, solar, etc.) is indistinguishable from electricity generated by a nuke or a coal-fired plant. To address this, renewable energy certificates (RECs) were developed as tradable certificates that recognize the green energy attributes of renewable electricity generation sources. One REC represents one megawatt-hour of renewable generation. RECs are tradable because they may be bought and sold separately from the actual electricity generated by the renewable system. The sale of RECs provides additional revenue for renewable generators and obviates the (nearly impossible) task of trying to schedule specific generation for specific load. The issuance and claiming of RECs is tracked, usually by the relevant transmission system operator.

A Renewable Energy Response to Dobbs
A state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) generally requires that electric public utilities procure a specified portion of their electricity supply requirements from renewable generation resources such as wind or solar power. These requirements may be met through a utility’s own renewable generation assets or through the purchase of RECs. A state has a lot of leeway to structure its RPS as it sees fit. A state RPS may have tiers of preferred RECs, or it may prefer RECs purchased from generation resources located within the state or in adjacent states. The RPS market is often referred to as the “mandatory market” because public utilities are required by law to purchase certain volumes of renewable energy.

The gist of the renewable energy response to Dobbs lies in two separate measures. First, in states like Illinois, where the right to abortion will be protected, RPSs would be amended to prevent RECs generated in states that restrict or prohibit abortion from being used to satisfy the RPS.

The second measure pertains to the “voluntary” market, that is, the market for the purchase of RECs by persons who are not legally required to purchase renewable energy but who nevertheless wish to support the development of renewable energy. Voluntary market purchasers may procure all or a portion of their electricity supply requirements from renewable generation. These REC purchasers “green” the electricity they actually use by buying a quantity of RECs. Buyers in the renewable energy market have the freedom to choose which RECs they buy, including choosing the state of origin of the RECs. The second response to Dobbs involves making clear to voluntary market buyers where a REC was generated, and the REC buyer can then choose whether it wishes to purchase a REC generated in one of the 26 states that are set to restrict or eliminate abortion rights. Welcome to your free market at work.

The Dormant Commerce Clause
The Dormant (or Negative) Commerce Clause is a doctrine that federal courts have inferred from the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In a nutshell, the doctrine prohibits protectionist legislation by states.

The Sparkspread previously posted an entry on Judge Posner’s 2013 opinion in Illinois Commerce Commission v. FERC (“7th Circuit Casts Shadow Over State Renewable Portfolio Standards,” The Sparkspread, August 14, 2013), a cost allocation rate case in which Posner, when discussing RECs and RPSs, stated that the Dormant Commerce Clause would prohibit one state from discriminating against another’s renewable energy. Posner’s reasoning was wrong because he did not understand how REC markets operate and did not take into account the difference between the mandatory and voluntary REC markets.

Contrary to Posner’s position, a state’s limitations on the kinds of RECs that are acceptable for satisfaction of its own RPS do not present a dormant commerce clause issue because none of those limitations prevent a REC seller from selling its RECs in that state. In the voluntary market, any REC seller from any state can sell RECs generated anywhere in every other state. An RPS limitation on RECs from abortion-restricting states, on the other hand, pertains to the mandatory, not the voluntary market. Every state is free to determine as a policy matter what types of RECs may be used to satisfy its own RPS. A state’s elimination from its mandatory market of RECs generated in abortion-restricting states is no different than that state’s preference for, say, solar over wind RECs, or for RECs generated only in adjacent states. An RPS has nothing to say about the voluntary market, which it does not in any degree control.

I am not aware of any previous effort to address REC markets from this angle. Legislation would, of course, take time and effort to enact, but if, pursuant to Dobbs, elected representatives in 26 states see fit to restrict or eliminate a constitutional right that has been in place for nearly half a century, the elected representatives in the other 24 are equally free to express their policy preferences in their own RPSs. Alito would surely approve, no?

Energy markets tend to be exquisitely sensitive. The mere announcement of such a legislative initiative by a state would likely send through renewable energy markets a shock wave warranting measurement on the Richter scale. Expectations on REC sales would be affected, and, even more importantly, so would plans for new generation.

Ex-Speaker Mike Madigan, Illinois’ Capo di tutti capi

Sometimes events in real life bear odd similarities to events portrayed in movies.

That thought occurred to me last week after reading that the actor Ray Liotta died at age 67 while filming a movie on location. Since I always liked his movies, I decided to watch a few YouTube clips from the movie Goodfellas, a film set in late 1970’s New York. In that film, Liotta played the character of Henry Hill, a young half-Irish, half-Italian guy whose biggest ambition is to be a “made man” in one of the New York mafia crime families. Robert DeNiro also stars in the movie as Hill’s buddy in crime and fellow made man wannabee. But what drew my attention was the film clip depicting the Goodfellas’ Christmas party because it teaches a lesson that the now-indicted ex-Speaker Mike Madigan should have known as the boss of his own state government crime family.

One of the off screen events in Goodfellas is modeled on an actual crime that occurred in December 1978. The DeNiro and Liotta characters and their crew rob the Lufthansa cargo terminal at JFK Airport and get away with $6,000,000 in cash. After they divide the spoils, Robert DeNiro’s character warns the robbery crew not to start spending the money because the FBI will be looking for clues like that to find out who pulled off this heist.

At the gang’s Christmas party at some bar, one of the gang members arrives and proudly shows off his brand-new pink Cadillac. Then another one arrives and shows off the $20,000 white mink coat he just bought for his wife. DeNiro’s character goes berserk, berating his co-gangsters for doing exactly what he told them not to do: buying expensive things and then flaunting them, drawing unwanted FBI attention to them so soon after the Lufthansa heist.

Obviously the FBI agents would ask themselves: “Where’s all this money coming from?”

Mike Madigan should have gone to school on Goodfellas. Madigan was the capo di tutti capi (boss of all the bosses) in the State of Illinois, Cook County and Chicago governments. He was the one who decided what did or didn’t happen in the state. But in any public comments Madigan always played it like the dwarf Bashful from Disney’s Snow White, disavowing any control over anything.

Madigan wanted, and still wants, to keep everything secret. He always tried to keep his fingernails clean by avoiding things like email or texting that could be linked back to him. Like Osama bin Laden, who let others carry his messages out to his far-flung terrorist cells, Madigan used members of his inner circle, like Michael McClain, to convey his orders to his acolytes in Springfield and Chicago. If anybody were to get whacked, it would be a Madigan runner like McClain, not Madigan himself.

In early 2018, Madigan had to fire Kevin Quinn, one of his political aides, after Quinn sexually harassed a woman who also worked in Madigan’s political organization. After he fired Quinn, though, Madigan decided to help Quinn financially. He ordered his harem of lobbyists to start making monthly payments to Quinn, who was having trouble landing a job. The lobbyists, ever eager to display their spaniel-like devotion to Madigan, complied.

Now, if DeNiro’s character in Goodfellas had been in the room when Madigan decided to get money to Quinn, he would have berated him for making the same stupid mistake that his half-witted gang members made: spending money in a way that would likely draw FBI attention. Just as in Goodfellas, the FBI was watching Madigan and his henchmen. The FBI saw Quinn get fired. Then the FBI saw Quinn start to get monthly payments even though he didn’t have a job. So the FBI agents tracking Madigan must have asked themselves the same question that their predecessors asked themselves about Henry Hill’s gang after the Lufthansa heist four decades earlier: “Where’s this money coming from?”

As the supposed brains of his own outfit, Madigan should have known that payments create a trail, and that a trail can always be followed. Hell, even Watergate’s Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to “follow the money.”

Madigan was really lousy as a mob boss.

“What’s that you said?”

Putin might set a new trend in commercial office decorating: conference tables that begin at Chicago’s lakefront and end somewhere in DuPage County.

That’s an exaggeration of course, but so are claims that Putin’s insane. He’s neither insane nor irrational. For example, Putin knows what he’s doing is wrong. If that were not the case, then he would have no need to create false flag stories about British “crisis actors” staging fake Russian atrocities for the western media, and so on.

But Putin’s sanity and rationality are no guaranty that he’s going to win his war in Ukraine in any sense that we as Americans would understand. His military operations in Ukraine have failed very badly in any number of respects, and Russia doesn’t have the conventional military capacity to completely overrun Ukraine, install its own puppet leader in the old Soviet style, and hold the country.

Putin is a psychopath as opposed to just a typical insane or irrational person. A psychopath can plan things, understand his environment, and act so as to achieve his objectives. A psychopath knows right from wrong, but it makes no difference to him. He feels neither remorse nor regret about anything he’s done. Slaughtering civilians and children, bombing hospitals, whatever he deems necessary he’ll do, and he sees himself as above any conventional sense of morality. Killing someone is no more important to him than deciding whether he’ll have cereal or scrambled eggs for breakfast.

In short, Putin is the geopolitical version of the psychopathic, jilted ex-boyfriend who stalks his ex and won’t stop stalking her until he either gets her back or kills her.

His revanchist idea about dragging Ukraine back into Russia isn’t new. Pan-Slavism as a political ideology goes all the way back to the post-Napoleonic period, and one of its components is the common Eastern Orthodox faith. Americans have a hard time grasping things like pan-ideologies because in this country they’re usually doctrines of the political fringe (see, e.g., Proud Boys). However, neither Pan-Slavism nor any affinity for co-religionists has ever been able to completely extinguish the nationalism of the various individual states that comprise the Slavic world. Sure, Slavs of different nationalities fought under the Austrian flag in the 19th century, but that was because other factors were at work. To Slavs within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, domination by Hungarians (Magyars) would have been worse than domination by the Hapsburgs. In June 1914, Slavic nationalism and its desire to throw off the Austrian chains lit the match that led to World War I. Russia mobilized to protect its fellow Slavs in Serbia from the combined Austro-Hungarian and German Empires.

And just like the Serbians jilted Franz Josef, the Ukrainians have jilted Vladimir Putin. To Putin, Ukraine is the girl who used to be his. Ukraine used to admire Vladimir’s pecs when he went horseback riding with no shirt on. Then she started flirting with westerners. Next she held a wild street party where everybody wore orange. She threw Vlad’s good buddy Viktor Yanukovich out of her house, and for the last eight years he’s had to live in Vlad’s basement. Vladimir’s FSB even showed him a photo of Ukraine hugging NATO, and things might have gone further if he hadn’t stormed into Crimea.

So, like the obsessed, psychopathic ex who just can’t quit his old girlfriend, Putin will pursue her, no matter what. Putin is what you’d get if you turned Jodi Arias into Russia and Travis Alexander into Ukraine. Obsessed ex Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander rather than let him leave their relationship, and in the same way Putin would sooner destroy Ukraine brick by brick than allow it to fall in love with the West and be a democracy. Like Jodi Arias and other obsessed, psychopathic ex’s, Putin’s bottom line is that if he can’t have Ukraine, then nobody can have Ukraine. That’s why Putin will keep firing missiles and artillery into Ukrainian cities. He knows at some level that he’ll never hold Ukraine in his arms again, but he can sure as hell make the country unlivable. That’s his way of killing his unattainable ex-girlfriend.

Yesterday the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois brought out its 22-count indictment of Michael (“I’m not the target of anything”) Madigan.

In July 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Exelon Corp. and Commonwealth Edison Company, which served as Madigan’s political patronage machine for close to a decade. The DPA refers to Madigan as “Public Official A,” and includes messages from people in his corrupt network that refer to Madigan as “Himself” or “Our Friend.” It seems like Madigan was more popular among the federal prosecutors than he thought. In exchange for bribes to or for the benefit of Madigan, ComEd and Exelon ensured the passage of legislation favorable to them, and hindered or prevented legislation Exelon didn’t like.

If we could delve into the inner recesses of Madigan’s mind, we’d find that his Id, Ego, and Superego are all composed of one thing: a driving ambition to be the Second Coming of Richard J Daley. Madigan’s father and Daley the Elder became friends when both held political patronage jobs in the Cook County Clerk’s Office. Using political patronage, Daley the Elder went on to build one of the most powerful political machines that any American city had ever seen. During old Mayor Daley’s tenure, parts of Chicago’s government, like the Department of Streets and Sanitation, were turned into political patronage machines that Richard J. Daley used to provide jobs for his supporters.

One of old Mayor Daley’s chief precepts, which Madigan was later to adopt as his guiding principle, was to help your friends and either punish or co-opt your enemies. To Madigan, Daley the Elder had achieved what he considered political Nirvana: a world in which everybody both depended on you and was afraid of you.

But Old Man Daley passed away in 1976, and in 1983 the Shakman Decree ended Chicago city government’s role as a perpetual patronage machine.

Madigan’s alternative was to use ComEd and Exelon as a way to create a new political patronage machine and do an end run around the Shakman Decree. For Exelon and ComEd it was a match made in, well, maybe not heaven. As the DPA showed, bribery and corruption are integral components of Exelon’s business model: the utility parasite and the political parasite established a symbiotic relationship.

Over the next few weeks we’ll go further into the specific chapter and verse of the legislative benefits that Exelon and ComEd obtained at the expense of Illinois ratepayers. Nothing in the 22-count Madigan indictment revises the amount of bribes that Madigan directly or indirectly received: about $1.3 Million. We’ll tally up the economic benefits that Exelon and ComEd obtained from these illegal payments, and see how they balance out.

But Madigan and the Illinois legislature comprise just one sphere of influence. We’ll also take a look at how Madigan’s malignant principles have metastasized throughout the Illinois courts — an area the U.S. Attorney’s Office might be interested in. The General Assembly and the Illinois courts are the two poles between which the Madigan supremacy oscillated for nearly a half century. Within the courts Madigan’s fingerprints are harder to see, but it must be borne in mind that, whether Madigan was acting at one or the other of these poles, it was the Madigan supremacy still. His control was absolute and coordinate.

Last week Putin began his blitzkrieg invasion of Ukraine. His war machine is using rockets and artillery against the much smaller, but more highly motivated, Ukrainian military.

In anticipation of economic sanctions, Putin built a war chest of USD630 Billion. That sounds like a lot of money, but wars have a funny way of outlasting the money available to pay for them. With the ruble no longer accepted anywhere in the west, and with Russia cut off from every advanced funds transfer system, he may not be able to use that money. But even if he could use it, would USD630 Billion be enough to make a difference for Putin?

For some historical context to answer to that question we can turn on the Wayback Machine and revisit an earlier conquest of a hostile little puppy state by a Great Empire with an overwhelming military machine: the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902 in South Africa.

In 1899, Great Britain was the preeminent economic and military power of the world. London had not yet ceded to New York the title of world financial center. The United States and Germany had been catching up to Great Britain both economically and militarily, and in the latter sphere Kaiser Wilhelm II was determined to challenge England for naval supremacy. But England was still heads above the rest, and when European nations considered important policy choices they gave a great deal of weight to how Whitehall might react to the change.

From a geographical perspective, Russia today sees Ukraine, part of its “near abroad,” as a territory that it must dominate, if not control. In 1899, South Africa held an importance for Great Britain similar to that of today’s Ukraine for Russia. South Africa was key to maintaining a reliable and defensible sea route between England and India. Cape Town was the re-coaling station for steamships on that route. And although by 1899 the Suez Canal had already been open for about thirty years, England could not rely on it: it was owned and operated by France. If, in a conflict, France were adverse to England (which had happened a few times in the past), access to India through the Suez Canal would be lost.

Natural resources ran a close second to global strategy concerns. Within the fifteen years preceding the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, gold had been discovered in the Transvaal, and diamonds in Witwatersrand, making South Africa one of the richest spots on the planet. South Africa had become the leading source of gold in the world. The world was on the gold standard then, and because London was the center of world finance, England had a keen interest in the volume of gold in circulation and held in government reserves. Too little gold would unduly constrain commercial and industrial access to capital, while too much would risk metallurgical inflation. Europe had endured that type of inflation back when Spain was its most powerful country. The massive quantities of gold and silver that Spain imported from its possessions in central and south America caused more than a few monetary problems.

Russia now claims that ethnic Russians are being mistreated by Ukraine’s government, which Russia views as illegitimate. By 1899, the Boers had declared the Transvaal and the Orange Free State to be independent republics not subject to rule from London. The many Englishmen extracting wealth from South Africa’s mines in these new Boer republics were second-class citizens, without voting and other civil rights.

Today Russia worries about the consequences of having a successful fledgling democracy like Ukraine on its doorstep because it might give Russian citizens the idea that democracy might be worth a try. Similarly, in 1899 Britain viewed the newly declared Boer republics as an affront to its sovereignty over South Africa, and it worried about the effect such new little breakaway states might have on its subjects in other British colonies around the world. Would they start breaking away too? This was an early domino theory.

Just like Putin’s propaganda about the benevolent nature of rule from Moscow, the British in 1899 thought that British rule was a divine gift to all the empire’s subjects, even if some of those subjects were trying to persuade the Brits to leave by shooting at them.

Russia looks down on the people of Ukraine in the same way that Great Britain looked down at the Boers. Both Russia and England thought they’d have a splendid little war, that it would be over quickly, and that they would easily squelch these little republics.

But every present-day Ukrainian, like every Boer back then, was armed to the teeth and ready to fight. Sure, the Boers were not a regular army with chains of command and discipline in the ranks, etc. But, like Ukrainians today, that strategic weakness becomes a tactical strength when the irregular force is highly motivated and fighting against an outside invader on its home turf. The Boers would attack some organized British column moving through the countryside, and then melt back into the wilderness. The Ukrainians have already ambushed some Russian motor convoys. The Russians will also have to fight Ukrainians in urban environments, which is a nightmare for an attacking force. Think Stalingrad.

So how does all this tie in to Putin’s USD630 Billion war chest?

Well, in October 1899, the government of Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, calculated that England’s fine little war against the Boers could be “put through” for 10 million British pounds.

By the time peace was finally negotiated in May 1902, the British government had spent more than 217 million British pounds on its war against the Boers. That was enough to bring down the government of Lord Salisbury, which was replaced by that of Arthur Balfour. To get an idea of how much money that was at the time, it represented 12% of the entire gross national product of the United Kingdom – then the world’s leading economy – for the preceding year.

Were we to apply that same percentage to the 2020 GDP of the United States, today’s leading economy, that would be 12% of USD20.94 Trillion, or about USD2.51 Trillion. That would be not quite twice Russia’s entire GDP of USD1.483 Trillion. So Tsar Vladimir could well find himself a bit short on funds as his Ukraine war drags on, and that’s without any consideration of what happens when no other country in the world accepts your currency.

If Putin had read up on the Anglo-Boer War, there’s no way to know whether he would have changed his mind about invading Ukraine. But at least he would have learned that it was possible, and even likely, that Russia would get Boer-ed.

Every once in a while you come across a claymation picture that just encapsulates everything. Someone in the UK created this one, which shows the Queen and Prince Andrew visiting the nearest ATM to get cash to settle the suit brought against Andy by Virginia Giuffre.

Image
“Andrew, this is the LAST time I’m going to do this…”

On July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232, a DC-10, crash-landed on a runway at the Sioux City, Iowa airport.

According to the subsequent report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the accident was triggered by a titanium fan disc that was part of the plane’s No. 2 engine. That titanium disc, which of course spins at a very high speed, had a microscopic manufacturing defect that had, over time, created a hairline crack. That crack eventually caused the disc to break apart in mid-flight, and pieces of the disc spun out like shrapnel and cut through all three of the plane’s hydraulic systems, destroying them. On small planes, parts such as rudders, stabilizers and ailerons on the wings may be controlled by cables and mechanical connections directly to the pilot’s steering yoke, foot pedals, or other cockpit controls. But on a commercial jet like a DC-10, those surfaces are so large, and the forces exerted on them so great, that hydraulics are necessary to move them. When pieces of the fan disc cut through all the hydraulic lines, the pilots could no longer control the airplane by means of ailerons, rudder and stabilizers. Still, in a truly remarkable feat, the pilots, using only the engine throttles, managed to steer the crippled plane onto a runway at Sioux City airport. Of the 296 persons aboard, including the crew, 185 survived.

The Flight 232 disaster is an example of how the failure of one complex system (turbines) can interfere with or even completely disable one or more other complex systems (hydraulics) with catastrophic effect.

On February 9, 2022, the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report (NRC Inspector General’s Special Inquiry Into Counterfeit Fraudulent and Suspect Items in Operating Nuclear Power Plants, or the “Report”) stating that:

• The NRC lowered its oversight standards for ensuring that counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect parts were not used in U.S. nuclear power plants;
• Fake parts are present in most, if not all, U.S. nuclear power plants;
• Persons within the industry informed the NRC about the use of these fake parts; and
• The NRC failed to appropriately address this problem.

The Report states that the IG is “aware that the NRC staff does not have a direct role in identifying counterfeit parts and preventing their use in a nuclear power plant.” (Report, pg. I). Well, if not the NRC, then who does that job?

But wait, it gets better (i.e., worse). Counterfeit parts are tracked only on a voluntary basis, if at all, and the NRC doesn’t require nuke plants to report use of counterfeit parts “…unless a situation rises to the level of being a significant condition adverse to quality, or a reportable issue” under applicable regulations. (Report, id.) Stated differently, don’t bother the NRC until something bad happens.

The Report also states that “[counterfeit parts are safety and security concerns that could have serious consequences in critical power plant equipment required to perform a safety function.” (Report, at ii).

Gee, do you really think so? That sentence could have been lifted out of the Chernobyl or Three Mile Island autopsies.

The NRC has an “Allegation Manual” and a process for reports about counterfeit parts through its Allegation Review Board.

According to the NRC’s own Management Directive (MD) 8.8, Management of Allegations, “anyone should feel free to communicate any safety concern to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” (Report, pg. 9). This manual contains procedures for handling such allegations.

Oh, well, that ought to do it, right?

Wrong. The Report goes on to state that although allegations about counterfeit parts in nuke stations had been made for the past ten (yes, 10) years, “…the NRC did not investigate or pursue any substantive actions regarding [the allegations about counterfeit parts],” and classified [these] concerns about counterfeit parts as “non-allegations.” (Report, id., pg. I , emphasis added).

Holy Terminology, Batman! What is a non-allegation? That’s a tough question, so let’s begin with an easier one. What is an “allegation”?

MD 8.8 defines an “allegation” as:

a declaration, statement, or assertion of impropriety or inadequacy associated with NRC-regulated activities, the validity of which has not been established. (Emphasis added.)

Report, pg. 9

That sounds more or less reasonable. But that’s not really how it works at the good ol’ NRC. What the alleger may have thought was an allegation doesn’t actually become an allegation until whatever was alleged goes through a multi-level initial consultation process by NRC staff to determine that whatever was alleged is the real McCoy, an allegation allegation.

If you think that’s confusing, try this tour de force of sanctimonious bureaucratic phraseology, drawn from the NRC’s Allegation Manual:

If, after this initial consultation, it is unclear whether information provided by the concerned individual constitutes an allegation, it is appropriate to discuss the information at an ARB [Allegation Review Board] to obtain a decision. If the ARB cannot reach a conclusion as to whether the concern in question should be processed as an allegation, the [agency allegation advisor] should be consulted. Some regions/offices assign an allegation number to such issues and then recode the item in the AMS [Allegation Management System] database as a non-allegation if the ARB determines that the issue is not an allegation. Some regions/offices document the issue on allegation process forms but withhold assigning an allegation number until the ARB has reached a conclusion. Either approach is acceptable.”

(Report, pgs. 9-10; emphasis added).

So even though an “allegation” is still an “allegation” if its validity has not been established, the NRC’s own procedures describe how it sweeps uninvestigated allegations under the rug.

The Report goes on to describe one case in which an alleger notified NRC staff about counterfeit part concerns at a specific nuke plant (Seabrook Station in New Hampshire) by letters, emails, phone calls, and even discussions at public meetings, all over the course of ten (10) years.

The NRC determined that the alleger’s allegations were not really “allegations.” It classified the allegations as “non-allegations” and did nothing.

So, if you think that the NRC is supposed to be protecting the public by ensuring the safe operation of nuclear plants, you might be surprised to find that it has borrowed its policy toward fake and counterfeit equipment in U.S. nuclear plants from Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine fame: “What, me worry?”

NRC Chairman Alfred E. Neuman

A nuclear generating station has millions of parts that make up different complex systems that enable it to function as designed. An accident caused by a counterfeit part in one system at that station might be confined to that system, and it could be something from which a fast recovery is possible. For example, if the pieces of the disintegrating fan disc on United Airlines Flight 232 had been contained within the cowl of Engine No. 2, its own system, the hydraulics would not have been cut and the airplane might well have landed safely and without any loss of life.

But an accident due to a counterfeit part in one system at a nuke station could affect one or more other systems, a cascading effect that results in a grave disaster. Given that an accident at a nuke station could render a populated area in the U.S. uninhabitable by humans for more than 10,000 years, one might be forgiven for thinking that the NRC should take counterfeit part allegations more seriously.

For starters, the NRC might want to re-read the story about United Airlines Flight 232.

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Constellation NewEnergy’s Third Party Investigator

The At Issue program on WBBM Newsradio (on Audacy) interviews Richard Dent, NFL Hall of Famer and MVP of Superbowl XX, concerning his legal battle with Constellation NewEnergy.

Also on the interview is Dr. Charles Steele, President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization once led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Constellation NewEnergy Terminates Dent’s Contracts and the Legal Battle

In 2018, Constellation NewEnergy terminated its energy contracts with Dent when two unnamed persons accused him of sex harassment and improper conduct. Constellation refused to disclose the names of the persons who had made these defamatory statements.

In 2019, we filed a Rule 224 presuit discovery petition in the Cook County Circuit Court to compel Constellation to disclose the names of Dent’s accusers. (Dent et al. v. Constellation NewEnergy et al., 2019 L 002910). Constellation filed a motion to dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim under Illinois Civil Procedure Code Section 2-615. When a defendant in a civil suit files a 2-615 motion, black letter Illinois law requires the court to accept as true, for purposes of that motion, all of the well-pled facts alleged in the complaint or petition.

In Dent’s case, though, the Circuit Court judge ignored the facts pled in Dent’s 224 petition and accepted as true facts that Constellation improperly added in its 2-615 motion. For example, Constellation NewEnergy refused to disclose to Dent the name of its third-party investigator, and that is exactly what Dent’s Rule 224 petition alleges. However, in a flagrant departure from the duties of a court in a 2-615 motion, the Circuit Court held that Constellation NewEnergy had disclosed the identity of the investigator.

During oral argument before the Circuit Court in July 2019, the trial judge agreed with me that Dent’s 224 petition was not a “fishing expedition.” (Dent et al v Constellation NewEnergy et al, 2019 L 002910, Transcript of Proceedings, July 19, 2019, at pg. 4, line 4 to pg. 4, line 20). Despite this, the Circuit Court denied Dent’s 224 petition on the basis of a case that prohibited the use of that rule for “fishing expeditions.” (Low Cost Movers v. Craigslist, Inc., 2015 IL App (1st) 143955). Low Cost Movers was neither relevant nor applicable to Dent’s petition, and neither Dent nor Constellation had cited it in briefing on the 2-615 motion.

Constellation NewEnergy told Dent, and the 224 Petition alleged, that it was going to terminate all of Dent’s contracts because of the allegations that had been made against him. Yet the Circuit Court held that the cause in fact and proximate cause of Constellation’s termination of Dent’s contracts was…(wait for it…wait for it…)…Constellation’s termination of Dent’s contracts. Yes, you read that right. (Dent et al v Constellation NewEnergy et al, 2019 L 002910, Memorandum Opinion and Order, July 31, 2019, pgs. 2-3). In the Cook County Circuit Court’s hands, cause and effect became fungible commodities. If I knew a first semester law student who committed so puerile a logical fallacy I would recommend (gently, of course) serious consideration of an alternative career.

We appealed this ruling to the First District Court of Appeals. In November 2020 the Illinois Appellate Court, without requiring oral argument, reversed the Circuit Court on grounds of abuse of discretion and held that Rule 224 was indeed the appropriate procedure for Dent’s case. (Dent et al. v. Constellation NewEnergy, Inc. et al., 2020 IL App (1st) 191652, 175 NE3d 742).

Constellation then filed a petition for leave to appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, which that court granted in March 2021. The case was argued before the Illinois Supreme Court on September 22, 2021. You may replay the oral argument here:

Constellation NewEnergy’s Private Eye

In public statements Constellation NewEnergy claims that the allegations against Dent were “confirmed by an independent third party investigator.” That is their chief defense. But Constellation’s own allegations tell a different story.

At about 5:45 p.m. on July 10, 2018, Dent arrived at the JW Marriott Hotel at 151 W. Adams Street in Chicago, where Constellation NewEnergy had arranged for its golfing guests to collect passes and other items for their golf outing the following day. Constellation claims that an unnamed man, Person B, observed Dent at the JW Marriott, and Person B alleged that Dent was “drunk and disorderly” at that place and time.

After collecting his items for the golf outing, Dent drove from the JW Marriott to the Shedd Aquarium, at 1200 South Lake Shore Drive. As the crow flies, the JW Marriott is about 1.6 miles from the Shedd Aquarium. Dent arrived at the Shedd Aquarium at or about 6:30 p.m. on July 10, 2018.

Constellation NewEnergy’s pre-golf cocktail reception, where they alleged that Dent physically groped an unnamed woman (Person A), was held on the Shedd Aquarium’s patio. That patio is an open space overlooking Lake Michigan.

More than 100 people were at Constellation NewEnergy’s party at the Shedd Aquarium patio.

Dent had invited Sam Cunningham, the Mayor of Waukegan, to the Constellation NewEnergy cocktail party. Constellation knew that Dent had invited the Mayor of Waukegan to their cocktail party as his guest. Dent and Mayor Cunningham were generally in each other’s company throughout this event.

In Chicago on July 10, 2018 the sun set at 8:28:31 p.m. Dent left the Constellation party at about 8:00 p.m., about a half hour before sunset.

Constellation NewEnergy claims that the allegations against Dent were confirmed by a third-party investigator. This is more than curious because the alleged groping incident occurred on the patio of the Shedd Aquarium, an open space, in front of a crowd of more than 100 people, and in daylight. Yet the only person who Constellation NewEnergy claims witnessed this alleged groping is Person B – the unnamed man who was inside the JW Marriott Hotel — 1.6 miles away.

According to Constellation NewEnergy’s allegations, not one person – not one – who was at the Shedd Aquarium patio on the evening of July 10, 2018 witnessed any alleged groping by Dent.

According to Constellation NewEnergy’s allegations, Dent would have had to drive through downtown Chicago traffic, during the weekday evening rush hour, in a drunken condition, to get from the JW Marriott to the Shedd Aquarium. At these times the CPD usually keeps an eye out for drunk drivers, especially after “happy hours.” Dent was not stopped for any reason as he drove from the JW Marriott to the Shedd Aquarium.

According to Constellation NewEnergy’s allegations, Dent would still have been drunk at the Shedd Aquarium cocktail party, which immediately followed his visit to the JW Marriott. Dent was at Constellation NewEnergy’s cocktail party at the Shedd Aquarium for about an hour an a half. Yet Constellation NewEnergy does not allege, and has not presented any witness who has alleged, that Dent was drunk at the Shedd Aquarium event.

Though Constellation NewEnergy knew that the Mayor of Waukegan was Dent’s guest at the Shedd Aquarium party that evening, its supposed third-party investigator never called the Mayor of Waukegan to ask if he saw anything.

Based on Constellation NewEnergy’s own allegations, Person B, their supposed eyewitness, was not even at the Shedd Aquarium when the groping incident is alleged to have occurred. Rather, he was inside the JW Marriott Hotel at 151 West Adams Street.

The Witness to the Alleged Groping Had X-Ray Vision

As a kid I used to watch reruns of The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958) starring George Reeves as Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper. In that TV series, X-ray vision was one of Superman’s superpowers. Constellation NewEnergy’s independent third party investigator believes that Person B, their supposed eyewitness to the alleged groping, had X-ray vision better than Superman’s since Person B could see through 1.6 miles’ worth of concrete and steel buildings, all the way from 151 West Adams Street to 1200 South Lake Shore Drive.

Constellation’s Person B can see through tall buildings.

That’s quite a trick.

Constellation NewEnergy’s claim that it had an independent third-party investigator confirm the accusers’ allegations is inexpressibly ridiculous. Constellation refused to name its supposed investigator, perhaps to spare him or her being imprinted with a mark of indelible ridicule by having to explain how their only witness to the alleged groping saw everything through 1.6 miles’ worth of steel, concrete and downtown Chicago buildings.

Whoever Constellation’s investigator was, they make Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes.