The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Must be all the granola

Burlington, Vt., is America's healthiest city:

Vermont's largest city is tops among U.S. metropolitan areas by having the largest proportion of people — 92 percent — who say they are in good or great health.

It's also among the best in exercise and among the lowest in obesity, diabetes and other measures of ill health, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contrast with Huntington, W.Va.:

The obese mayor of America's fattest and unhealthiest city says health is not a big local issue.

"It doesn't come up," said David Felinton, 5-foot-9 and 233 pounds, as he walked toward City Hall one recent morning. "We've got a lot of economic challenges here in Huntington. That's usually the focus."

Nearly half the adults in Huntington's five-county metropolitan area are obese—an astounding percentage, far bigger than the national average in a country with a well-known weight problem.

In unrelated news, Obama won Vermont 68%-30%, and McCain won West Virginia 57%-43%.

No next year for Zell

Sam Zell is fast-tracking the Cubs sale from Tribune:

Mr. Zell expects to select a finalist from the five remaining bidding groups and submit the deal for Major League Baseball's approval sometime in December, a person familiar with the sale says.

He is fast-tracking the sale — despite a credit crunch that seemed to put his year-end deadline in doubt — as pressure mounts to raise as much as $1 billion to chip away at the mountain of debt from his 2007 buyout of Tribune. With cash flow plummeting from weak advertising sales at Tribune's newspapers, selling half the team probably wouldn't raise the cash he needs. He has other assets to unload, but it would be difficult to do so quickly in a tough credit market.


The five bidders believed to still be in the game include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; Chicago bond salesman Thomas Ricketts; Chicago real estate mogul Hersh Klaff; New York investor Marc Utay, and Houston businessman Jim Crane. ...

Difficulty unloading the Cubs for top dollar would spell trouble for Tribune. When Mr. Zell engineered his $8-billion buyout last December, he agreed to keep Tribune's debt to less than nine times cash flow. But as the economy slowed and ad sales dropped this year, cash flow sank, down 45% last quarter, Mr. Courtney estimates. That forced Mr. Zell to accelerate his debt repayments and to sell Newsday this year for $650 million to pay off loans.

The one good spot in all this: at least the Cubs never got spanked 37-3 by cheeseheads. Sheesh. Why can't we sell the Bears instead?

The downside of the upside

Chicago almost universally loves that one of our own will be president. It turns out, only some of us predicted certain inconveniences:

The dramatic increase in security around Barack Obama since the election has made a sizable impact in the Loop, where the president-elect is running his transition office at the Kluczynski Federal Building, straining an already-stretched Chicago police force and city budget.

The police coverage is around-the-clock, with about 25 officers, essentially one from each district, assigned on two watches, and 10 officers and a sergeant assigned to a third watch, said FOP President Mark Donahue. The union has been told the detail is temporary, only until the incoming administration heads to Washington on Jan. 20.

Some involved in the complex security efforts said they understand city leaders have grown concerned about the potential cost of the extra manpower. [Chicago Mayor Richard] Daley has proposed laying off almost 1,000 city workers and raising taxes and fees to close a $469 million budget shortfall, which he has described as the worse fiscal situation in his 19 years in office. Now the city will have to foot the security bill, at least upfront, and hope it will be reimbursed.

Flying dogs

My sister got her pilot certificate just to get me to shut up about jumping out of planes ("why jump from a perfectly-landable airplane?"). And if you think I love my dog, well, she outdoes me there, too. The combination means she has two dogs who each have their own airplane ear protectors. I can't imagine Parker in a Cessna, but I think he'd be at least as cute as this:

By the way, she named her dog Codey, after the final approach fix on the runway 15 IFR GPS approach at Lincoln, Calif. Seriously.

Obama resigns Senate seat

Effective Sunday, Illinois has a plum political vacancy. Let the games begin!

The choice of who will fill the remaining two years of Mr. Obama’s term now goes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. ... Among those interested in the seat are U.S. Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr., Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez, all Chicago-area Democrats; state Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, and retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.

Now, for those outside Illinois, you have to understand that Illinois politics can get, shall I say, colorful. The people named above (with the exceptions of Schakowsky and Duckworth) are right now starting a lobbying war in Springfield the likes of which we haven't seen in decades. Part of the problem: Gov. Blagojevich has been on a political death-watch for close to a year, as a corruption investigation and an inability to play nicely with others (notably Mike Madigan, the Illinois House speaker) have reduced him to near-irrelevance.

He's once again relevant for a few days, and with his own political future doubtful, we're all wondering what capricious and arbitrary decision he'll make.

Maybe he'll surprise us and appoint Schakowsky, who's the most competent in the bunch. Duckworth I'm betting will go off to Washington as Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Jones and Jackson are at times profound and at others, clowns; and there's some speculation he may appoint either himself or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to forestall a primary election in 2010 he's sure to lose against her.

He'd better act fast. With up to 10 new senators taking their seats on January 3rd, and so much Senate inside baseball depending on seniority, not to mention that Obama's resignation means we're down a Democrat in a tight lame-duck session, every day counts.

Update: Chicago Public Radio's Ben Calhoun has a good analysis. Plus, we should always remember Blago's Daily Show fiasco from 2006, if only for context.

Conservative Self-Deception; or why Palin is no Goldwater

Ed Kilgore at TPM Cafe has a good analysis:

If today's conservatives succeed in convincing each other to embrace a more forthright message assaulting entitlements, progressive taxation, public education, regulation of corporations and Wall Street, just to cite a few domestic policy examples, they are almost certainly cruising for more electoral bruising.

...[C]onservatives today have almost completely internalized their own rhetoric about Obama's "radicalism," "socialism," "anti-Americanism," and so forth. If you have read or listened to movement conservative pundits recently, it's hard to avoid the impression that they truly think this temperate man pursuing Clinton-style centrist policies is determined to enact "socialized medicine," create vast new "welfare" programs, legalize infanticide, surrender to terrorists, and use the power of the state to censor or perhaps even jail his opponents.

Just minutes under 68 days until Obama takes office. And I'll be there—possibly so will Parker—along with 1.2 million of my best friends.

Think they'll have a full recount?

Mark Begich, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Alaska against convicted felon Ted Stevens, leads by three votes:

The elections division still has over 10,000 ballots left to count today and thousands more through next week, but the latest numbers show Mark Begich leading Sen. Ted Stevens 125,019 to 125,016.

The new numbers, reflecting nearly 43,000 absentee ballots counted today, are from all over the state. Election night, Ted Stevens led the Democratic Begich by about 3,000 votes.

Alaska's House seat is also too close to call. Someone should send Ted an email about it...

More good news in Chicago

I took a couple of days off to visit my dad for his birthday. Any chance I get, I go to San Francisco, even though Chicago has become the center of the Universe temporarily. The Chicago Tribune reported this morning another bit of happiness from home: the original Goose Island Brewpub will remain open, instead of closing at the end of the year as threatened:

John Hall, Goose Island's founder and chief executive, said he reached a last-minute deal with the pub's landlord to stay at 1800 N. Clybourn Ave. for three to five years, averting the closing of the home for Honker's Ale and other brews.

"I'm thrilled," said Hall, who bought everyone in the place a beer. "They called me last week and said we want to try to do a deal. We compromised in a week on something we couldn't do for a long time."

Hall said he couldn't talk for the other side, but he indicated the weak real estate market may have helped get the agreement done. In April, Hall had said that the landlord, CRM Properties Group, had asked for a significant rent increase, reflecting the popularity of the trendy neighborhood.

Possibly I'll go there tomorrow to celebrate.

My Congressman just resigned

I'm in the Illinois 5th, which has had quite some turnover in the past 15 years: Rostenkowski (1994), Flanagan (1996), Blagojevich (2002), and now Emanuel. Emanuel was by far the best of the bunch, and I'll be sorry to lose him in Congress—but he's the right guy to be Obama's Chief of Staff.

In other good news, Obama officially won North Carolina, bringing his total electoral votes to 364.