The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

DC buried under snow, too

But DC's snow is coming from the right, not above. Exhibit: the inability of any Republicans to speak honestly about the President's proposed stimulus plan. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) doesn't understand that a stimulus bill is, by definition, a spending bill; GOP Chair Ron Steele says to Wolf Blitzer, "Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job." (Um...NASA? The military? Jim DeMint's congressional staff?)

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has a good explanation of why:

[T]his isn't a brainstorming session — it's a collision of fundamentally incompatible world views. If one thing is clear from the stimulus debate, it's that the two parties have utterly different economic doctrines. Democrats believe in something more or less like standard textbook macroeconomics; Republicans believe in a doctrine under which tax cuts are the universal elixir, and government spending is almost always bad.

Note to Republicans: you live in the reality-based community now.

So who is this Quinn character, anyway?

The Chicago Tribune has an introduction:

[T]he prospect of Gov. Quinn is shocking to many Illinois politicians who thought of him as a gadfly, a master of holding Sunday news conferences to gain media attention on traditionally slow news days. There he would pitch plans such as electing taxpayer and insurance watchdogs or non-binding referendum questions that looked good on a ballot but had no real effect, such as a ban on naming rights for Soldier Field.

His two biggest achievements, the result of tapping into voter anger, occurred more than a quarter-century ago: cutting the size of the Illinois House by one-third and creating the consumer advocacy Citizens Utility Board.

The piece touches on, but doesn't dig too deeply into, Quinn's financial interests and flirtations with good old Chicago-style corrup—er, politics. It'll be interesting to see what he does, and how his relationship with House Speaker Mike Madigan goes as well.

Et tu, Brute?

Via Crain's Chicago Business, Roland Burris releases a statement about the recent unpleasantness:

"Impeachment is about whether our state's best interests are being served having the governor remain in office," the statement says. "Today's conviction speaks loud and clear that there are serious issues preventing him from fulfilling those reponsibilities."

Of course, appointing Mr. Burris wasn't one of those "serious issues." At least in the opinion of Mr. Burris.

... "It is my hope that today will be remembered as a new beginning, more than an end," says Mr. Burris. The state now can focus on "more pressing issues."

In unrelated news, new Illinois Governor Pat Quinn this morning announced renewed support for a recall amendment to the Illinois constitution. Also, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) on Sunday announced plans to introduce a U.S. constitutional amendment removing U.S. Senate appointment powers from governors.

Another reason why he didn't resign

Apparently, if the Illinois senate convicts the governor (possibly today), he gets to keep his pension:

The state's constitution spells out that punishment after an impeachment trial can't go beyond removal and a ban from holding office again. Should Blagojevich end up convicted in federal court of felony corruption charges, however, state retirement officials could decide to take away his pension.

It's unclear whether he'd receive his pension had he simply resigned. And, of course, he gets to keep his congressional pension. All the better to pay lawyers with.

In unrelated news, House Republicans voted en bloc against the President's stimulus bill yesterday, showing their true commitment to bi-partisan lawmaking. David Cameron would be proud.

(Wait a second. That picture of Cameron shows the sun behind him...yet he's apparently lit from the right? I wonder what this says about the Tories' relationship with the reality-based community...)

David Cameron...lit from within. And behind. And the right. But not the left.

The price of security

Via Calculated Risk, a report that the FBI knew about mortgage fraud but couldn't do anything because they were too busy with counter-terrorism:

"It is clear that we had good intelligence on the mortgage-fraud schemes, the corrupt attorneys, the corrupt appraisers, the insider schemes," said a recently retired, high FBI official. Another retired top FBI official confirmed that such intelligence went back to 2002.

The problem, according to the two FBI retirees and several other current and former bureau colleagues, is that the bureau was stretched so thin that no one noticed when those lenders began packaging bad mortgages into bad securities.

... Both retired FBI officials asserted that the Bush administration was thoroughly briefed on the mortgage fraud crisis and its potential to cascade out of control with devastating financial consequences, but made the decision not to give back to the FBI the agents it needed to address the problem. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, about 2,400 agents were reassigned to counterterrorism duties.

Keep in mind Osama bin Laden's goal: hurt America. What does al-Queda care if they hurt us directly or if they get us to hurt ourselves? Probably not much at all. If they distract the police so much that crime generally rises, the criminals win.

On the other hand, given that so much of the financial disaster in this country has benefitted the super-rich people the previous administration coddled, perhaps they weren't simply incompetent.

Obama visiting Chicago; aviation plans undecided

The Chicago Tribune this morning reported that the President plans a visit home early next month. But as I mentioned earlier, it's not clear what effects this will have on area aviation:

Aides declined to comment on Obama's February schedule, but a source close to him said he could make his first presidential visit to Chicago as early as Presidents' Day weekend, when his daughters have a three-day break from school.

... In Chicago, the best bet for an Air Force One landing is O'Hare International Airport. Midway Airport and Gary/Chicago International Airport could also be options, especially if a smaller-than-normal plane is used to transport the president.

During the campaign, Obama almost exclusively used Midway, a location that offered a 20-minute commute to his home in the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood.

But Midway's longest runway is just 6,522 feet, barely long enough for the Boeing 757 that served as his general election campaign plane. The two 747s typically deployed as Air Force One are considerably larger and heavier.

Actually, a 747 can land just fine at Midway or Gary—or Chicago Executive, for that matter. When a 747 lands, it weighs considerably less than when it takes off, and it's moving considerably slower. That's the problem: once a 747 lands at an airport without a runway longer than about 7,000 feet, that airplane isn't leaving.

Under perfect circumstances, a 747-8 needs only 5,500 feet of runway to take off or land. But "perfect" means an empty airplane on a cold day with a good headwind. Landing and takeoff performance degrade quickly under other circumstances. On a mild Chicago spring day with a modestly-loaded airplane, the distances jump to 7,000 or 8,000 feet quickly.

The Air Force, however, has a solution, which no one else seems to have considered:

When Obama was last in Chicago on Jan. 4, he departed from Midway on a military plane equivalent to a 757. That plane has been used as Air Force One and has also transported vice presidents, first ladies and members of Congress.

Duh. The 757 was designed for short runways.

So now we only have to worry about the traffic jams his motorcade will cause...

How come no one's worried about New York?

As the New York Times' Freakonomics column pointed out yesterday, the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate means only 1/3 of New York's statewide officers were actually elected:

There are six positions in New York State for which statewide elections are held: governor, lieutenant governor, the two U.S. senators, attorney general, and comptroller. But at the moment, only two of the six officeholders were actually elected to their positions.

...

[T]he next time some cranky writer/economist guys wonder why people bother to vote, let’s recall that only 33 percent of New York State’s elected officials were actually elected.

By the way, despite our current issue here in Illinois, we've only got one unelected statewide officer, appointed by a guy who'll be out of office before the Superbowl.

And on the seventh day...

He got a treasury secretary. Barely. And I have to agree with Russ Feingold (D-WI), that one might prefer the head of the IRS to have paid all his taxes (or at least not lied about it when caught).

Can you believe it's been a week? Remember where you were eight years ago? I was back from London, which is where I watched the previous occupant being sworn in live on the Beeb, embarrassed for my country. Things have changed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the soon-to-be-former Governor of Illinois continues to stretch the abilities of pundits and bloggers worldwide to come up with new ways of expressing that he's insane. Take yesterday's performance, for example:

Blagojevich again blasted Illinois Senate rules that prohibit his calling certain witnesses and producing certain evidence. "Unlike Richard Nixon, who was dealing with issues of tapes, who didn't want his tapes heard," the governor said. "I want mine heard. I'd like the full story to be told. If the Senate would let me have evidence, I sure would like to be there so I could prove my innocence."

But...um...the only reason you're not there, Roddy old boy, is that you're in New York making an arse of yourself on international television.

The bottom line: I'm proud to be an American right now, but not so thrilled to be from Illinois.

Cuckoos are actually pretty savvy birds

I think the only governor we have (until Thursday, apparently) has less resemblance to a cuckoo than a dodo, but even that analogy isn't quite apt. Cuckoos, recall, are parasites, hijacking the nests of other birds, killing their hosts' chicks, and taking heavy losses themselves when their hosts discover their predations. Dodos, on the other hand, were inoffensive, peaceful birds who had no defenses against the rats and pigs who ate their eggs with reckless abandon, causing the birds to go extinct within 40 years of first contact with humans.

No, after reading about our only governor's performance with Diane Sawyer this morning—hours before his presence in Springfield might be appropriate—I think, possibly, he's a peacock: a strutting, narcissistic, totally useless and not fairly intelligent bird, with a loud and grating call that irritates everyone within earshot.

Anyone else have suggestions? If Soon-To-Be-Former-Governor Blagojevich were a bird, what kind of bird would he be?

Update: Barbara Walters this morning did not ask Blagojevich what kind of bird he would be; instead she asked him "why are you wasting time on these shows?" Seems a fair question.