The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Roland like a stone

It's official: Roland Burris will sit his ass in the U.S. Senate seat previously occupied by Barack Obama's ass tomorrow, restoring the Illinois tradition Obama interrupted of having seriously flawed junior senators. Seriously. The seat was previously sat in by Peter Fitzgerald, Carol Moseley-Braun, Alan Dixon...despite Adlai Stevenson III being in the seat as well, you kind of have to go back to Everett Dirksen to find another person we can actually be proud of in there. I recommed a quick perusal of Wikipedia's list for a chuckle.

Forgot to mention: today the only governor we have will swear in the Senate whose first order of business is holding his impeachment trial. Fun times, fun times.

Tribune columnist Rice on racial politics

Dawn Turner Rice, like a lot of people, found the 1960s-style race-baiting of Roland Burris' supporters disturbing:

Perhaps the real architect of this fiasco is Blagojevich who, although ham-fisted in almost every other regard, handled this skillfully. He knows his way around racial politics. He was the one who gave Rush the platform at the news conference announcing Burris' appointment. Blagojevich knew he couldn't, with any great effect, warn reporters not to "hang" or "lynch" his appointee.

In related news, the only governor we have (for the next three weeks, anyway) released nine reasons why he's great, which Eric Kleefeld summarizes: "He is a proud and strong progressive...and a complete megalomaniac."

Why you want lawyers who can read

On a flight this evening I read the actual Illinois Supreme Court opinion in the matter of Burris v. White, and found, at the end, this helpful bit of advice for His Royal Ego the Appointee:

The registration of the appointment of Mr. Burris made by the Secretary of State is a "record of paper" within the meaning of [15 ILCS 305/5(4)]. A copy of it is available from the Secretary of State to anyone who requests it. For payment of the normal fee...Petitioners could obtain a certified copy bearing the State's seal.

This is about as close as possible the Court can get to actually calling him dumb as a post. And he's our new U.S. Senator. Woo-hoo!

Dillweed in a pickle

The Illinois Supreme Court denied Roland Burris' motion to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate. The court said, in essence, we can't compel him to perform a ceremonial function:

"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."

Now, this presents a problem. Under the 200-year-old case of Marbury v. Madison, it's possible that the U.S. Courts can't compel the Senate to seat Burris, even though the Illinois Court says the appointment is legal under state law. I'm not a Constitutional scholar by any stretch. The President-Elect is, however, so it will be interesting to hear his opinion on where Burris stands (or sits) now that his state-level appeals are finished.

First time for everything

Despite Illinois' remarkable record of political corruption, today is the first time we've actually impeached the governor:

The vote by the House was 114-1.... Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeachment.

A spokesman for the governor said he won't resign.

(I assume the spokesman meant the governor won't resign and the reporter was just being sloppy.)

The GOP once again fails to grasp the magnitude of impeachment as a last resort, and also the limitations of the legislature's power:

While the debate was free of partisanship, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna was quick to criticize Democrats following the impeachment vote.

"After six years of enabling and endorsing Rod Blagojevich, the Democrats who run this state waited until Illinois faced national embarrassment to act and are now voting to impeach a governor they worked to re-elect only two years ago," McKenna said in a statement. "To make matters worse, these same Democrats have fed this crisis by refusing to strip the governor of his appointment powers, and are helping to seat Blagojevich's hand-picked and tainted choice for United States Senator."

And for those keeping score at home, here is Illinois Constitution Article IV, Section 14 ("Impeachment"):

The House of Representatives has the sole power to conduct legislative investigations to determine the existence of cause for impeachment and, by the vote of a majority of the members elected, to impeach Executive and Judicial officers. Impeachments shall be tried by the Senate. When sitting for that purpose, Senators shall be upon oath, or affirmation, to do justice according to law. If the Governor is tried, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senators elected. Judgment shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office of this State. An impeached officer, whether convicted or acquitted, shall be liable to prosecution, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.

Interesting times, interesting times.

The best transit system in Chicago

...just left $153 million on the table:

Chicago and CTA officials have only themselves to blame for forfeiting a $153 million federal grant pegged to help ease traffic gridlock, U.S. transportation officials said Thursday.

The fumble marks a major setback in efforts to improve mobility in the nation's second most congested region. It means Chicago will be forced to put on hold a promising plan that would use bus-only lanes, special quick-boarding stations and high-tech traffic signals until city officials can try for funding from Barack Obama's administration.

Mayor Richard Daley insisted his administration was not responsible for the loss of the $153 million. "We did everything possible," Daley said at an event with CTA officials. He accused federal officials of being inflexible by refusing to extend a deadline to meet the requirements of the grant, which was considered a shoo-in since last spring when U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters signed an agreement with the mayor.

...

"Chicago waited too long to get their application submitted in full," said Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration.

One of the fundamental omissions was that city and CTA officials failed to conduct an adequate number of public meetings, officials said.

The grant was contingent on the city's 2008 approval of congestion-pricing for parking meters, the lease of its parking meter system and related requirements.

At least it's warmer here than in Alaska, where some areas haven't had temperatures above -35°C in more than a week. (It's -50°C in Northway right now, for instance.)

House panel sending impeachment to the floor today

The soon-to-be ex-governor of Illinois got one step closer to getting thrown out this morning:

The Illinois House impeachment committee has drafted a report calling for the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The report could still be amended when the committee meets later today. But it is expected to be sent to the full House, which would then take up impeachment of the governor.

In the 69-page report, committee members noted that the governor refused to testify and rebut any of the allegations involving his conduct or the federal criminal charges surrounding his arrest at his home Dec. 9.

It could hit the Illinois Senate before the end of the month.

A clarification

I have gone on the record in my opinion that both Roland Burris and Rod Blagojevich are unqualified hacks not fit for public office. I've further gone on the record saying Blagojevich should not have appointed anyone to fill Obama's U.S. Senate seat after being arrested for corruption last month, and that anyone accepting such an appointment would remove all doubt as to the appointee's vanity, stupidity, and lack of qualification for the office.

The sad fact is, though, nothing has persuaded me that either the U.S. or Illinois constitutions can undo what the only governor we have has done. Though the Burris appointment offends every inkling of public duty that I have, and though I wish a speedy and bi-partisan impeachement upon the governor's ass, I can't escape the idiocy that has befallen my beloved state. So I'm with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): seat the idiot already. (Though I don't agree with Feinstein's implication that "seasoned and experienced" are necessarily qualifications for office.)

On the other hand, given the enormous Karmic shifting that allowed the (probably) only clean politician in Chicago to become President of the U.S., I suppose Illinois is in for quite a beating. Just look at history: we produced Grant and fostered Lincoln, which was balanced by the unbelievable corruptness of Grant's administration and the scandals that led to the entire world (except the U.S.) observing May 1st as Labor Day in observance of the Haymarket riots just a few years later. Let's not even talk about The Jungle, yes?

My bottom line: If Burris wants to end his political life (and carve another line into his tomb) as U.S. Senator, fine. But let's get some actual contenders running in the 2010 Democratic primary (like, for instance, my law school classmate Lisa Madigan), and let's get Pat Quinn into the Governor's Mansion, before even Hugo Chavez thinks we're incorrigible.

Remember W's other big push?

Via Paul Krugman, imagine what would have happened had the Greedy Old Party (GOP) succeeded in pushing through Social Security privitization. But why imagine? We can just look at Italy:

Italy did for retirement financing what President George W. Bush couldn’t do in the U.S.: It privatized part of its social security system. The timing couldn't have been worse.

The global market meltdown has created losses for those who agreed to shift their contributions from a government severance payment plan to private funds meant to yield higher returns. Anger is rising both at the state, which promoted the change, and money managers such as UniCredit SpA and Arca Previdenza, which stood to profit.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's administration is now considering ways to compensate as many as 1.2 million people who made the switch, giving up a fixed return for private plans linked to financial markets. It's also letting people delay redemptions on retirement funds to avoid losses after Italy's benchmark stock index fell 50 percent in 2008, destroying €300 billion ($423 billion) in wealth.

Oops. Keep in mind, a lot of people got rich on the program: the people selling the investments.

On a much smaller scale, let's keep this example of privatizing a necessary government function in mind when the Chicago street parking privatization blows up in scandal a few years from now.