The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Announcing the Original Meaning Society

While I am, with the rest of Chicago, holding my breath to learn how extensively fire damaged the 130-year-old Holy Name Cathedral this morning, I actually hit my head on my shower wall when a reporter at WBEZ described the fire as "tragic."

I am almost certain it wasn't a tragic fire, but I'm willing to bend on that one if it turns out (a) a person who (b) through his own character flaws (c) accidentally set it (d) killing himself in the process. There are other scenarios that would be tragic, too. But none at all is likely.

I have gotten so tired of lazy writers calling things tragic when the things in question don't involve human beings failing because of their own character flaws. Enough.

An example may help (yes, I'm poking Alanis Morrisette): If it rains on a couple's wedding day, that's unfortunate. If the bride and groom are both meteorologists, that's ironic. If one of them dies—say while trying to kill the other because of the botched weather forecast—that's tragic. If, however, they finally get married at the end, that's comic.

The tragedy and the irony of all this, of course, is that I believe languages evolve and generally (but not in this specific case) like that, and this post will probably get me written off as a crank.

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.

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...

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.