The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

No, really, Norm: Franken won

Even though the final vote count in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race put Franken 225 votes ahead last night, incumbent Norm Coleman asked the state Supreme Court for one last chance to count an additional 900 ballots. Today the court said, unanimously, "bugger off, you right prat." OK, they were more polite than that:

The record before us with respect to petitioners' motion demonstrates that local election officials have acted diligently and in accordance with our orders, and together with the candidates have agreed upon more than 900 rejected absentee ballots, which have now been opened and counted by the Secretary of State's office.


Because the parties and the respective counties have not agreed as to any of these additional ballots, the merits of this dispute (and any other disputes with respect to absentee ballots) are the proper subjects of an election contest under Minn. Stat. ch. 209.

In other words, Franken won, you already agreed to the procedure that solidified his win, and anyway your term expired last night so pack it in and go back to Long Island, you sodding wanker.

Again, I may be editorializing here...

In related news, the best governor Illinois has will not be going to Washington to help his own Mr. Smith get past the Capitol police tomorrow. Can't think why not.

The race continues

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Roland Burris are racing each other to some resolution as the only governor we have—the commander in chief of the state militia—loses his security clearance:

Officials Friday said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has revoked Gov. Rod Blagojevich's access to classified federal security information.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero called the move "pretty standard procedure" Friday. He says there are still a number of other state officials with access.

Also Friday, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said he is calling lawmakers back to Springfield next week for a possible vote on impeaching Blagojevich.

Crain's has more:

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich could be impeached as early as next week.

The Illinois House has changed its schedule and will meet several days next week.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says the chamber may vote on a recommendation from the special committee studying whether Blagojevich should be impeached.

Global warming: Blame Canada

Apparently their forests aren't working:

The country's 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the "lungs of the planet" by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth's total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.

But not anymore.

In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists have concluded that Canada's precious forests, stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires, have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering.

In other good news, Chicago had its wettest year on record in 2008, 1292 mm, beating the old record by more than 25 mm. The rain rain rain came down...

Happy new year!

We start 2009 continuing the ridiculous story of the governor's strenuous efforts to ensure a Republican majority in 2010. Today's Tribune outlines what might happen next week in Washington:

If Burris shows up Tuesday to claim the seat given to him by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the outcomes range from a denial of entry to a limbo where he can hire staff but not vote.

Should Burris appear in Washington without that certification, armed police officers stand ready to bar him from the Senate floor, said a Democratic official briefed on Senate leaders' plans. Leadership also is considering the possibility of Blagojevich appearing in person to escort Burris. Ironically, the scandal-plagued governor would be allowed onto the Senate floor, because sitting governors are allowed floor privileges, while Burris would not without certification.

Can anyone extrapolate from the Three Stooges'[1] press conference what we'd be in for should armed police bar a black Senator-designate from the all-white Senate, never mind the legitimacy of the action? Whoo boy.

Tribune columnist Steve Chapman is also worth a read today, especially for those unfamiliar with Burris and his, um, eccentricities:

Burris is the prototypical time-serving career politician who owes his success to being simultaneously ambitious and bland. He has never been one to challenge the status quo, but no one underestimates his self-esteem. The two Burris children, after all, are named Roland and Rolanda.

The result of his immodesty has been a persistent hunger for offices that most people thought beyond his abilities. He has lost races for mayor of Chicago, U.S. senator, and governor (three times).

Burris' chief claim to fame until this week was his 12-year term as state comptroller, a job whose significance can be measured by the fact that few Illinoisans could identify the current occupant (Dan Hynes). Even among accountants, Burris left few strong impressions, but he also never gave any prosecutor grounds to indict him, which is not something Illinois voters take for granted.

[1] With the governor as Shemp.

Holy 1979, Batman!

As Josh Marshall said today, did Tom Wolfe do the rewrite on the Blagojevich scandal? Now we've got Bobby Rush, Roland Burris, and Jesse Jackson Jr., all reprising the greatest hits of the '70s. Exhibit A, from Rush:

"Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the Senate...this is just not a state of Illinois matter," he said. "I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer."

Exhibit B, from a galaxy far, far away:

In an appearance just now on MSNBC, Burris was asked about the possibility of the Senate refusing to seat him. "Well, I think you will see a major outcry from the people of Illinois," Burris said, "based on the fact that the governor has appointed me."

Exhibit C, from the Office of the President-Elect:

I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.

Apparently, all this is even too much for Blagojevich's lawyers to swallow.

More Illinois fun

Alleged felon Rod Blagojevich, the best governor Illinois has right now, leaked that he will appoint former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate will refuse to seat anyone Blagojevich appoints, though it's unclear whether the Senate actually has that power.

Can't wait for the press conference ten minutes from now:

Blagojevich, who has sole authority to name a replacement senator, scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference at his downtown Chicago office.

Burris left his downtown consulting office about 1:15 p.m., getting congratulatory hugs from several employees. But Burris refused comment when asked whether he was going to accept the appointment after word that Senate Democratic leadership would not seat him.

Burris has given more than $20,000 to Blagojevich's campaign fund on his own and through his consulting and law firms, state campaign finance records show. Burris' consulting company received about $290,000 in state contracts with the Illinois Department of Transportation a few years ago, according to state comptroller records.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada previously warned Blagojevich, following the governor's Dec. 9 arrest, that Senate Democrats would not seat any appointment the two-term Democratic governor made. Reid's warning was contained in a letter signed by all 50 sitting Democratic senators, including the No. 2 Democrat in Senate leadership, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

So, now a reasonably intelligent person must ask—heck, even Ted Baxter must ask—why on Earth would Burris accept a nomination under these circumstances? His C.V. provides a clue:

Though he is 71, Burris has said that Obama's replacement should be able to win re-election and he has noted that despite a string of primary losses in races ranging from Chicago mayor to governor and U.S. senator, he's never lost to a Republican.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has weighed in:

White says he'll reject any paperwork that Gov. Rod Blagojevich files to name a new U.S. senator.

The secretary of state keeps state records and certifies official actions.

But White says he won't certify anything Blagojevich does to fill the Senate seat once held by President-elect Barack Obama.

White issued a statement today saying he can't accept any paperwork from Blagojevich on the Senate seat "because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the governor."

It isn't clear if that administrative roadblock would keep the appointment from taking place.

So there you have it. No Democrat in the country, except perhaps the two most directly involved, wants this appointment to proceed. And yet, as we are a nation of laws, so we may be stuck with it.

The impeachment can't happen soon enough.

Now I know what people in DC feel like

As happy as I am for my junior U.S. Senator and my Congressman, as of Friday I have neither:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel will resign his House seat Friday.

Emanuel, set to serve as chief of staff to President-elect Barack Obama, sent a letter to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Monday indicating that he planned to step down at the end of the week.

Yay! Another election! Approximately everyone in the Congressional district is running, too.