Saturday, February 21, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): “R-word” pleas just as much a joke as Burris

It must stink to be Roland Burris these days.

Just a couple of days after the nationally-known mayor of his hometown wouldn’t endorse his continued stay on Capitol Hill, both his governor and the president (whose old job Burris is filling these days) had negative things to say. He’s getting it from all sides – even the youthful state treasurer felt the need to chip in with his thoughts.

IN THE CASE of Gov. Pat Quinn, he wants Roland to resign from office, and he’s using the excuse to say that he’d consider backing a special election – rather than using his state Constitutional authority to pick a replacement. I guess Pat wants to strengthen his own position from the people who have been eager to drag out this whole debacle for politically partisan reasons.

When it comes to President Barack Obama, there’s a little bit of positivity. Obama had his press secretary say that Burris should spend the weekend contemplating how badly he wants to be a Senator, and ought to come out with a complete account of how he came to be former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s choice for the U.S. Senate.

It seems that if Burris were to give a thorough account now, and quit citing the fact that he honestly answered the limited questions put forth by an Illinois House impeachment panel, Obama might be willing to consider letting Burris remain for the two years that remain on the Senate term to which Obama was elected in 2004, and which he abandoned last year when he was elected president.

Not that I expect Burris to be swayed by any of this. In fact, I’m still convinced that the people who are so eager to have a Burris resignation are doing it to advance their own partisan causes. Concern about the public good is the farthest thing from many of their minds.

IT MAKES THIS whole process seem like a lot of political people piling on Roland just to get their moment of attention, as though they are afraid of being the last political person left who has NOT criticized Burris. In today’s partisan mindset, that would be interpreted as supporting Roland.

Of course, Burris doesn’t help his cause when he acts like he did Friday when visiting the Veterans Administration hospital in suburban North Chicago. He snuck in through a side entrance so as to avoid the view and the shouted questions of reporter-types who were there to see him meet with aging military veterans.

I’m sure Burris thinks that the public will assume he’s just snubbing some broadcast twinkie who doesn’t have a clue what he/she is talking about. But instead of mentally applauding him for that, they’re going to assume he has something to hide. It makes the whole situation appear even more ludicrous.

What other news nuggets were worth noting on Friday?

ILLINOIS AG WANTS TO PURGE BURGE CASES FROM THEIR ROLLS: In theory, it makes sense for the Illinois attorney general’s office to try to remove cases involving the one-time Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge from their duties.

Burge is the one-time South Side commander whose station in the Pullman neighborhood developed a reputation for use of torture tactics against people who happened to be arrested there. The state got stuck overseeing the appeals of people who claim they were tortured after it was learned that former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine’s law firm had represented Burge – thereby creating a potential conflict for his ability to handle the cases.

But now that Anita Alvarez is our county’s state’s attorney, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan argues the Cook County state’s attorney’s office ought to take the cases back.

The problem with all of this is that there are about 25 people currently in prison whose convictions potentially are tainted enough by Burge’s activity that they have a shot at a successful legal appeal. All this back-and-forth between offices is causing continued delays. This is one instance where Madigan may have to keep custody of these cases, just to ensure that “justice” (what this is all supposed to be about) gets done as promptly as possible.

A POLITICAL LITMUS TEST, OF SORTS: The University of Colorado campus at Boulder is going to have a pair of speakers next month, and it probably says a lot about your own political beliefs as to which one you consider to be more controversial.

Is it University of Illinois at Chicago education professor Bill Ayers? Or is it Ward Churchill, who was fired from his University of Colorado post due to allegations of plagiarism and comments he made about victims of the World Trade Center attack of 2001 being comparable to Nazis and Adolf Eichmann?

Comparing anyone or anything to the Nazi era in German history is going to lead to some people being grossly offended. Questioning the whole idea of Sept. 11, 2001 being less than a tragic moment in U.S. history will offend as well.

But it amazes me the way to which some people of socially conservative ideological beliefs remain miffed that the existence of the one-time Weatherman (an anti-war group of the Vietnam era that took its activism way too seriously) among Barack Obama’s acquaintances did not immediately send his campaign crashing to the ground – and give us a “President John McCain.”

WILL THE OLYMPICS FOLLOW THE WORLD CUP LEAD?: Officials who are trying to bring the 2016 summer Olympic Games to Chicago admit they are willing to share some of the activity with other cities.

When it comes to staging Olympic soccer, they are willing to have preliminary matches played in stadiums in other cities, with the medal-round matches played in Chicago. Such venues as the Rose Bowl could be used, along with stadiums in Minneapolis, Philadelphia and St. Louis, along with the suburbs of New York and Washington, could be used.

Now I’m sure that some people affiliated with the bids of Toyko, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro will argue this as evidence that Chicago is incapable of hosting the games by themselves.

But it strikes me as similar to the way they conduct the World Cup tournament held every four years to show off the top international squads for soccer. That tournament is merely awarded to a country, with matches spread throughout several cities. I remember the 1994 World Cup held in the United States – where Chicago held the opening ceremonies and first matches, then games were moved to stadiums in cities such as Dallas, Detroit and Orlando, Fla., with semi-final matches in New York and Washington and Brazil beating Italy 3-2 in the championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.


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