By John Ruberry

When season one of Ozark concluded last summer, the Byrdes, a drug money laundering family from the Chicago area, decided to put roots down at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), is the number-crunching erstwhile financial planner struggling to keep all of the balls he is juggling up in the air. He’s aided, for the most part, by his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), a former Democratic political operator.

Click here to read my review of the first season of Ozark.

In season two, which takes place in November, off-season in the Ozarks, the Byrdes are again plotting their escape from Missouri, but first they must open a casino on the lake built on land owned by Jacob (Peter Mullan) and Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), who manufactures heroin for the same Mexican drug cartel Marty is indebted to. Getting a casino up-and-running of course means obtaining a license, so the Byrdes scheme with conservative powerhouse Charles Wilkes (Darren Goldstein) to smooth over the numerous blemishes and scars the power laundering couple have.

The sins of the parents taint the Byrdes’ children, high-schoolers Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), who initiate their own criminal enterprise.

The Byrdes are reminiscent of Tom and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, while not “careless,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald described them, the Byrdes, to paraphrase his words, smash up things and creatures. And I’ll  use Fitzgerald’s exact prose here, the Byrdes “let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Those messes include arson, child abduction, suicide, waterboarding, and murder.

The sins of the Byrdes visit the Langmores, a small-time criminal family, who in the first season served as stereotypical redneck foil. Yes, they live in trailers. The de facto leader of the family is Ruth (Julia Garner), who is about 20 years old. She has transformed, maybe, from being a thief preying upon the Byrdes to being the utility infielder and perhaps more for the Byrde operations.

Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner), plays a tormented FBI agent, who, like just about every other Ozark character, has no moral compass. He’s a law unto himself.

Hmm…an FBI agent who is unaccountable. That doesn’t happen in real life, does it?

There are many lessons in Ozark. Not only do drugs destroy lives, so does drug money. Ten years before the Byrdes fled Illinois Marty and his business partners made a deal with the devil when they started laundering money for that cartel. And that’s a job that no one can quit. And dismissal by the cartel does not entail being escorted by human resources out the door with a severance check in your hand.

As the second season of Ozark was released only a week and a half ago there is no word about a third. I expect there will be one with many more messes created by the Byrdes. When the Byrde family is asked by a photographer to smile at the conclusion of the final episode–they can only come up with grim grins.

The future appears to be an unhappy one for them.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Early next year the first round of the Chicago mayoral election will be held, If no candidate achieves a majority, then the top two face each other in a runoff.

The two-term incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s first chief of staff, is running, as are several other candidates, each with baggage, including former Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy, who Emanuel fired after the details of the shooting of Laquan McDonald became public, political gadfly and ex-Chicago Public Schools head Paul Vallas, and Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, whose office is under federal investigation.

There is a one person who could wipe the floor with Rahm and these other candidates and easily avoid a runoff. Take a look at his resume: He served in the Illinois state senate and the US Senate He held an executive political office for eight years. He is loved by many business leaders, in fact, his smartphone is probably packed with the private phone numbers of hundreds of CEOs. He is quite adept at political fundraising. This man has a solid base in Chicago and beyond, in fact, he is one of the most adored people on the planet.

Of course I’m talking about Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States. After Chicago’s most violent weekend of the year, Emanuel was hapless as he tried to act as the healer. On the other hand, such touchy-feely stuff comes natural to Obama. When the House and Senate was in Democratic control, Obama was quite skillful–to be fair, Emanuel helped–in pushing his left-wing agenda.  When the House and then the Senate became Republican-majority bodies, Obama’s magic vanished. But no worries–of Chicago’s 50 alderman, 49 are Democrats.

Chicago’s Northwest Side

Obama, with his sonorous voice, like Liam Neeson’s Aslan character from the Narnia series, can give Chicago’s 2.7 million-and-declining residents feel-good speeches on demand. Of course a half-hour later, it’s hard to recall what Obama actually said in those pep talks, other than “hope and change.”

But what about Chicago’s problems? They are legion–besides the murder count, Chicago suffers more murders annually than New York City and Los Angeles combined. The spike in Chicago’s murder rate. not coincidentally, began after the city signed on to an ACLU decree in 2015 that greatly decreased stop-and-frisks. Arrests went down. Murders went up. Chicago’s public schools, which Vallas of course used to run, are among the worst in the nation. The various pension systems in Chicago, are among America’s most poorly funded public retirement systems. Pensions for decades have been a way for Chicago politicians to utilize as a kick-the-can-down-the-road system to reward their union pals. Emanuel and the City Council have been raising property taxes in an attempt, probably futile, to dig Chicago out of this pension hole.

What else? Chicagoans pay the highest sales tax rate in America. There is even a tax on plastic bags. Red-light cameras are seemingly everywhere. The cameras, we are told. are there to deter speeding and prevent accidents, Chicago’s decrepit streets should be an encouragement enough to obey the speed limit and arguably red-light cameras cause accidents.

Chicago is a miserable place to live in but it’s problems are not intractable. Unless, that is, you are a leftist mayor. Let’s start with crime “If you want crime to go up,” Jeff Sessions said a few months ago, “let the ACLU run the police department. If you want public safety, call the professionals.” But would a Mayor Obama cross his beloved ACLU.? Of course not. Let’s move on to pensions. I believe that Chicago is near the tipping point where tax increases will bring negative returns. More people will move out, property values will decline, and then it will become a free-fall. The pension guarantee in the Illinois constitution needs to removed, which is something that Jeanne Ives, who narrowly lost to incumbent governor Bruce Rauner, favors. But a Mayor Obama would never used the bully pulpit to fight for this kind of change.

Oh, on a side note, I have several friends and relatives collecting municipal and state pensions. Yes, a pension is a promise, but please direct your anger at the pols who created this mess.

In The Simpsons Movie, Homer is handed $1,000 when he crosses the Alaskan border. In Chicago people’s pockets are seemingly picked by that same amount when they enter the city limits. Chicago has always been a place where government-sanctioned grifters run amok.


Liberals love high taxes because it gives them more money to unleash their social engineering schemes. So please don’t imagine that a Mayor Obama could be a tax-cutter.

But lower taxes–including the elimination of nuisance taxes–will make Chicago a more livable place and the type of city Americans will flock to, once the other problems Chicago faces are dealt with. And government revenues will go up, as public-officials are a poor spender of monies. Meanwhile, some Chicago liberals have bandied about “solutions” to its fiscal calamity that include a municipal income tax and a commuter tax. Ask Detroit how those are working out for it.

Blogger in downtown Chicago

So yes, Barack Obama will not run for mayor of Chicago. Sure, he probably sees any job other than president of the world beneath him. But also, if he has an honest moment with himself, he’ll ascertain that if he adheres to his leftist dogma as Chicago’s mayor, he’ll be setting himself up for failure.

And he’ll be setting Chicago up for even more failure.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.

Lake Shore Drive blocked by police

By John Ruberry

For the second time in less than a month, left-wing protesters illegally blocked a major Chicago expressway, with the goal of bringing attention to gun violence in America’s third-largest city.

You know what? People in Chicago and its suburbs already know about the homicide epidemic. As do most people nationwide. Last year Chicago, as it did in 2016, suffered more murders than the far-more populous cities of New York And Loa Angeles–combined.

On the flipside, according to Hey Jackass, murders and shootings are down in 2018 compared to last year.

Zero murders should be the goal of any society, although, given human nature, it’s not even a remotely realistic one. But Chicago can do much better.

I covered the most recent lawbreaking protest, the Thursday afternoon rush hour blocking of Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s North Side for my blog, Marathon Pundit. You can read my report here. You’ll learn that the rally was really a collection of  a baker’s dozen of leftist grievances.

What was that I said about illegal protests? Has fascism, as the leftists claim, conquered America under President Donald Trump? What happened to the First Amendment of the US Constitution?

Nothing has happened to the First Amendment.

Let’s see what that right-wing group (just kdding), the ACLU of Illinois, has to say about street-blocking protests:

Protesters blocking traffic on Belmont Avenue last week

In some cases, government can require a permit as a condition of protest on public property. For example, government often can require a permit for parades in the streets, given the impact on vehicle traffic.

More…

Protesters do not  have [emphasis mine] a First Amendment right to block pedestrian or vehicle traffic, or to prevent entry and exit from buildings.

Father Michael Pfleger, the gadfly left-wing Chicago priest, did not possess a rally permit when he and his followers blocked the 14-lane Dan Ryan Expressway last month on a Saturday afternoon on the South Side. Should’ve he been arrested? That’s a tough call, as the Illinois State Police, which has jurisdiction on this interstate, allowed Pfleger’s group to block the Dan Ryan.

So here we have cops, with the acquiescence of Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican by the way, consenting to law breaking. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, expressed support for the protest.

At the block-Lake Shore Drive rally,, according to the Chicago Police, who has jurisdiction on that road, that event saw 150 protesters block eight lanes of traffic, ruining the commutes of thousands. Tio Hardiman and Gregory Livingston, the organizers of last week’s protest, carefully chose the day of their disruption. A few miles south of Belmont Avenue, where the rally began, the first day of the Lollapolooza festival was underway. And about a mile away the Chicago Cubs were hosting the San Diego Padres for a night game.  While they chose their day well, Hardiman and Livingston didn’t have a rally permit either. I guess they were so busy rabble-rousing that they simply forgot to apply for one.

Protest co-organizer Hardiman: “Where is your rally permit?”

Let’s take a closer look at those protest numbers. We know there were just 150 activists blocking Lake Shore Drive. Keeping an eye on the marchers were anywhere from 300-400 police officers. Also along for the hike, which ended at Wrigley Field, were 100 media representatives and bloggers, including  of course this one.

What about the cost?

The state spent $323,000 on the Dan Ryan protest. Municipal figures haven’t been released yet but it’s a safe guess that when those Chicago numbers are tallied, the cost of Pfleger’s protest will soar past a half-million dollars.

And when the Lake Shore Drive figures are added, will the costs of the two illegal rallies exceed $1 million? My prediction is they will.

If these protests were held instead downtown at a traditional and easy to patrol location, such as Daley Plaza, the taxpayer outlay would have been a pittance. And the plaza can handle many more than 150 people. Activists can enjoy their First Amendment rights there with minimal hassles for the rest of Chicago. And since all protesters seek media attention, nearly all of Chicago’s press and broadcast outlets have offices within walking distance of Daley Plaza. Everyone wins.

When unfunded pension debt is figured in, Illinois and Chicago are essentially broke. Chicago and Illinois are suffering from negative population growth.. And if such banana republic type protests continue to run amok, more people will throw up their hands and join the exodus.

There is another possibility.

Leftists fondly look back the 1960s protests at University of California at Berkeley as the good old days. But Ronald Reagan trounced an incumbent Democratic governor in 1966 by among other things, vowing to clean up “the mess” at Berkeley. However, California was right-leaning five decades ago.

At some point Chicagoans, will scream, “Enough!”

Especially if these expressway protestpaloozas become monthly occurrences.

Blogger in downtown Chicago

These illegal protests need to end. The police need to enforce the law. And that means arresting and prosecuting the organizers of these exercises in lawbreaking.

We are still a nation of laws.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Theodore Herzl School of Excellence, Chicago’s West Side

Is a new beginning the only way out for Chicago Public Schools?

That’s what crossed my mind this morning while I was watching Mike Flannery on Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up.

The show opened. with an interview of David Jackson, one of the investigative reporters who penned a disturbing yet indispensable series of articles about sexual attacks at Chicago Public Schools.

“I was flabbergasted to learn the frequency of sexual assaults against students in Chicago’s schools,” Jackson told the host. “I expected dozens of cases. There were hundreds.”

What did Chicago Public Schools do about it, Flannery asked?

“Very little,” Jackson replied.

During the ten-year period the Tribune investigated those attacks, which include rape, there were 523 reports of sexual assaults inside city schools. That’s about one a week. Not included in that total are sexual attacks off property.

CPS protected its employees, to the detriment of students, as did the Chicago Teachers Union. The accusers–victims, I should say–were aggressively assailed by CPS lawyers who were more interested in protecting the teachers, coaches, custodians, and security guards than serving justice and safeguarding its students.

Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, readers leaned that a “blitz” health inspection of 125 schools found that only 34 passed. Rat droppings, filthy bathrooms, and unsanitary food preparation equipment were discovered. The most egregious violations were centered on facilities Aramark was hired to keep clean. Who was in charge of CPS facilities? A former Aramark employee, Leslie Fowler, who resigned her high-paying post last week. While the bidding process was open for a food contract, an inspector general’s report cited “questionable conduct” when Fowler twice dined with the president of Aramark

Her ex-employer won the bid.

Prior to her hiring as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett was a consultant for SUPES Academy, which produced training programs for school administrators. Once in charge of CPS, the woman known as BBB steered a $23 million training contract to her old employer. She was to receive a ten-percent kickback from that contract as well as a promise of a job whenever she left CPS.

In an email to a couple of SUPES bosses, Byrd-Bennet added to the already voluminous lore of Chicago corruption by boasting, “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit.”

It’s suspected that such crony-capitalism between CPS brass and their former private-sector employers is widespread. If true, then such private-public cross-pollination is simply a revolving door of corruption.

Dunne School on the South Side, where your blogger atteneded kindergarten

Byrd-Bennett, along with those two former big shots at SUPES, are now incarcerated in federal prison.

Despite the reputation of CPS for failure, Barack Obama chose one of BBB’s predecessors, Arne Duncan, as his first education secretary.

Obama’s daughters attended a private school in Chicago.

How is CPS doing in regards to educating children? Not very well. Not even one-in-four students read at grade level. Yes, I am aware that unlike kids in most suburban schools, there are additional challenges in teaching city children, many of whom come from abusive homes. But one-in-four? After years of so-called reform?

And what about the filth and the sexual assaults?

If the goal of Chicago Public Schools is to educate children in a safe environment, then it is failing–and has been for a long time, despite most schools incorporating such words as “Excellence” and “College Preparatory ” into their names. Before their well-needed demolition, public housing high rises, which never should have been built in the first place, were derided by liberals as “warehouses of the poor.”

Most CPS schools are warehouses of the poorly educated.

If the goal of CPS is to provide a generous income for teachers, maintenance workers, and of course administrators, along with bountiful pensions for them, then it is a fabulous success. Oh, let’s not forget the bottom lines of those contractors. They are doing well too.

As for those pensions, they have long been a slush fund. one that is dancing with insolvency. rather than serving as a retirement program.

Fitch rates CPS bonds as junk.

So, by nearly everyone’s standards, CPS is failing.

Does it continue on its same road to defeat?

When do Chicago taxpayers, who are increasingly angry because of repeated property tax hikes to pay for unfunded pensions, scream, “Enough!”

Firing everyone–and starting over again might be the only way out for CPS, which could be possible if state law is changed and public agencies are allowed to file for bankruptcy protection. Rehire the good teachers and the administrators who fight waste and theft.  Charter schools aren’t the answer. UNO, an Hispanic group with close ties with former Mayor Richard M. Daley, utilized charter schools for crony capitalism and graft. More privatization isn’t the answer, as Aramark isn’t able to keep schools clean. School vouchers? Maybe. But some parents, sadly, don’t have the initiative to better the lives of the children.

Floundering schools are already closed and re-opened with new staff here-and-there in Chicago.

Blogger in downtown Chicago

For those of you who cry out “more money” for Chicago’s schools, keep in mind more cash opens the door to more theft, or at the very least, more squandering of taxpayer funds.

Crime, high taxes, and rotten schools are the primary reasons given by people who decide to move away from Chicago. And Chicago is the only major city with a declining population.

Next year there is a mayoral election in Chicago. One of the candidates, Paul Vallas, is a former CEO of CPS.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. He attended kindergarten at a CPS school, Edward F. Dunne Elementary School. It is now the Dunne Technology Academy Elementary School.

Illinois flag with its bicentennial counterpart

By John Ruberry

In honor of Illinois’ bicentennial, Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald compiled a list of Illinois’ best-known leaders. There is some good in it–Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, and some bad. Ethel Kennedy? Robert F. Kennedy’s widow was born in Chicago but grew up in Connecticut. And besides, her contributions don’t amount to very much.

Illinois has a well-deserved reputation for corruption. So I have put together my own list, the 14 Worst Leaders from Illinois.

My “hall of shame” by no means exonerates anyone not named.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

She is one of two people on both lists. Clinton is a former first lady, US senator, US secretary of state, and of course, the first major party presidential nominee. She was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Park Ridge. Smoke, but as of yet, no fire has engulfed HRC’s public career. Clinton was implicated, but never charged in the Whitewater Scandal. Two years after her Whitewater billing records from the Rose Law Firm were subpoenaed, they mysteriously appeared in the White House living quarters. While secretary of state under Barack Obama, she used a home-brewed private email server. Her handling of those emails was deemed “extremely careless” two years ago by FBI director James Comey. After our consulate in Benghazi was overrun by terrorists in 2012, leading to the death of our ambassador to Libya as well as three other Americans, Clinton spread the lie that a YouTube video inspired the barbarians

I could go on and on about Clinton, but I have other names on my naughty list.

Richard M. Daley

Chicago’s mayor from 1989-2011, Daley’s father, Richard J who was mayor for nearly as long., had a strong background in public finance which allowed Chicago to escape the fiscal problems cities such as those New York and Cleveland suffered in the 1970s. Richie Daley inherited his dad’s name but not his financial acumen. Chicago’s public pensions are the worst-funded of any major city in the country. Property tax increases signed into law to right the ship by his successor, Rahm Emanuel, are probably just buying time; besides, the tax hikes are likely a key reason why Chicago is the only major city with a declining population.

Len Small

After two Democrats it’s time for our first Republican. Lennington “Len” Small of Kankakee was governor of Illinois from 1921-1929. While governor he was indicted for embezzling money during his time as state treasurer. He was found not guilty, but eight of the jurors on his trial later received state jobs. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

George Ryan

Another Kankakee GOPer, Ryan got in trouble for his scandalous eight years as Illinois secretary of state. Under Ryan, who once was speaker of the state House, the SoS office was enmeshed in a driver’s licenses for bribes scandal. Elected governor in 1998, after his one-term in that post Ryan was convicted of corruption involving perjury and bribery. His scandal was one of the few political ones that involved fatalities. On Election Day in 1994–Ryan was re-elected secretary of state that day–a truck driver who obtained his license by bribery caused an accident where six children from Chicago were killed.

Paul Powell

Like Ryan, Powell served as speaker of the state House before his election as secretary of state. His personal motto was “There’s only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that’s a broke one.” Illinoisans who needed their license plates renewed were instructed to make their checks out to “Paul Powell.” What could go wrong? Powell died in office in 1970. The executor of his estate discovered over $800,000 in cash in the Springfield hotel suite where the southern Illinois self-servant lived, including some stuffed in a shoebox. His tombstone reads “Here lies a lifelong Democrat.”

Official House portrait of Hastert

Dennis Hastert

Before his election to Congress in 1986, Hastert, a Republican, was a teacher and a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. He later became speaker of that House. But at Yorkville he was a serial child molester. He was sent to prison not over those assaults, but for lying to federal officials about banking activity involving payments to one of his victims.

Jesse Jackson

He’s on that other list too. Jesse Jackson, the “poverty pimp” civil rights leader, has done little if anything to alleviate the problems of the people he claims to represent, Chicago’s minority poor. His half-brother, Noah Robinson, is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder-for-hire. Jackson utilized his then-powerful Rainbow/PUSH organization to elect his son, Jesse Jr, to Congress and his daughter-in-law, Junior’s wife, as a Chicago alderman. Both went to prison over misuse of campaign funds.

Illinois & Michigan Canal at LaSalle, IL

Joel Matteson

We have to go to the pre-Civil War era for Matteson. The Illinois & Michigan Canal is the reason Chicago is the Midwest’s great city, not Milwaukee or St. Louis. But the canal faced enormous financial difficulties before its completion in 1848. Scrip was utilized by Illinois to fund the canal but in 1859 it was discovered that Matteson, a Democrat who was governor from 1853-1857, converted some of that scrip for personal use. Matteson was investigated but never charged in the case.

Antoin “Tony” Rezko

An immigrant from Syria, Rezko essentially was a collector of Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Governor Rod Blagojevich. Rezko engineered the mysterious land deal that made Obama’s purchase of his South Side Chicago mansion affordable. But his role as a fixer for Governor Rod Blagojevich earned him a trip to prison.

Rod Blagojevich

The most recent Illinois governor to be sentenced to prison, the Chicago Democrat attempted to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He essentially transformed the governor’s office into a vast pay-to-play operation. He’s still a federal inmate. Outside of the corruption, Blago was a still terrible governor. Illinois’ precarious financial situation grew much worse during his six years in Springfield, lowlighted by a two-year long pension payment holiday. State House Speaker Michael Madigan–another speaker!–played a large role in that debacle. We’ll be learning more about Madigan a little later. As for Blagojevich, amazingly he is the only Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office.

William Hale Thompson

Blogger where the 1967 Detroit riot began

Chicago’s last Republican mayor, Thompson served two stints in office–from 1915-1923 and from 1927-1931. Thompson let Al Capone and other gangsters run wild during Prohibition. After the death of “Big Bill” in 1944, nearly $2 million in cash was found not in a shoebox, nor in Al Capone’s vault,  but in a safe deposit box.

Otto Kerner

You might have heard his name in the news lately as Kerner, a Democratic governor from 1961-1968, served as the chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission, which explored the causes of the 1967 urban riots. It was released 50 years ago last month. But in 1961 Kerner received a bribe of race track stock, which only came to light after the woman who paid him off him listed that expenditure on her federal income tax return because she viewed it as a legitimate business expense. Who can blame her for that opinion of Illinois? By the time the bribe was revealed Kerner was serving as a federal appeals judge. Facing certain impeachment, he resigned. Kerner was released from prison early for health reasons and died in disgrace shortly afterwards.

Carol Moseley Braun

Capitalizing on anger over the testimony of Anita Hill against Judge Clarence Thomas over reputed sexual harassment during his US Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Braun went from being Cook County Recorder of Deeds to the US Senate in 1992, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in the upper chamber. Even before her election, scandal percolated for Braun over allegations that she and her campaign manager, Kgosie Matthews, who was also her fiancée, diverted campaign funds for personal use. The Chicago Democrat blew off her Senate orientation meetings and instead took a nearly month-long vacation in South Africa with Matthews. What followed was a mind-bogging and ethically challenged six years in the Senate. Matthews was a citizen of South Africa–foreign meddling anyone?–and he was also at one time a paid lobbyist for Nigeria, which was then run by a murderous dictator, Sani Abacha. Over the objections of the Congressional Black Caucus, Braun visited Abacha while she was a senator.

During the ’92 campaign, it came to light three years earlier that inheritance money belonging to her mother, a nursing home patient, was split between Braun and two siblings, instead of being used to reimburse Medicaid. Once the scam became public Braun promptly paid Medicaid $15,000.

Matthews was later accused of sexual harassment of female campaign workers. Braun was elected during what was then called “the Year of the Woman.”

Braun and Matthews–he later left the country–were never charged with crimes.

Michael Madigan

Like Richard M. Daley, Madigan has modeled his public life on that of Richie’s dad, the first Mayor Daley. But like the son, Madigan, who has been speaker of the state House for 33 of the last 35 years, the Boss of Illinois is inept in regards to government finance, which is why last year Reuters declared him “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.”  Madigan, yet another Chicagoan, is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. The “speaker for life” runs the House with an iron fist and his gerrymandering abuse is an insult to democracy. He’s the poster child for the admonition, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week I had some time off from work and I did what few people do. Before sunrise I left home and drove to Detroit for a pleasure visit.

It was my second trip to the Motor City. My first Da Tech Guy account, from 2015, is here.

What follows is a progress report with a grade.

First of all, is Detroit back? Well, if you are like most visitors and you don’t venture beyond downtown, Midtown, Greektown, New Center, or its three casinos, you’ll say, “Yep, Detroit is a thriving city, it’s back.”

But most of the the neighborhoods, Corktown, Palmer Woods, and Sherwood Forest are exceptions, are either rundown and decrepit, or near-apocalyptic wastelands, such as Brightmoor. And as for Palmer Woods, just three blocks from its southeast corner, near where I parked my car to snap a picture of a feral dog–90 minutes later a store manager was murdered during an armed robbery.

But even in its rough patches–actually most of Detroit is one expansive rough patch–there are noticeable improvements.

The abandoned GM Fisher Body 21 plant

Two years ago I was able to walk into vacated schools and factories with only a nagging guilt about trespassing preventing me from entering. That didn’t work, I walked in anyway. Harry B. Hutchins Elementary School, where I spent an hour taking photographs in 2015, is fenced off now. The Packard plant, the world’s largest abandoned factory, has a small but aggressive security presence. I wandered around there undisturbed for hours during my previous visit. Fisher Body 21, an old General Motors factory, is a glaring eyesore at the intersection of the Edsel Ford and Chrysler freeways. While I was able to stroll into that one, the windows in the stairwells must be bricked-off. The stairways are now as unlit as a cave beneath the dark side of the moon. Only a fool, or someone wearing a miner’s hat with a supply of back-up batteries, would climb them now.

So for urban explorers such as myself, Detroit is no longer a free-range video, photography, and souvenir collection zone.

Two years ago no one with authority appeared to give a damn. I credit the attitude change to Detroit’s reform mayor, Democrat Mike Duggan–who lives in Palmer Woods by the way. Duggan was elected four months after the Motor City’s bankruptcy in 2013. Earlier this month Duggan, who is white, overwhelmingly defeated Coleman Young II, the son of Detroit’s first black mayor. The elder Young’s 20-year tenure can best be deemed as controversial. The former communist utilized race-based politics and dog whistle words–city (black) versus suburbs (white)–which kept him in office but drove businesses and of course jobs out of Detroit. He was the steward of the city’s descent. While the white population is growing for the first time since 1950, Detroit remains a super-majority African-American city. Yet Detroit voters rejected the younger Young’s own dog whistle call to “Take Back the Motherland.” Good for them.

While there still are vacant buildings downtown, two of the most obvious ones that I noticed during my first visit, the 38-story Book Tower and the former Wayne County Building, are being rehabbed. Both were seen in the premature Detroit-is-back Chrysler Super Bowl ad with Eminem from 2011. A mile up Woodward Avenue to the northwest is the gleaning new Little Caesars Arena, the new stadium for the Red Wings and the Pistons. Detroit’s NBA team has returned to the Motor City after a nearly three-decade absence. Across the street from the arena are the luxurious Woodward Square Apartments. With Ford Field, the home of the Lions, and Comerica Park, where the Tigers play, as well as some theaters and other new or rehabilitated apartments, the result is the new District Detroit, an entertainment and residential area that rivals any in the United States.

Alley in Delray

So there is a lot of good going on in Detroit.

As for the bad, let’s discuss those forsaken areas, and it goes beyond the crumbling and abandoned housing stock and the crime. Most pedestrians in “the other Detroit” walk on the streets, because the sidewalks are for the most part crumbing. Some are overgrown with weeds. Nearly all alleys are impassable. Even large trees can be found growing in some. Keep in mind that in 1950 not only was Detroit America’s fifth largest city but it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Municipal alley garbage pick-up ended decades ago and many garages of otherwise well kept-up homes are collapsing. Why maintain a garage when you can’t access it from your alley? And besides, there are plenty of vacant lots, with a bit of elbow grease, that can be converted into grassy parking lots. Rubbish can be found everywhere. Illegal dumping–much of it done by suburbanites–is a serious problem in Detroit. Side streets have many potholes and even more cracks. On the other hand, Duggan has made good on his promise to install more street lights.

Urban prairie in Brightmoor

And that post-apocalyptic neighborhood of Brightmoor? A few sections that were once packed with residents have devolved into the kind of emptiness that you expect to see from a country road, a phenomenon known as an urban prairie.

Critics from the left will lash out at me as I take measure of Detroit’s unpleasant underside and yell, “What about racism?” Yes, for decades Detroit’s blacks suffered from institutional racism. So did black Atlantans. The year after Detroit elected Coleman Young, Atlanta, whose blacks endured Jim Crow laws, followed suit and elected its first black mayor. Atlanta became the city that was “too busy to hate.” In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, which is something pre-Young Detroit unsuccessfully bid on an unprecedented nine times.

Back to the good: Most Detroiters are generally friendly people, strangers say “hello” to each other. That’s a commendable behavior I’ve never seen in any big city.

Sidewalk in Petosky-Otsego

Back to the bad: Detroiters are the rudest and most reckless drivers I’ve encountered outside of New York City. And remember, Detroit’s streets are in terrible shape, so such road effrontery is especially hazardous.

Detroit is not “back.” but it is coming back. But some unfinished business remains that could send the onetime Arsenal of Democracy back in the wrong direction. While the deadly 1967 riot and the contraction of the Big Three auto makers, as well as fiscal malfeasance, corruption, and numbing levels of crime are largely responsible for Detroit’s demise, the municipal income tax, a commuter tax, and loads of burdensome regulations also played a role. Those taxes, largely idiosyncratic to Detroit among big cities, still remain, along with those regs. And Detroit’s property tax system, according to the Detroit News, is “fundamentally flawed” and was “particularly devastating in the cycle of decline and renewal Detroit has undergone.”

“New Detroit” has emerged from the starting block but the Motor City is wearing ankle weights.

My grade for the city is “incomplete.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chicago Police camera

George Washington McLintock: Now Katherine, are you going to believe what you see, or what I tell you?

McLintock! 1963

Two years ago I wrote about an interesting incident in Jerusalem.  It seems that the “Palestinians” were objecting to treatment they claimed they were receiving when visiting the Temple/Mount area and a solution was suggested by King Abdullah of Jordan to solve the problem, Cameras.  That way if Israel was violating the rights of Muslims visiting the 3rd holiest site in Islam they would be caught.

To his credit then secretary of state John Kerry supported the idea and after some pushback from the cabinet Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu got them to go along with the plan.  However Palestinians who had been claiming oppression loudly objected claiming it was a “Trap”.  As I wrote at the time:

I don’t see how it can be a trap. After all the Palestinians have insisted that they haven’t been inciting anybody or smuggling weapons or doing anything nasty, if they’re telling the truth how could film backing them up be a trap? That would be like a police office arguing that dash cameras and body cams were all about framing him for something he hasn’t done.

You’d think they were trying to hide what’s actually going on or something?   Or as Bibi put it:

it would show where the provocations are really coming from.

And as I tweeted at the time:

Well it’s two years later and with the move to make sure police are wearing bodycams to catch them if they try to plant evidence or bully harass and murder innocent suspects (particularly if they are black) now the accepted norm, I thought we have the answer to that question. However said answer is apparently not a question of police claiming body cams are a “trap”, it’s the liberal civil rights black lives matter crowd doing so:

“Unrestricted footage review places civil rights at risk and undermines the goals of transparency and accountability,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and current head of the Leadership Conference, in the report’s introduction.

Yes you are reading that right. You are hearing a former Obama “civil rights” official saying that camera footage of what actually happens at an arrest undermines “transparency and accountability”

You see if a police officer makes out his report after seeing his video, it’s less likely that he will state an inaccuracy that a defense lawyer can exploit and that’s bad. After all we can’t have police giving accurate reports that puts a criminal in danger of actually going to jail.

You’d think transparency and accountability in law enforcement was supposed to be about truth and facts but apparently if those recorded videotaped facts either fail to impeach the trustworthiness of an officer or help lead to the conviction of a criminal then they aren’t welcome by those on the left who demanded them.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this but then again these days left has lost its capacity to surprise me anymore.

In New York’s 19th Congressional District (which I used to be a part of before a recent redrawing put me into the 18th instead), Steven Brisee was running among several other Democrats hoping to oust Republican Congressman John Faso from his seat. But Steven Brisee can’t seem to stop himself from getting arrested!

Steven Brisee was most recently arrested for Grand Larceny, a felony, after he was caught trying to steal $1500 worth of merchandise, some 50 items of clothing and housewares, from a Kohl’s department store in Newburgh, NY. Brisee has decided to drop out of the race after this arrest, but he blames autism and his lack of people skills for fundraising as the reason, not his criminal history. Although he did admit to a local paper that he had been arrested for shoplifting in the past, he claims his latest arrest was for criminal trespass during a pipeline protest. Via Times Herald Union:

Newburgh Town Police said on Wednesday that Brisee is facing a felony grand larceny charge for allegedly trying to steal about $1,500 worth of merchandise from a Kohl’s in Orange County.

Newburgh Police Lt. James Nenni told the Times Union that Brisee was arrested Sept. 11 on charges accusing him of attempting to take about 50 items from the department store. Nenni said a petit larceny charge was bumped up to a felony because of the value of the goods, which included men’s clothing and other household items.

But in an interview Wednesday evening, the candidate disputed the charge.

“Why would I be trying to steal something while running for Congress?” Brisee said.

The charges were reported by the Kingston Daily Freeman on Tuesday. Brisee disputed the charge in that newspaper’s report as well.

Brisee told the Times Union on Wednesday evening that while he had been arrested in 2010 for stealing from the Kohl’s store — Brisee was homeless at the time — he was arrested for criminal trespass on Sept. 11 for protesting construction of the Pilgrim Pipeline.

“Either they’re looking up an old arrest or I don’t know,” he said.

Brisee said his previous grand larceny arrest was dropped to a violation.

What isn’t in dispute is that Brisee was sent to the Orange County Jail following the Sept. 11 arrest.

Brisee said he was in custody until his bail was posted Saturday night by his step father. He initially was sent to Orange County Jail but transferred to Ulster County Jail to be held on a separate trespass charge stemming from an incident in Ulster County.

Brisee said he was staying at a friend’s house, but the friend had not told his father Brisee was given permission to stay. Two days before his protest arrest, the father had called the police.

With Brisee in Orange County Jail and police in Ulster County unable to contact him, a warrant was issued for his arrest in that county. He was then transferred to Ulster County Jail on Sept. 15.

Wait, what? Didn’t he say the trespass arrest was for a pipeline protest? Now we see a trespass arrest for illegally occupying somebody else’s home. But wait, there’s more! Via Daily Freeman News:

Brisee said he and some friends were in Newburgh protesting a pipeline, but he could not recall the name of the road he was on or what company was constructing the pipeline. He said he believes people waiting to work at the construction site called police, leading to his arrest.

“I was protesting a pipeline,” Brisee said.

A clerk at the Newburgh Justice Court confirmed the felony grand larceny charge against Brisee. The matter is before Judge Jude Martini and Brisee is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 6.

Brisee is being represented by attorney Brad White of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County who could not be reached for comment.

In regards to the criminal trespass charge in Ulster County, Brisee said that matter is in Rochester Town Court and was a misunderstanding. He said he had permission to be at a friend’s house, but the friend did not tell their father. The father called police, Brisee said.

Details about that charge were not immediately available from the court. The criminal trespass matter is scheduled to return to the court on Oct. 4, according to a clerk.

Brisee also said a 2015 misdemeanor drunken driving charge against him had been reduced to a violation driving while ability impaired charge.

So Steven Brisee already had an arrest history, but he thought running for public office was a good idea to do while he continued with his lawbreaking ways, and when it finally catches up to him to the point that he feels compelled to drop out of the congressional race, he blames an autistic lack of social skills, not his own criminality and an inability to keep his stories straight, as the reason why he could not garner voter support and fundraise effectively. Criminal behavior, lying, and blame gaming – kind of reminds me of another democrat (who even once held a political office here in New York).

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

By John Ruberry

Last week I wrote this in my own blog about a scandal-plagued state university in Kentucky: “Is Louisville a college with an athletic program? Or is it an athletic program that offers some college classes?”

Late last month the shadowy and corrupt realm of NCAA men’s college basketball, whose players are nominally amateurs, was shattered by the revelation of an FBI investigation of payments to recruits that allegedly comes from Adidas. Ten people have been arrested, including four assistant coaches at Power Five college hoops programs. More arrests are expected.

But most of the media focus on the scandal is on the the University of Louisville, where no one so far faces charges. Allegedly an AAU coach, Jonathan Brad Augustine, whose team is sponsored by Adidas, boasted to an undercover FBI agent about the reach of Cardinals coach Rick Pitino–who is identified as “Coach-2” in court records–and how Pitino could get James “Jim” Gatto, the director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, to send $100,000 to the family of a Louisville recruit. That athlete, Brian Bowen, enrolled at Louisville. But now he’s been suspended from the team.

Oh, the first “A” in AAU stands for “amatuer.”

“No one swings a bigger d–k than [Coach-2],” Augustine reportedly said after learning that Gatto had difficulty in allegedly sending the $100K to Bowen’s family. He added that “all [Coach-2] has to do is pick up the phone and call somebody [and say], ‘These are my guys–they’re taking care of us.'”

Those remarks appear to have been lifted from a Sopranos script.

Pitino, and Louisville’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, were suspended by the university the day after the scandal broke. Both of them are expected to be fired but in the meantime they are the highest paid persons in their positions in college sports.

But despite its success on the field–Louisville has a pretty good football team by the way–the athletic department loses money. Apparently Louisville manages its athletic department as poorly as the state of Kentucky runs its public-worker pension programs.

Pitino is the only NCAA men’s basketball coach to win national championships at two universities, Kentucky and Louisville. But four months ago the Cardinals program landed on NCAA probation because of a prostitution scandal involving recruits, some of whom were underage. Uh, where are the Louisville Police? The NCAA suspended Pitino for five games and Louisville will have to vacate some victories–and possibly its 2013 NCAA title. Pitino claims ignorance of the hiring of these “dancers” by the program. He also claimed to be simply a put-upon victim in a extortion attempt by a woman, Karen Sypher, who alleged that Pitino raped her. The Basketball Hall of Fame coach, who is married, admitted to consensual sex with Sypher–she later went to prison. Pitino also admitted to paying for her abortion.

Because Louisville’s men’s hoops program is already on probation, it’s likely that the Cardinals are eligible for the NCAA “death penalty” if they are found to be a two-time offender. The death penalty allows the NCAA to shut down a program for at least a year.

I say cut down the nets and turn off the lights for Louisville basketball, preferably for several years. The possibility of the death penalty has holders of the junk bonds financing the stadium where the Cardinals play understandably a bit nervous.

At the very least Louisville needs a fresh start, but so far it’s off to a dreadful one. Pitino’s interim replacement is one of his former players, David Padgett, who until two years ago was director of basketball operations at Louisville. Was Padgett a glorified clerk? Or a figurehead?

Louisville has other problems and one of them involves Adidas. Of the money from the current marketing contract the shoe giant has with the basketball team, reportedly 98 percent of it goes to Pitino. Shouldn’t the general revenue fund of this taxpayer-supported college get at least a healthy cut?

Jurich, the money-losing suspended athletic director, likely earned more money annually than the budgets of four Louisville academic departments.

This scandal has legs longer than those of the late Manute Bol–and I’m predicting not only will it spread to other colleges and AAU programs but to high school hoops as well, starting with the Chicago Public League. Lack of payments probably explains why the Chicago recruiting apparatus for years shuts out basketball programs such as DePaul and the one at my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Both schools are natural fits for Public League talent and both of them used to recruit very successfully in Chicago.

Do you have a better explanation?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My plans for finally getting my Red Summit post were derailed a 2nd time after I read this piece from Christopher Harper that stopped me in my tracks.

Violent crimes increased nationally last year by more than 4 percent and homicides rose by nearly 9 percent, one year after violence rose nearly 4 percent and homicides jumped by nearly 11 percent. A total of 17,250 people were murdered in 2016, the FBI said, an increase of about 20 percent over the past two years alone.

What really got me were these stats

–The demographic group where a significantly higher rate of violence occurs–those between 18 and 34–is getting smaller. So the percentage of crimes committed by that age group should be getting smaller, but it’s not. It’s way up.

–More than three-quarters of U.S. law enforcement officers say they are reluctant to use force when necessary, and nearly as many–72 percent–say they or their colleagues are more reluctant to stop and question people who seem suspicious as a result of increased scrutiny of police, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. 

This is consistent with this story at the NY Post 

Cops in some crime-ridden South Bronx neighborhoods have all but abandoned aggressive or intuitive policing — to avoid getting sued or otherwise derailing their careers, officers admitted to The Post.

And those who commit crime know it

Several precinct patrol officers recalled incidents in which they didn’t bust suspected drug dealers who were taunting them while recording with cellphone cameras.

In one case, a cop said, neighbors were “leaning out their windows, shouting at us to go away.”

“In the past, we’d stand our ground, start issuing summonses. But we just moved on,” a cop recalled. “It was hard, to be honest.”

The NYPD’s most recent stats show shootings in the precinct have jumped 64 percent, from 14 to 23, so far this year compared to the same period in 2016.

In other words thanks to the fine efforts of Black Lives Matter, NFL players and all those who have decided to make the police the enemy those who actually prey on poor and minority neighborhood are completely unleashed knowing that they have little to fear from those who would have once enforced the law.

What’s worse there is little or no political incentive to fix this problem, these cities are controlled by Democrats who have a lock on city counsels and aldermen positions and even if you have a sitting lawmaker who wants to do something , they don’t dare side with police for fear of being voted out of office.

Meanwhile Republicans, knowing that this problem has little effect on their voters and that the race card will be instantly played on them if they attempt to intervene are, like the police, disinclined to get involved in a situation that carries political risk with little reward.

This is a direct byproduct of the balanization of our nation for fun and profit and until that stops and we unify as a culture again expect this problem to increase.  I suspect the rewards of money, power and position for this division are too great, however I do know that with God all things are possible and as long as we have people like this:

There is hope for us as a people.