Abandoned plant in Harvey

By John Ruberry

Contained in my inbox this morning was an email from Crain’s Chicago Business touting an article by Dennis Rodkin, “Can Chicago’s Southland Be Rebuilt?” In short, “probably” is his answer. Mine is “no.”

Chicago’s Southland covers the city’s South Side and its southern suburbs, some definitions include the Southwest Side and the southwest suburbs. I grew up in Palos Heights, a southwest suburb, after spending my early childhood on Chicago’s Far South Side.

After several readings–I want to make sure I’m right before pointing fingers–I was surprised, but not shocked, to learn that three words were missing from Rodkin’s piece: Corruption, cronyism, and graft. While Illinois is a very dishonest state, and Chicago and Cook County are the epicenter of  its dishonesty, Chicago’s Southland is the rottenest apple in this foul orchard. Five of the last six sitting or former Chicago aldermen convicted of crimes were South Siders. The two most recent Chicago City Council indictments are for Ald. Willie Cochran, whose predecessor went to prison for bribery, and former alderman Edward Vrdolyak, who has already served time in the House with Many Doors. Do you want to guess what part of the city they are from?

Vacant Far South Side home

South of Chicago is Harvey. While surprisingly light on convictions, Harvey is considered the most corrupt town in Illinois, which is saying a lot. For years the Daily Southtown, among its front web page tabs such as “Weather” and “Sports,” there was another, “Harvey.” Next to Harvey is Markham. Earlier this month voters foolishly elected a convicted felon as its mayor. The Cook County state’s attorney office is suing to prevent the mayor-elect from taking office. Nearby is Dolton. Four years ago its village president told CBS Chicago, “Over the past few weeks we’ve heard reports of ghost payrolling, vehicles being purchased without authorization, unauthorized overtime and the unauthorized use of village gas.”

Cochran was indicted last year

Illinois’ second congressional district covers much of the Southland. In 1995 its representative, Mel Reynolds, was found guilty of crimes centered around a sexual relationship with an underage campaign volunteer. He was later convicted of a slew of financial crimes. His successor was Jesse Jackson Jr, who, along with his wife, a South Side Chicago alderman, went to prison for spending campaign cash on personal items.

The most notorious Chicago Southlander is Michael Madigan of the Southwest Side. Illinois’ financial situation has descended to the point that it is functionally bankrupt. Because of generous public-sector pension commitments, which were never properly funded, Illinois is over $200 billion in debt, despite a balanced budget requirement in the state constitution.

Yes, Chicago’s Southland is majority black. Which means African Americans are being robbed the most by these so-called public servants who see government not as a higher calling, but as an opportunity to dishonestly enrich themselves and their cronies.

Much of the Southland is blighted. But there is still plenty of money to be made there, but for the most part, only if you are a crook and if you know the right people. Or if you pay off the right people. Or if you hire that politician’s brother-in-law to remodel your office so you can get that zoning variance passed.

Rodkin does touch on the soaring property tax rates in the south suburbs. But he misses the point. As people leave the Southland–and yes, they are leaving–there are fewer people left to pay the bar bill for these corrupt-and-drunk-with-power politicians in Illinois’ Corruption Corridor.

Public graft is expensive.

Oh, 600 words or so into this piece, and I didn’t even, until now, mention the region’s problems with rampant violence.

Every politician I mentioned so far is a Democrat, except for Vrdolyak, is once was chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

Blogger in Harvey

In related news, last week the 14 year corruption sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is not from Chicago’s Southland, was upheld by a US Appeals Court. That’s bad news for course for Blago, but good news for law-abiding Illinoisans–yes, we do exist. If Chicago’s Southland–and the rest of the state–has any hope of receiving honest government, long sentences such as the one Blagojevich was given just might be the cure. Fear of a long stay in a federal prison might scare some scoundrels straight–or better yet, frighten dishonest people away from a career in government.

But at least in the short term, I predict things will get even worse in Chicago’s Southland–and in the rest of Illinois.

John Ruberry, a lifelong Illinoisan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Malone: You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.

The Untouchables 1987

Leonard: …Sheldon, you can’t train my girlfriend like a lab rat.
Sheldon: Actually, it turns out I can.
Leonard: Well, you shouldn’t.
Sheldon: There’s just no pleasing you, is there, Leonard? You weren’t happy with my previous approach to dealing with her, so I decided to employ operant conditioning techniques, building on the work of Thorndike and B.F. Skinner. By this time next week, I believe I can have her jumping out of a pool, balancing a beach ball on her nose.

The Big Bang Theory, The Gothowitz Deviation 2009

Over at IMDB there is an interesting story concerning Johnny Weissmuller the gold medal swimmer concerning his early days as the silver screen’s most famous Tarzan:

When Weissmuller was introduced to the first Cheetah in his Tarzan films in 1931 (he worked with 8 chimpanzees altogether), the chimp’s trainer told him to show no fear or the animal would attack him. As Weissmuller, dressed in his Tarzan loincloth and hunting knife, walked up to the animal, it bared its teeth, growled at him and lunged as if to attack him. Weissmuller took the knife out of the sheath and held it in front of the chimp’s nose, to make sure he saw and smelled it. He then slammed the animal on the side of the head with the knife handle. He put the knife back in its sheath and held out his hand to the chimp. It glared at him, bared his teeth again, then changed its mind, grinned at Weissmuller and jumped up and hugged him. Weissmuller never had any further problems with the chimp–although other cast and crew members did–and it followed him around like a puppy dog during all the pictures they worked together.

This is a perfect example of risk/reward, note that the Chimp didn’t change his nature, he still gave problems to the rest of the cast and crew, but when it came to Weissmuller the risk of the whack in the head outweighed the reward of giving him grief.

This perfectly illustrates this story out of LA concerning the arrest rate:

an Assistant Chief with the LAPD tells the Times the number of arrests has continued to decline. Similar declines were seen in other big cities including San Diego. The result is that the overall number of arrests in California is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years.

Now given the increase in the crime rate the drop in the arrest rate would seem rather odd, but if you consider risk and reward, it’s not odd at all.

But others say it is inevitable that some officers will pull back, taking care of necessary work while not engaging in the “proactive policing” that could lead to more arrests — and to more encounters that turn violent.

“Not to make fun of it, but a lot of guys are like, ‘Look, I’m just going to act like a fireman.’ I’m going to handle my calls for service and the things that I have to do,” said George Hofstetter, a motorcycle deputy in Pico Rivera and former president of the union representing L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. “But going out there and making traffic stops and contacting persons who may be up to something nefarious? ‘I’m not going to do that anymore.’”

A police job carries a good pay, good benefits and a fine retirement package (at least until the unfunded pension issue bubble bursts) that is to compensate for the risk to life and limb, but it’s not just a physical risk anymore, it’s a social and reputation risk that enters into it

LAPD officers are troubled by contentious demonstrations at Police Commission meetings and by public criticism of their colleagues for using deadly force, said Robert Harris, a police officer on the LAPD union’s board of directors.

“Suddenly, you feel like you can’t do any police work, because every opportunity that you have might turn into the next big media case,” Harris said. “Of course, you’re going to take stock a little bit more, I think, before you put yourself out there like that.”

Why on earth are you going to risk your financial security protecting people who are going to demand your head if you put yourself out there to protect them?  Particularly in a city and/or state governed by a party actively antagonistic to police officers and silent when they are targeted as illustrated in the last presidential campaign:

while President Obama and the Democratic candidates vying to succeed him are putting America’s police departments on trial in the court of public opinion in response to a rash of deadly police shootings, the murder of police officers on America’s streets is being met with a “deafening silence.”

“I cannot recall any time in recent years when six law enforcement professionals have been murdered by gunfire in multiple incidents in a single week,” National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Craig W. Floyd said in a statement Friday. “Already this year there have been eight officers shot and killed, compared to just one during the same period last year and represents a very troubling trend.”

The relative silence on officer deaths contrasts with the Democratic candidates’ often fiery language on police brutality against African Americans. When it came to the issue of law enforcement at Thursday night’s Democratic debate, the candidates focused almost exclusively on “police reform.” Vermont Sen. Sanders said he’s “sick and tired” of seeing unarmed black people shot by police, likening heavily equipped departments to “occupying armies” – a reference to Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere. Hillary Clinton hit similar points.

And why would they act otherwise?  Given the supermajority of Democrats in the state, an electorate willing to reward them for attacking police and their lack of personal proximity to the areas of increased risk there is absolutely no incentive for elected Democrats to act otherwise, nor for professional liberals in academia:

If officers think twice about approaching people, some situations where police use force might be avoided, said Melina Abdullah, a leader of the local Black Lives Matter movement and chair of the Pan-African studies department at Cal State L.A.

“If police are more cautious about making arrests that might be controversial, making arrests that might elicit protests, then that is a victory,” Abdullah said. “We want them to begin to check themselves.”

who I suspect,  outside of an organized march wouldn’t be caught dead in the areas where crime is increasing as the police back off.  Victor Davis Hanson has these folks nailed:

The American progressive elite relies on its influence, education, money, and cultural privilege to exempt itself from the bad schools, unassimilated immigrant communities, dangerous neighborhoods, crime waves, and general impoverishment that are so often the logical consequences of its own policies — consequences for others, that is.

And of course while the negative reinforcement is being delivered to police the opposite message is being delivered to criminals, as the risk of arrest and punishment decreases, the incentive to engage in criminal behavor increases.  thus the rewards for everything from petty theft to intimidation and threats of violence increases for the criminal class while at the same time the incentive for a potential victim to call the police decreases.  Why bother calling the cops if they aren’t going to follow through?  Much better to keep your mouth shut and hope the gangs, the druggies and the thugs just leave you alone.

And this isn’t just confined to the cities, Hanson again:

Let me narrate a recent two-week period in navigating the outlands of Fresno County. A few days ago my neighbor down the road asked whether I had put any outgoing mail in our town’s drive-by blue federal mailbox, adjacent to the downtown Post Office. I had. And he had, too —to have it delivered a few hours later to his home in scraps, with the checks missing, by a good Samaritan. She had collected the torn envelopes with his return address scattered along the street. I’m still waiting to see whether my own bills got collected before the thieves struck the box. Most of us in rural California go into town to mail our letters, because our rural boxes have been vandalized by gangs so frequently that it is suicidal to mail anything from home.

No wonder the rest of the country doesn’t want to be ruled by California.


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By John Ruberry

Most of the main characters in Hell on Wheels, my last Netflix binge-watching adventure, were shaped, and scarred, by the American Civil War.

In this BBC 2 television show, Peaky Blinders, set in Birmingham, England beginning in 1919, World War I casts its shadow over the lead characters.

Three seasons have been released so far. The action–and the violence–is centered upon the Anglo-Gypsy Shelby family, led by Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a decorated Great War tunneller who returns home a new man–and a better suited one to run the family business, Shelby Brothers, Ltd, a bookmaking operation set in the grimy and noisy Small Heath section of Birmingham. But the gang is generally called the Peaky Blinders by members and their enemies. His oldest brother, Arthur (Paul Anderson) is clearly more psychologically damaged from the war than Tommy, but he’s better suited to serve as the enforcer for the family. “I think, Arthur. That’s what I do,” Tommy explains to him. “I think. So that you don’t have to.” Third son John (Joe Cole), another World War I veteran, is also employed in the muscle side of the operation, while Finn, the youngest Shelby, is only 11-years-old when the series begins.

Tommy has a sister, Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle), who is married to communist agitator. But she’s still loyal to the family.

While the Shelby men were fighting in France–the family business was run by Elizabeth “Aunt Polly” Gray (Helen McCrory), a kind of a Rosie the Riveter of the underworld. Tommy quickly takes over from Polly, who serves as his senior advisor. Like Edward G. Robinson’s legendary Rico character in Little Caesar, Tommy becomes a small-time-hood-makes-good-by-being-bad by playing one gang faction against the other, first in Birmingham then in London, while largely ignoring Aunt Polly’s warnings.

When the Peaky Blinders stumble upon a large machine gun shipment in an otherwise routine heist, that gets the attention of Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill (Andy Nyman in the first season, Richard McCabe in the second), who dispatches Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) from Belfast to find the machine guns. Those guns give Tommy power and respect–and enemies. Not only do Churchill and Campbell want those weapons, but so does the Irish Republican Army.

Campbell sends in an Irish domestic spy, Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), to work at the neighborhood pub owned by Arthur, appropriately named The Garrison. She quickly becomes its de facto manager.

In season three, which is set in 1924, Tommy, at Churchill’s request, gets involved in another armaments caper, this time with members of the Whites faction who haven’t ascertained that the Communists have won the Russian Civil War. Arthur warns Tommy to stay out of “this Russian business.” It’s too bad the script writers didn’t take their own creation’s advice. As was the case with season four of Sherlock, what follows is a collection of tangled and confusing plot lines. Possibly realizing their mistake, the writers include quite a bit of gratuitous nudity to accompany the Russian adventure, including a bizarre orgy scene which does nothing to advance the storyline.

On the other hand, the Russian diversion is loosely based on a 1924 scandal that brought down Great Britain’s first socialist-led government.

At least two more seasons are coming.

The cinematography of Peaky Blinders is masterful. Imagine Tim Burton creating a remake of The Untouchables television show and setting it in 1920s Birmingham. And this is an ugly Birmingham. J.R.R Tolkien lived in the city before the Great War and his reaction against it was his creation of Mordor for The Lord of the Rings. Just as the Eye of Sauron looked upon that evil realm–the sparks and the ashes of the foundries oversee the Midlands metropolis here. And the industrial roar is always there too.

Blogger in his flat cap

Without getting into spoilers it’s a challenge to bring a description of Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons into this review, but his portrayal by Tom Hardy is too good to overlook.

Oh, the name. Peaky Blinders? There was a Birmingham gang by the same name who gained that moniker because its members supposedly sewed razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps. And in fights the hoodlums went for the eyes.

And finally, the music deserves special mention too. Anachronistic goth rock dominates, the unofficial theme song is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand.” You’ll find selections from PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, and the White Stripes too.

And Johnny Cash sings “Danny Boy.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

By John Ruberry

Ann Richards, the last Democratic governor of Texas to date, is wrongly credited with a famous statement about George H.W. Bush, that he was “born on third base and thought he hit a triple.”

But you can say the same thing about former US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), the son of the famed civil rights leader; or if you dislike him, you may see the elder Jackson as a prominent shakedown practitioner who is in the racism business.

Last week the Chicago Tribune reported that Jackson, who served 22 months in prison for looting his campaign fund to purchase luxury goods and celebrity memorabilia, including items related to Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson, is collecting $138,000 in government benefits, including $100,000 in workers compensation for suffering from bipolar disorder and depression, which he is only entitled to if Junior’s job caused those ailments. And that is what his lawyer claims. The $100K is not taxable while the remainder of his government cache, which comes from Social Security disability payments, is taxable.

Jackson’s wife, Sandi, who was a participant in the scheme, also served a prison term–not concurrently with Junior–which allowed a parent to stay at home to care for their children. The former Chicago alderman–she served in that office while residing in Washington–was released from prison last October. She filed for divorce two months later. Presumably Sandi received the fur coats purchased from her husband’s campaign fund. It is from the couple’s divorce proceedings that Jesse Jr’s benefits largesse were discovered.

Jesse Jackson Sr’s Chicago-based Rainbow/Push operation provided the foot soldiers to place the younger Jackson in Congress in an open seat election in Illinois’ 2nd congressional district after Mel Reynolds resigned his office after being convicted for having sex with a minor and related charges. Reynolds’ predecessor was “Goofy Gus” Savage, a black racist and another sexual predator.

That makes three scumbags in a row in Illinois’ 2nd. So far Jackson’s successor, Robyn Kelley, a reliable vote for the Democratic caucus, hasn’t embarrassed the voters of Chicago’s South Side and southern suburbs.

Illinois’ 2nd congressional district, Chicago

The 2nd is a very safe gerrymandered Democratic district that was created to obscure the truth that the black population of Chicago is rapidly declining. Like everyone else, African-Americans don’t like crime, rotten services, and failing public schools. To keep his seat in Congress all Junior had to do was behave.

Craig Holman, of the watchdog group Public Citizen, called Jackson’s disability boon “breathtaking.”

“I can’t imagine in any way that his bipolar disorder would have been caused in any way by his congressional duties,” Holman told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s really troubling to see someone who goes to prison for corruption coming out of prison (and collecting that money).”

But Holman is not from Chicago so it’s easy to understand why Jackson’s hubris is unimaginable to him.

The Tribune’s estimable columnist John Kass remarked a few days ago, with Jackson partially in mind, “Forget everything your parents told you about crime. Crime does pay. Especially in Chicago.”

It pays in sickness and in health, before prison, and after prison.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week via Twitter President Donald Trump issued a warning: “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”

Local media was puzzled and irked as to what Trump meant by “the feds.” Does that mean the US Army? Short of widespread rioting breaking out in Chicago, that’s not likely to happen. Perhaps Trump means to dispatch FBI and DEA agents, or officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. But the federal government already has staff from those crime fighting agencies assisting the Chicago Police in fighting its murder epidemic.

Unless there is an ongoing investigation, I don’t believe the feds are looking for the evil pony at the bottom of the manure pile–Chicago politicians and their connections to street gangs.

Street gang temple,
Chicago’s South Side

Elected officials in Chicago constantly decry gun violence. But while firearms are the symptom, the disease is gang warfare. By all accounts the great majority of murders in Chicago are gang-related. Members of the Progressive Caucus on Chicago’s City Council regularly condemn “gun violence,” as do the other aldermen on the council. As for the former, like all leftists, they conspire like a chess player to advance their causes, in this instance, this means a ban on all handguns in Chicago, if not all firearms. As for the rest of the aldermen, perhaps they are cautious in condemning gang violence because some of them have ties to these criminal enterprises that are hollowing out Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.

Six years ago Chicago Magazine, in a story about those street gang-pol connections, interviewed Hal Baskin, a former gang member who was defeated in his effort to join the City Council, about a meeting between aldermanic candidates and gang-bangers, or perhaps, according to the magazine, ex-gang bangers.

The gang representatives were interested in electing aldermen sympathetic to their interests and those of their impoverished wards. As for the politicians, says Baskin, their interests essentially boiled down to getting elected or reelected. “All of [the political hopefuls] were aware of who they were meeting with,” he says. “They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was get the support.”

Baskin declined to name names, but Chicago has learned, through other sources at the meetings, the identities of some of the participants. They include: Aldermen Howard Brookins Jr. (21st Ward), Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Willie Cochran (20th), and Freddrenna Lyle (6th). Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) attended a meeting; upon realizing that the participants had close gang ties, she objected but stayed. Also attending were candidates who would go on to win their races, including Michael Chandler (24th) and Roderick Sawyer (6th). Darcel Beavers, the former 7th Ward alderman who would wind up losing her race, and Patricia Horton, a commissioner with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District who lost her bid for city clerk, also met with the group.

Cochran campaign sign in Englewood

Late last year one of those underhanded aldermen, Willie Cochran, was indicted for a series of alleged financial crimes, including stealing from his ward’s charity. Part of Cochran’s ward covers the notorious Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, one of the most violent parts of “Chiraq.” And by violence of course I mean street gang violence.

Okay, I’m not an attorney, but Chicago Magazine provided us a list of names that at the very least makes them, in my opinion, persons of interest.

Jesse Jackson in Chicago in 2012

Roughly once every 18 months a member of Chicago’s City Council is sentenced to prison, the most recent of which was Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th). Her father-in-law is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose half-brother, Noah Robinson, enjoyed long time connections to the El Rukn gang, which, under a different name, remains one of Chicago’s largest and most vicious street gangs. Robinson is serving a life sentence for narcotics crimes, racketeering, and murder-for-hire.

As for Jesse Jackson, in 1984, during his first campaign for the presidency, he publicly lauded the El Rukns for their efforts in voter registration. The year prior the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization paid the gang over $10,000 to work as poll watchers for the failed campaign of incumbent Chicago mayor Jane Bryne. At that time the party was led by Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak, then the 10th Ward alderman, who–this will sound familiar–was indicted late last year. Now a Republican, Vrdolyak is already an ex-con.

Shameful.

What can the Chicago Police do about gangs and their politician pals?

According to that Chicago Magazine article, not a heck of a lot.

Two police sources—a former gang investigator and a veteran detective—bluntly acknowledge that even if the police know of dubious dealings between an alderman and a gang leader or drug dealer, there is little, if anything, they can do, thanks to what they say is the department’s unofficial rule: Stay away from public officials. “We can’t arrest aldermen,” says the gang investigator, “unless they’re doing something obvious to endanger someone. We’re told to stand down.” The detective concurs: “It’s the unwritten rule. There’s a two-tier justice system here.”

That paragraph alone explains why Trump’s “feds,” or perhaps different feds, are needed in America’s third-largest city.

And the criminality apparently goes past shootings, as Chicago Magazine again tells us.

Beyond providing protection from police—the gangs’ number one request—public officials can help in other ways. Gang leaders, particularly the most powerful, are usually looking to build on the riches they already have. Knowing an alderman or a state legislator—or even a congressman—can help. Traditionally, aldermen have almost total say over what gets built and what sorts of businesses open in their wards. They also have considerable sway over city contracts, which can mean tens of thousands to millions of dollars for gang-owned businesses.

Chicago needs Trump’s feds.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Or maybe the president only needs to send an accountant. It was a member of that profession, Frank J. Wilson of the US Treasury Department, who put together the evidence to convict Al Capone of tax evasion.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Chicago area resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chicago’s lakefront

By John Ruberry

“Decent people shouldn’t live here. They’d be happier someplace else.”
Jack Napier/The Joker in Batman.

Often, I’m asked, “Why is Chicago so corrupt?” The short answer? It’s always been that way.

Now let me expand a bit.

Earlier this month the Department of Justice released a report that excoriated the Chicago Police Department for use of excessive force, slipshod training, and soft discipline within its ranks. The report was produced because of the shooting in 2014–with sixteen bullets–of an unarmed teen black Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago cop.

But the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass noted a significant omission in that report: Chicago’s corruption culture.

It wasn’t the Chicago cops who shaped the police culture. The political corruption and cynicism of politicians over decades in a one-party Democratic machine town shaped the culture.

Kass adds that it was City Hall that sat on the damning police video of McDonald getting shot. It was released over a year later–seven months after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was releected. Kass, without mentioning his name, reminded readers that longtime CPD chief of detectives, William Hanhardt, was placed in that position by his political friends. Hanhardt, a mob cop, ran a jewelry theft ring while he was chasing select other bad guys.

But why is Chicago so corrupt?

Chicago, like other Midwestern cities, was settled first by New Englanders and upstate New Yorkers, white Anglo-Saxon protestants mainly. But Irish people fleeing the Potato Famine and seeking work on such projects as the Illinois & Michigan Canal, along with Germans, were the first wave of immigrants to Chicago. My great-great grandfather, another John Ruberry, was part of this wave. But the Irish already knew English and the arguably more numerous Germans initially did not. Which meant that the Irish were able to qualify for government jobs. Then some of them made the logical next step–run for political office.

The eighteenth-century Irish were unwilling subjects of the British Empire–they viewed government as an alien force and many didn’t see anything wrong with stealing from that government. Old habits are hard to break–and many Irish-Americans saw public service as an opportunity to stuff their pockets with bribes and kickbacks–and to place their friends and relatives in other government positions. Or to offer other friends and relatives government contracts, who might reward their patrons with “gifts.”

So Chicago’s culture of corruption was born.

Other immigrants followed–many with similar backgrounds. Poles didn’t have their own nation for the entire 18th century, the majority of Chicago’s Italian immigrants came from southern Italy, and there was no love between them and the Italian royal house, which emerged from the northern half of the peninsula. The Czechs and the Croatians were part of Austria-Hungary.

Abandoned South Side home

Even newcomers to Chicago who were Americans fit the bill.

Until the mid-1960s blacks who came to Chicago as part of the Great Migration were subject to Jim Crow laws and could not vote. Clearly local government was not their government. Puerto Rican corruption is even worse than that of Chicago.

You can make the same argument about Mexico, the latest source of mass-immigration to Chicago.

Another Chicago newspaper columnist, the legendary Mike Royko, often quipped that Chicago’s official slogan should be “Where’s mine?”

Roughly once every 18 months a Chicago alderman is sentenced to prison. One of Chicago’s dirtiest secrets is the coziness between politicians and street gangs.

My point is not to demonize any group but to explain how Chicago got to the unhappy place where it is. For instance, my father, another John Ruberry–he went by Jack–once told my mother, “I’d like to work in politics.” She replied, “That will never work out–you are too honest.” My dad was 100-percent Irish-American. And yes, my mother was right–and my father never ran for public office. This decent man moved his family out of Chicago in 1968.

Meanwhile, Chicago, and yes, the rest of Illinois is a cesspool of cronyism and corruption.

Oh, you WASPs, particularly Republican ones reading this post–I’m coming for you.

Much is made of Chicago not having a Republican mayor since 1931. But that mayor was William Hale Thompson, a Boston-born Protestant who was probably Chicago’s most corrupt mayor. Thompson was a protector and sponsor of Al Capone. Thompson, a crook, was able to reap dishonest benefits from a crooked bureaucracy that was already in place. After his death two safe deposit boxes containing nearly $2 million were discovered. Although Thompson’s successor, Czech immigrant Anton Cermak, founded the modern Chicago Democratic machine, he was a better mayor than Thompson.

I began with a quote from one Batman movie and I’ll end this post with a quote from another, this time from Batman Begins.

The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Chicago is clearly in decline. Payoffs to public-sector union members, pensions that weren’t properly funded, gave Chicagoans–including of course the decent ones–their largest property tax hike ever two years ago, followed by more tax increases last year. No serious person believes there won’t be more soon. Last year more Chicagoans were murdered than those killed in New York City and Los Angeles–combined.

Chicago is at its lowest population in one hundred years, coincidentally, that was when Chicago was still a boom town and William Hale Thompson was mayor.

While there is no League of Shadows, Chicago is long overdue for a check against human corruption.

Where is Chicago’s Bruce Wayne?

Or its Bruce Waynes?

And no, I’m not calling for bubonic plague in Chicago. The city is emptying out just fine on its own.

John Ruberry, a decent man who moved his family out of Chicago in 1999, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) are in a political tug-of-war centering on the rising crime rate in Louisiana’s most popular tourist destination.  In 2016, shootings in New Orleans increased by almost 25%, and homicides rose by 7%.  AG Landry blames Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s poor leadership for the uptick in crime while Landrieu contends Landry has no authority over him or law enforcement in New Orleans.

AG Landry has taken to Twitter in recent days with the hashtag #MakeNewOrleansSafeAgain in an effort to draw attention to his efforts to reduce crime in the city and his own violent crimes task force which operates outside of the NOLA police department. Landry points out that “Chicago has about 20 murders per 100,000 people. New Orleans is experiencing twice that many at 40 murders per 100,000 people.”

Landry insists that Landrieu is in part to blame in the increase in crime due to his agreement to enter into a five-year consent decree with Eric Holder’s Justice Department in 2012. This agreement is projected to cost NOLA over $55 million over the course of its duration.  The consent decree came about on the heels of violence in Ferguson and other cities after federal investigation of police departments reportedly engaging in civil rights violations; cities across the nation such as Albuquerque, Cleveland, and Seattle have all entered into consent decrees with varying degrees of success.

Generally, the police departments often feel hindered by the decree:

The head of the Police Association of New Orleans agrees that the consent decree is at least partly to blame for a rise in crime in a department that remains roughly 350 officers short of the state goal of 1,600.

“Because of the oversight, officers are reluctant to initiate contact,” said PANO President Michael Glasser. “…The consent decree requires a lot of oversight and redundancy, and while that probably creates a better work product, it’s labor intensive and time consuming, and we lack labor. What used to take an hour or two now takes two or three or four.”

AG Landry refers to the consent decree as the “Hug a Thug Program” and believes that officers need more help, thus his task force, and he’s probably going to push for more money from the state legislature to expand the program:

To do so he’s going to need funding, obviously, so it’s a good bet where this is going is a push at the legislature this spring to get more money for the Violent Crime Task Force to increase its presence in New Orleans and push past NOPD to make a difference.

If the legislature goes along with Landry, then John #Fail Edwards will have to sign off on it which will be particularly interesting as he is often at political odds with both Landry and Landrieu.

Some see Landry’s intervention as a power grab:

But there’s some question – at least by NOPD Chief Harrison – as to whether Landry’s office should be investigating crimes in New Orleans. Harrison sent a letter to Landry Wednesday asserting that “we are aware of no authority that permits you, your employees, or law enforcement agents under your direction to engage in active law enforcement within New Orleans or in general.”

Under the city’s Home Rule Charter, the mayor of New Orleans is the chief law enforcement authority for Orleans Parish, according to Harrison. Landry is the chief law enforcement officer for the state.

Landry insists he has no political agenda here, saying that public safety and tourism dollars are at stake:

This is not about politics; my effort is about protecting Louisiana lives and our economy tied to tourism in New Orleans. While my office works to stop crime all over Louisiana, the spike in crime within our state’s largest city is alarming. That is why I announced this initiative and why we are taking action.”

The numbers don’t lie. Crime has indeed spiked in New Orleans and the city ended 2016 with 176 murders. As 2017 opens and the Crescent City anxiously awaits the decision from the Fifth Circuit on the Confederate monuments issue, due any day now, tensions in the city are certain to rise and it’s not difficult to see why Landry’s task force might be a potential benefit to a city that clearly needs a little backup.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Chicago’s Grant Park, where Obama gave his victory speech

By John Ruberry

On the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, Jeremiah Wright, then Obama’s pastor, bellowed, “God d–n America” and “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” from the pulpit of his Chicago church.

Two nights from now President Barack Obama will give his farewell address in Chicago, his adopted hometown. The Hawaii-born 44th president moved to Chicago a year after graduating from college where he worked, with at best mixed success, as a community organizer on the Far South Side. It’s an area still beset by violence and poverty with no hope of a turnaround thirty years after Obama left that post so he could attend Harvard law school.

Ayers and Dohrn Chicago home

It was in 1996 Chicago where Obama launched his political career. One of his first campaign stops–perhaps his first–was at the home of his friends, unrepentant Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Eight years later another Chicagoan, state Senate President Emil Jones Jr, put Obama’s name on some key bills that bolstered his liberal credentials. Obama scored a surprise win in the Democratic US Senate primary, and after the Republican nominee imploded, he easily won in the general election.

You know the rest of the story.

However, Obama was not a slam-dunk in the 2008 presidential election against John McCain–what we now call the Great Recession sealed the deal–and America elected its first black president.

Chicago is still recovering from the ’08 economic collapse. Of the nation’s 35-largest cities, Chicago has the largest percentage of underwater home mortgages.Two years ago Chicago enacted its largest property tax hike in history, the impetus for it was to pay for underfunded municipal pension funds. What does this have to do with Obama? Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1931, Obama is the most hyper-partisan president in memory. Along the White House ride for Obama was Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisor and “Berlin Wall,” the former slumlord was a deputy chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. It’s Daley, not his successor, former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who bears the responsibility for the Chicago pension debacle. But Chicago’s generous municipal pensions are political payback for public-sector unions, who’ve been an arm of the Democratic Party in all but name for decades.

Obama has always been very cozy government labor unions. 

Two years ago–under Emanuel’s watch–Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s bonds, and those of Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District to junk. Other rating services haven’t followed suit yet, but they absolutely don’t view Chicago favorably.

Chicago’s population is at it lowest level in 100 years.

Chicagoans pay the nation’s highest sales tax rate.

Chickens.

Last year at least 762 people were murdered in Chicago–an appalling 57 percent increase over the year before. Chicago suffered more killings than New York City and Los Angeles–combined. One of the reasons cited for the soaring murder rate was Rahm Emanuel’s inept handling of the shooting of unarmed black teen Laquan McDonald–with sixteen bullets–by a white cop, all of which has compelled Chicago Police officers to use less aggressive law enforcement tactics. Chicago is a hotbed for Black Lives Matter activists. The outgoing president has been supportive of this radical group, which deems racist the statement All Lives Matter.

Near where the Facebook attack occurred

That leads to last week’s racist atrocity in Chicago, the torturing of a white special needs man–thirty minutes of which was streamed live on Facebook–by four blacks in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side. The victim was bound, gagged, beaten, slashed, forced to drink toilet water, and coerced to say “F–k Donald Trump” and “F–k white people.”

Two months earlier in another West Side neighborhood a white man was pulled from his car and brutally beaten by four blacks. That attack was captured on video, the assailants screamed, “You voted Trump” and “Beat his a–.” While the victim was indeed a Trump voter–yes, there are a few in Illinois besides me–he told authorities that there was no way the thugs could have known that. There was no Trump bumper sticker on his car–he was white and that was enough provocation for these creeps.

Obama’s chickens–and those of Chicago Democrats–have come home to roost.

Our collectivist president has practiced identity politics for his entire adult life. which for the most part means race politics. Us versus them. And as a collectivist Obama has appointed himself as the savior to put the pieces back together.

Chicago’s Northwest Side

But breaking things is much easier than putting them back together.

Some final thoughts.

As a public service I am recommending that if you are planning to attend Chicago’s McCormick Place address, please use public transportation. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit 45 of our 50 states. With the exception of Detroit, the worst-maintained streets and roads I’ve encountered are in Chicago. And while you’re driving around potholes and crevices, please beware of Chicago’s ubiquitous red light and speeding cameras. An astounding 1.9 million traffic camera tickets were issued between 2010 and 2015. Chicago has 2.7 million or so residents. Most of those tickets were written while Emanuel was mayor.

The former administrator of Chicago’s traffic camera program is serving a ten-year prison sentence for accepting bribes.

Someone needs to come up with a misery index for big cities like Chicago, which should include such items as corruption, low high school graduation rates, unfunded pension obligations, red light cameras, crumbling infrastructure, population loss, taxes, and yes of course, crime.

John “Lee” Ruberry

Perhaps Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s amiable pal who is an economics professor at the University of Chicago, can absolve himself of leftism and get to work on this much-needed project.

Thank God I left Chicago for the suburbs nearly two decades ago.

And Obama, at least for now, won’t live in Chicago after he moves out of White House next week. He’ll probably only return to visit his presidential library.

John Ruberry is a fifth-generation Chicago area resident who writes the Marathon Pundit blog. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Board had no input in composing this blog entry.

Street gang temple, Chicago's South Side
Street gang temple,
Chicago’s South Side

By John Ruberry

This morning on Fox News Donald Trump spokesman Ben Carson said, “If we are going to make America great we cannot have large pockets of dysfunction.”

Carson was responding to questions about the latest mainstream media tantrum about the Republican nominee Tweeting about Friday the murder of Nykea Aldridge in a violent Chicago neighborhood, the cousin of Chicago Bulls player and longtime all-star Dwayne Wade, where he indelicately predicted a groundswell of support for his campaign.

But as I remarked in this space a month ago, Trump is the first Republican presidential nominee in memory to make a concerted effort to appeal to black voters and he correctly points out that the Democratic Party, whom African Americans have reflexively voted for en masse since the 1930s, is failing inner city blacks. A few days before Aldridge murder Trump was offered this statement by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “Did you know that murders in Chicago are up 50 percent this year from last year? And they can’t solve it.”CoJCZVfUMAAMJlm

The political newcomer replied, likely correctly, that the wrong people are in charge in Chicago and based on a conservation that the political newcomer had with an unnamed senior Chicago police officer, that violence in America’s third largest city could end in a week. Okay, that’s a major piece of hyperbole, there will always be some violence everywhere. What police department is able to prevent an angry person who hits a spouse over the head with a frying pan during an argument in their kitchen? On the other hand, a noticeable drop in Chicago violence of course is a possible, and of course, a desirable goal.

Detroit hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1963. Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1933. Both are dominated by “large pockets of dysfunction.” Some Chicago politicians have a cozy relationship with street gang leaders.

It took a Republican, Rudy Giuliani, to turn around New York City, which was believed to be ungovernable prior to his two terms as mayor.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Black Lives MatterBy John Ruberry

Even though the protest took place just three days ago, the blocking of the Dan Ryan Expressway near Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood by Black Lives Matter radicals is already largely forgotten. The rally was organized after the deaths of two black men last week by two police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. The Chicago protest was of course overshadowed by the shooting deaths of five Dallas cops during a Black Lives Matter protest in the Texas city that night–seven other police officers were wounded. The assassin, Micah Xavier Johnson, sympathized with black nationalist groups and can fairly be called a racist.

The Chicago expressway blocking occurred three days after another bloody holiday weekend in America’s third-largest city. Four people were murdered in Chicago and an astounding 62 others were wounded during the 4th of July weekend. The thugs didn’t lock up their guns on July 5. In fact, on the day before the expressway protest a four-year-old Englewood boy was shot several times a mile away from that rally.

I wasn’t there but I will wager a sizable sum of cash that none of the leftists decried the shooting of that boy.  The people who live in the home where the 4-year-old lives believe their home is being targeted–they claim they don’t know by whom. In May a 53-year-old woman who lives in that house was wounded in a shooting there.

pierre-loury
Pierre Loury

One house–two shootings–three months. Does anyone seriously believe that the Chicago Police is targeting this home?

Since New Year’s Day there have been 2,054 shootings in Chicago–312 of those shootings were fatal. The great majority of the victims were African-American as were likely the perpetrators, although no one can say for sure because most “Chiraq” murders are street-gang related and go unsolved.

This year there has been just one shooting death by Chicago Police of a criminal suspect, 16-year-old Pierre Loury, a known gang member. Cops say Loury, who posted a picture of himself holding a gun on his Facebook page, pointed a weapon at them.

Madison and Pulaski in Chicago
Madison and Pulaski in Chicago

Loury was a West Sider, and as bad as Englewood is, most of Chicago’s West Side is worse. The West Side, unless you are Mayor Rahm Emanuel or part of the CPD brass, is well known among Chicagoans for its open-air drug markets. The corner of Madison and Pulaski is a popular spot to purchase narcotics. Yes, Black Lives Matter leftists protested the Loury death–and they briefly blocked the Eisenhower expressway on the West Side, but they didn’t march on Madison and Pulaski. Turf wars over drugs often turn fatal, there is nothing new about that.

Only some black lives matter to Black Lives Matter. Crime doesn’t seem to matter at all to them.

But as with all leftist causes, protesting police shootings is only a means to their end. “The issue is never the issue,” they say, “the issue is always the revolution.”

Meanwhile black people keep shooting each other in Chicago and other big cities in America. Only the police are there to provide protection.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.