By John Ruberry

For decades, probably since in the advent of rock and roll, America’s has been a youth-worshipping culture. In eastern Asia, at least for now, elders are admired and respected, on the other hand.

Back to America. Is it a coincidence that four years after Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show with 82 percent of television viewers tuned in, the youthful John F. Kennedy became the youngest person elected to the presidency, replacing the oldest president up to that point, Dwight Eisenhower?

The Democrats found young pay dirt again in 1992 when Bill Clinton, the first baby-boomer president, who was 46, defeated incumbent president George H.W. Bush, age 68, and in 2008 when Barack Obama was 47 when he bested 72-year-old John McCain to win the presidency.

In this off-year election there are a couple of races I’ve noticed that may show the Democrats are betting that the fountain of youth is the key to winning a majority in Congress.

The first match-up already occurred. In the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, Democrat Conor Lamb, age 33, narrowly defeated GOPer Rick Saccone, age 60, for the vacant seat of Tim Murphy, who resigned because of a sex scandal.

Lamb won in a district that is traditionally a Republican stronghold.

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Wisdom and experience should still count for something, right?

Democrats, at least on social media, are excited about the prospects of US Rep. Beto O’Rourke upsetting Republican Ted Cruz, a presidential candidate in 2016 who is still well-respected by conservatives despite his tussles that year with Trump. They’re about the same age, O’Rourke is 45 and Cruz is 47, but look how CNN is potrarying the candidates:

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How long did it take the writer of that CNN article to find a photograph of Cruz with a double chin?

For his part, O’Rourke won his nomination in a primary while Lamb was selected by a party convention.

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Whoah, O’Rourke is the dreamiest, isn’t he?

While good looks and youth don’t make anyone automatically stupid–my wife says I still have the former and I used to be young–I have a question: Why are the Democrats running glamour shot campaigns?

If their ideas are correct, shouldn’t that be enough?

On the flipside, Donald Trump, a 71-year-old with an orange comb-over, is our president. And the Democrats in the House are led by Nancy Pelosi, 78, but youngster Lamb says he will vote against Pelosi the next time there’s a vote for Democratic leader in the lower chamber.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Synesthesia: “A sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color,” so says Dictionary.com.

If there is a void in your musical life and you are a fan of the Kinks and the Beatles, or perhaps Oasis, then I suggest you explore the career of XTC, the most unappreciated band of its time.

And what a time it was. XTC was part of the Class of 1977, rock and roll’s last great year in my opinon, when the Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello and many more burst onto the musical scene. By 1999, after a seven year strike against its British label, when they released their penultimate album, Apple Venus Volume 1, only Costello and XTC remained as active acts.

Like the Beatles, XTC evolved musically into a much different group when it was all over.

Late last year in Great Britain and early this year in the United States, the documentary, yes, rockumentarty, XTC: This Is Pop was released. It’s available where I live on Showtime and Xfinity OnDemand.

What became XTC began in the southwestern English city of Swindon, the onetime home of the Swindon Works of the Great Western Railway, with a band started by its de facto leader, Andy Partridge. Bassist Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers rounded out the nucleus of the group. London keyboardist Barry Andrews, the only XTCer who is not interviewed for This Is Pop, later joined; he appears on the band’s first two albums, White Music and GO2, which comprise the band’s punk period. After Andrews’ departure he was replaced by another Swindonian, guitarist Dave Gregory.

“I actually think we started pretty damn good and then got a lot better. And there’s not too many bands can say that’s their arc,” Partridge immodestly but correctly boasts about XTC.

Yet there is some humor in This Is Pop that offsets the braggadocio.

“Don’t you dare have-into this documentary,” Partridge waves off “that lugubrious keyboard player from that prog-rock group,” Rick Wakeman of Yes, who makes a hilarious cameo.

Partridge says of his troubled childhood, “I never thought I was good at anything until I got more and more into drawing and painting.”

Imagine if legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who early in his life aspired to be a painter, formed a rock group instead. It just might have sounded like XTC.

The band’s breakthrough in 1979 came not from a Partridge-penned tune but one by Moulding, “We’re Only Making Plans For Nigel” from their third album, Drums and Wires, which Little Marathon Pundit said of the other day, “That’s one song I like.” If its sonorous drum patterns seem familiar, that’s because engineer Hugh Padham discovered that effect while recoding “Nigel” before bringing the technique to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.” Many other 1980s acts swiped that sound.

The next two albums, Black Sea and English Settlement, brought more–albeit modest–success and momentum to XTC as it rounded out its New Wave period. But as the Kinks often bungled their career, XTC’ sabotaged things too, although not intentionally as I’ve always suspected the Kinks did. The effects of Partridge’s Valium addiction, which went back to when he was 12, and the withdrawal effects, led to a nervous breakdown during a Paris concert–which is shown in This Is Pop. The lads from Swindon still traveled to the United States for their first tour as a headliner. But what should have been an American victory lap lasted just one show. Outside of a smattering of radio and television appearances, they never performed live again.

XTC’s pastoral era brought three albums, Mummer, The Big Express, and Skylarking. But within that period XTC’s psychedelic alter ego, the Dukes of Stratosphear, released two collections that outsold those last two in the UK.

Before recording Skylarking, Partridge tells us, their record label issued an ultimatum: You need to grow your American audience and hire an American producer. Presented with a list of unfamiliar names, Partridge chose the only one he had heard of: Todd Rundgren. The result was the band’s masterpiece, Skylarking. On it you find the conceptual orchestral greatness of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But because Partridge and “Runt” butted heads–they probably had too much in common–the studio atmosphere mirrored the angst of the Beatles’ White Album recording sessions. XTC came close to blowing this moment too as the original pressings of Skylarking omitted the best song from the Rundgren sessions, the controversial atheist anthem “Dear God.” It was the B-side of the “Grass” single. American deejays elevated “Dear God” to prominence. Their record company was right, XTC needed a jump start from America.

Earlier I mentioned synesthesia. “How I write a lot of the songs, I will find a chord or a chord change on a guitar or on a keyboard,” Partridge describes his songwriting technique, “and I’m playing those but not I’m not hearing music–I’m seeing pictures. That’s how I write songs, it comes usually from the synesthesic level.”

And I wager you thought I was overreaching with the Akira Kurosawa comparison.

“Synesthesia is where you get stuff mixed up,” Partridge expands on his thoughts, “someone will say a number and you’ll hear a noise, or someone will show you a color and you’ll think of a number, or you’ll hear a peace of music or a chord and to me it makes a picture.”

And that is why XTC’s music is different.

The follow-up to Skylarking was 1989’s Oranges and Lemons, another success as XTC entered its proto-Britpop era.

Chambers left during the pastoral period and Gregory departed shortly after XTC’s recording strike ended. Their band’s final album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), was released in 2000.

An eclectic group of commentators contribute context to This Is Pop, including Stewart Copeland of the Police, Blondie’s Clem Burke, and a veteran mockumentary performer, Harry Shearer, who, unlike Wakeman, plays it straight here.

Woven into This Is Pop is the countryside of southwestern England and a model train set winding through an intricately-reconstructed Swindon, because it doesn’t seem possible to separate XTC from their hometown.

XTC: This Is Pop is an essential film about an essential band, a group that belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The documentary can be streamed on Amazon.

John Ruberry, who has been an XTC fan since 1979 after hearing “We’re Only Making Plans for Nigel” on WXRT-FM in Chicago, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

For decades Illinois, Chicago, and many other Land of Lincoln municipalities have been kicking the can down the road in regards to public worker pension obligations.

Harvey, a poverty-stricken southern suburb of Chicago with a long history of corruption, has not just reached the end of the road, it has run off of the cliff, in the manner of Wile E. Coyote. Because Harvey has not been adequately funding its police and fire pension plans for years, a state law–Illinois ironically is guilty of the same sin with its pensions–requires the state treasurer to withhold the city’s portion of sales tax revenue, $1.4 million, to pay into those funds instead of that cash being deposited into the town’s general revenue account. Harvey’s police and fire pensions are funded at only 51 and 22 percent, respectively.

On Friday Harvey laid off half of the employees in its police and fire departments, along with about a dozen other municipal workers.

Ironically two firefighters with 18 years on the job were among those given pink slips, they are two years away from qualifying for their own pensions.

Harvey has had many other brushes with malfeasance, and like Wile E, it has used a bag of tricks from its own version of the Acme Corporation to remain airborne. It purchased Lake Michigan water from Chicago, resold it to neighboring towns and used that revenue for payroll and other expenses. Until Chicago sued Harvey didn’t pay the larger city for that water. Its four-term mayor, Eric J. Kellogg, was fined $10,000 and banned from participating in future bond offerings after Harvey diverted cash from a hotel development plan to other items, including payroll.

The FBI, according to the Chicago Tribune, is investigating bribery allegations involving a consultant of Kellogg, the former mayor of neighboring Dixmoor who is a twice-convicted felon. The case is centered on secret recordings made by Harvey’s comptroller, who committed suicide in 2016, the same year that Fox Chicago, citing reports from experts, said the city is “worse than broke.”

Abandoned factory on the Harvey-Dixmoor border

Ah, it’s easy to dismiss Harvey as an aberration even in a state with a national reputation for corruption. In my lifetime four Illinois governors have been sent to federal prison and a fifth faced trial for tax evasion but was found not guilty.

Pension troubles such as the one Harvey is facing can’t come to my Prairie State town, can they?

They sure can.

A researcher from the University of Chicago says there are 74 other police or fire departments with pension funds that are comparably underfunded as those of Harvey. One of those towns in that predicament is Niles, the village west of the Chicago suburb where I live. I have some friends who reside there and they pride themselves on their low–well, low for Illinois–property taxes.

Niles is one of those 74 towns. In 2010 its mayor for nearly five decades served a year in prison for his role in a kickback scheme.

Term limits anyone?

Which Illinois municipality will be the next Harvey? Perhaps Chicago, as its pension plans are the worst-funded among the nation’s largest cities.

As for Illinois, its pension funds are among the worst-funded among the fifty states.

Blogger in Harvey

Harvey is losing population.

Chicago is losing population.

Illinois is losing population.

Who will be the “last man standing” over the edge of the cliff stuck with the bill?

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinoisan, continues to eye his exit strategy while he blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois bicentennial flag on bottom

By John Ruberry

“We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth.”
First presidential inaugural address from Ronald Reagan, who was born in Illinois.

“As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.”
Chicago Tribune on Illinois’ pension system.

Last summer the Democratic-dominated Illinois General Assembly, overriding a veto from Republican governor Bruce Rauner, slugged Illinoisans with a 32 percent hike in the state income tax.

The Democratic nominee for governor, billionaire JB Pritzker, favors another tax increase. This phony, in a successful ploy to decrease property taxes on his Chicago mansion, purchased a neighboring mansion, disconnected its toilets, then in an assessment appeal, received his tax cut because the palace next door was “uninhabitable.”

Welcome to ILL-inios.

Rauner barely won the Republican nomination in last month’s primary over a little-known and little-funded insurgent conservative, Jeanne Ives, in a thoroughly dishonest campaign. I backed Ives. As for Prtizker, he comes with additional baggage, including embarrassing recordings of FBI-wiretapped phone conversations with now-imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich, which is the only reason why he is not the prohibitive favorite to wipe the floor with Rauner in November. Still, it’s likely that a Governor JB is in the future for the Prairie State.

Illinois is broken and broke. It might not have the worst-funded public pension system among the states, but it’s so close to the bottom it doesn’t really matter. Illinois House speaker–“speaker for life”–Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), with some Republican help, transformed Illinois’ pension system into a generous political reward in exchange for support from public-sector unions. Illinois’ budget dedicates 25 percent of spending on state worker pensions. In Wisconsin that amount is 16 percent. Okay, that doesn’t seem like much, but Wisconsin’s pension plan is 100 percent funded, Illinois is at a paltry 35 percent.

Bad times have arrived in Illinois–with worse times coming. For the last three years Illinois has suffered from negative population growth.

It’s hard to see how Illinois won’t be able to avoid some sort of default.

Pritzker favors a “temporary” income tax increase until a graduated tax rate is put in place. But for that to get enacted the state constitution must be amended. That requires three-fifths of both houses of the General Assembly to approve it and a majority of Illinois voters to go along. Even in blue Illinois those are tall hurdles, especially since a “Prtizker amendment” will be viewed, rightly, by voters as a pension bailout amendment.

Of course Pritzker is vague about rates  for both that “temporary” tax plan and the graduated one. Of course with the latter one, only “the rich” will pay more.

We’ve heard that lie before.

In regards to local government, some pension plans, especially in Chicago, are in even worse shape.

The Illinois exodus will continue.

John Ruberry is a fifth-generation Illinoisan who is eyeing the exit ramp while blogging at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Roseanne cast pre-revival via Wikipedia

Last week after two decades in rerun stasis the sitcom Roseanne returned to ABC with massive ratings, even higher than its final episode of its first run in 1997.

Formerly a liberal, the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, declared that she was a supporter of Donald Trump two years ago. While Trump isn’t explicitly mentioned in the debut reboot episode, her character, Roseanne Conner, ends a family prayer, one that began by asking her pussy-hat donned leftist sister (Laurie Metcalf) if she preferred to “take a knee,” Colin Kaerpenick-style, with a bang: “Most of all, Lord, thank you for making American great again!”

The Conners live somewhere in northern Illinois in the fictional town of Lanford. Yes, my state voted for Hillary Clinton, but stick with me for a bit. One of the appeals of the old and new Roseanne is that it focuses on the struggles of a blue collar family headed by two overweight parents, Roseanne and Dan Conner (John Goodman), whose bulkiness refreshingly is not a target of unvarying jabs. They are regular folks trying to get by. During the television interregnum the Conners came close to losing their home to foreclosure. In the 1980s these type of families were Reagan Democrats. But since the first run of Roseanne, the Democrats have pivoted to the left, and in the last few years, to the far left. For evidence, look at the rise of Bernie Sanders, the only out-of-the-closet socialist in the US Senate.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party,” Ronald Reagan, who was born and reared in northern Illinois, notoriously remarked, “the party left me.”

The 21st century Democrats–the secular progressives–also left the Conners. This TV family represents the base of the new Republican Party.

Where the Conners live in Illinois was always a bit murky, originally it was Fulton County, a rural county south of Peoria. Yes, the old and new Roseanne, as the old vaudeville expression went, “plays in Peoria.” In 1988, when the show hit the airwaves, Michael Dukakis prevailed over George H.W. Bush in Fulton County, beginning a seven-election presidential winning streak for the Democrats there.

Ronald Reagan Trail north of Peoria

But in 2016 Donald Trump won Fulton by 15 percentage points while four years earlier Barack Obama prevailed by over twenty points. And for the GOP there plenty of room for growth in the Fulton counties of America. In southern Illinois lies Wayne County, where Trump bested Clinton by over 70 points.

Call that the Roseanne vote.

And even in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, there is hope for the Republican Party.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Early in Episode One of Flint Town, an eight-entry Netflix series that debuted this month, we discover a murder victim lying in the snow. And we see snowflakes resting unmelted on his hand–the only warmth he will offer can only come from memories from his loved ones.

Such is life and death in Flint.

Few cities of its size in the United State–probably none–have endured as much devastation as Flint has in the last thirty years. The population of  Flint, which was once Michigan’s second largest city, peaked in 1960 at just under 200,000. But the wide scale exodus began in the 1980s when General Motors–it was founded in Flint–began its rapid downsizing of operations in what is still called “the Vehicle City.”

Now fewer than 100,000 reside in Flint–with 40 percent of them living below the poverty line.

Flint is Detroit’s smaller cousin–sharing most of the same problems. But Flint’s water crisis–lead poisoning spawned by switching the city’s water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron facilities to that of the Flint River–added a tragic dimension to its suffering.

“It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Donald Trump remarks at a campaign appearance shown here. “Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”

Flint Town is a project of directors Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock. It takes a surprising choice of its focus, the under-resourced Flint Police.

“The police officers on the Flint Police Department and underpaid and understaffed, wearing five or six hats, [and] using primitive equipment,” Police Chief Timothy Johnson tells the city council in the final episode. Earlier in the series the dashboard on a Flint police car shows the odometer at 105,000 miles. The man who sits in the cubicle next to mine in my real job, a retired cop from a Chicago suburb about the same size as Flint, says that the cruisers on his force were surplussed at about 50,000 miles.

We see Devon Bernritter, a captain, lament that he was compelled to send three officers on foot patrols because no police cars were available for them. Cops are sent on calls by themselves in Flint in many situations that in other jurisdictions, because of perceived danger, two officers are sent.

Johnson utilizes the same type of resourcefulness that Soviet citizens used when facing problems with inadequate or missing equipment. Volunteers are hired to assist his officers, although unlike everywhere else these aides are armed, including a warm-hearted 65-year-old retiree whose trainer bends over backwards so he pass his marksmanship test. Guns seized in crimes are typically destroyed by most police departments. In Flint they are auctioned off.

Election Day comes to Flint Town. While not ignored, the presidential race–where the white cops favor Trump and the African American ones back Hillary Clinton–takes a back seat to a vote to extend a millage, a property tax, to provide what is of course badly needed funding for law enforcement. In the past those monies were spent, despite promises to voters, elsewhere.

Flint has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence. The latter point was something not even Michael Moore in his Roger and Me documentary could ignore. While its elections are non-partisan, Democrats dominate Flint politics.

“I always wondered why this city was in the position it was and now I see why, it’s at the top,” Chief Johnson boldly tells the city council in a budget hearing.

Blogger last autumn in Michigan

Yet the rank-and-file Flint cops deeply care about the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, despite toiling in the atmosphere of the cold-blooding killings in 2016, assassinations really, of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Is the love returned? For the most part, no.

Flint Town is rated TV-MA for graphic violence and foul language. While Netflix is promoting this batch of shows as Season One, there has been no announcement that a second season is coming. I’d like to see another helping.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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

Unless you live in Illinois’ 22nd state House district, Michael Madigan’s name will not be on your ballot when you vote in the March 20 primary in the Land of Lincoln.

Not directly, that is.

But his foul spirit will be there.

Even when there is a Democratic governor in Illinois, the most powerful Democrat in the state is Madigan, the state House speaker for 33 of the last 35 years. Since 1998 Madigan has been chairman of the state Democratic Party. He’s the committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward–that post allowed him to nominate Joseph Berrios as chairman of the Cook Party Democratic Party, better known as the Chicago Machine eleven years ago. The message was clear–the boss had spoken. Two other candidates withdrew and Berrios was unanimously elected. Berrios is also the Cook County assessor, it’s his office that determines what the county residents such as myself, as well as businesses, pay in property taxes. The assessor’s office has long been a cash cow for the Democrats.

Illinois Policy Institute caricature of Madigan

Berrios faces a tough primary challenge because of charges that his office favors the wealthy, those fortunate rich folks often include clients of the Madigan & Getzendanner law firm. Hmm…Madigan, where have I heard that name before?

The major Democratic candidates for governor, with the exception apparent frontrunner, JB Pritzker, accuse each other of not being independent of Madigan. Pritzker’s main challengers, Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss, have called for Madigan to resign his state party post over sexual harassment scandals involving staff members (but not Madigan himself).

Why aren’t they calling for Madigan to quit the speakership? Fear is my guess.

On the Republican side, the incumbent governor, Bruce Rauner, with “amusing and unconvincing effect,” Crain’s Chicago Business says, accuses his conservative challenger, Jeanne Ives, of being a Madigan ally.

Ah, but where are the Madigan allies? Sure, when it was time, again, to reelect the speaker-for-life last year, he prevailed. There was only one “nay” vote from Democrats. And that dissident was punished.

Madigan controls not only the remap of state legistlative districts but also those of Illinois’ congressional districts. He’s the Pablo Picasso of gerrymandering.

What about state legislators?

Whenever David Giuliani of The Times of Ottawa, Illinois asks Democratic legislative candidates about their opinion of Madigan, he never receives a straight answer.

That’s because they know the truth. Boss Madigan is what ails the Prairie State. Last year Reuters declared Madigan “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.”

I have many friends who live in this blue state who tell me that they detest Madigan–yet they vote for every Democrat on the ballot.

Is the state attorney general able to fight Madigan? Maybe in year. Lisa Madigan, daughter of, well, you know, has been holding that job since 2003. But she’s not running for reelection. Her dad holds considerable sway over Illinois judges too.

Even Barack Obama does Madigan’s bidding. After a Chicago Democrat missed a key House override vote of a Rauner veto, a hand-picked Madigan ally, Juliana Stratton, was endorsed by the then-president and Obama even appeared in a TV ad for the challenger in the next primary election. Madigan and Obama’s candidate won. Stratton is now Pritzker’s running mate.

The Democratic Party of Illinois is Michael Madigan and Michael Madigan is the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Cognitive dissonance is widespread in this state.

While the official state animal of Illinois is the white-tailed deer, in reality it’s an octopus named Mike Madigan. His tentacles are everywhere.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.


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Finally might I suggest my book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer makes an excellent Gift.

Venezuela is holding a general election this year.

Yes, the most miserable country on Earth is again going to pretend it is a democracy.

How miserable?, you may ask.

Let Johns Hopkins economist Steve Hanke tell you,

Venezuela holds the inglorious tile of the most miserable country in 2017, as it did in both 2016 and 2015. The failures of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist, corrupt petroleum state have been well documented over the past year, including by my measurements of Venezuela’s hyperinflation. Not only is Venezuela the most miserable country in the world, but its Misery Index score has dramatically increased since 2016.

Venezuela’s economy is nearly totally dependent on oil production, which continues to plummet.

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The petro cryptocurrency is a sham,

Since certified reserves aren’t such, the petro will be, at best, another way to make opaque transactions by an already shady administration.

The people are broke,

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Mary O’Grady of the WSJ asserts that Venezuela Is Starving Its People. The Maduro regime is using its control of food to stamp out protests. Let’s also not forget the colectivos,the government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs,

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Venezuela’s vice-president, Tarek El Aissami, has been tied to the Cartel of the Suns and to Islamic networks. El Aissmi was a key figure as Hugo Chávez allowed Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda to use Venezuela as a bridge to other Latin American countries. Additionally, the Maduro regime allowed the world’s largest narco-terrorist organization, Colombia’s FARC, into the country.

People are trying to leave by any means possible. Economist Dany Bahar, a fellow at think tank the Brookings Institution, predicts that the Venezuelan refugee crisis could eclipse Syria’s.

Earlier this year the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) called for an early presidential election, scheduled for April 22d. The National Electoral Council (CNE) now has announced it was postponed to May 20th:

Traditionally, presidential elections are held in Venezuela in December but in February the CNE announced they would be brought forward to 22 April.

The decision was widely interpreted by critics of the government as an attempt to steamroll the deeply divided opposition coalition and throw it into disarray.
. . .
It also triggered international criticism, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru all rejecting the early election and some countries warning that they would not recognise the result.

The US has said it would consider imposing further sanctions against the government if it went ahead with the presidential vote under what it called fraudulent conditions.

What’s left of the opposition has the option of

two different tactics: take part in the election with the only purpose of organizing demonstrations, or organize an electoral boycott.

Which means, there’s very little they can do.

I said five years ago that Chavismo will not relinquish power through democratic means. You can count on that whether the so-called election is held, or not, in April, May, or December.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America at Fausta’s Blog.

The Winter Olympics came and went, and it was full of ads.

I tried watching, but as far as I could see the coverage was a ratio of 1:1:2. For every minute of actual sports, you were subject to one minute of athletes’ sappy personal stories, and two minutes of commercials.

Then there were the skating competitions, with commentary from an effeminate young man in a pompadour wearing more sequins than the performers. I miss Dick Button, who is now 89 years old, and miss the Wide World of Sports “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” commentators in logo-emblazoned blazers.

No wonder Charles Lane wants to Stop the Olympics.

The only ones who caught my attention were The Curling Dads: skip John Shuster, lead John Landsteiner, second Matt Hamilton, third Tyler George, and alternate Joe Polo. Four guys from Minnesota and one from Wisconsin. The US Men’s Curling Team.

Having grown up in the tropics, curling looks to me like what a bunch of Scots sipping whisky on a frozen tundra would have come up with if they wanted to play shuffleboard. You have rocks, you have ice, you have brooms, and you want something active but not exhausting? Presto! You come up with curling.

Sure enough, curling was invented by Scots, according to this article, and “today’s curling stones are made of a special kind of granite from Scotland.”

Curling is soothing, mild, lacking in violence and free of drama. No one crashes down a snow-covered slope in the agony of defeat. The players don’t get into fist fights like they do in hockey. You won’t see little girls being flipped in the air like they do in pairs ice skating; heck, no one tries the triple salchow, if they know what a salchow is.

Enter the Curling Dads of the US Curling Team.

The dads did not wear flashy pants like the Norwegians.

The US team – and I mean this as a compliment – look like a group of regular guys out of central casting.

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They worked hard.

They don’t scream at each other like a bunch of girls.

They quietly overcame hardship:

A four-time Olympian who won bronze in 2006 with Polo — the United States’ only other curling medal — Shuster left that team after Turin to form his own foursome and skipped them back to the Winter Games in Vancouver.

But he performed so badly he was benched, and then finished ninth of 10 teams in Sochi. After failing to make the national training program the next year, Shuster teamed up with two of the others who were cut (and George, who hadn’t even tried out) and called themselves “Team Reject.”

And they won.

Let’s hear it for The Curling Dads!

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America at Fausta’s Blog.