Lake Michigan at Chicago

By John Ruberry

Chicago, which is for now America’s third-largest city, has suffered a rough 21st century. It is beset by a declining population, a high murder rate, soaring taxes, poorly-rated bonds, and burdensome public employee pension debt.

Now you can add lead in tap water to Chicago’s problems. Chicago pumps its water from Lake Michigan, which is largely lead free.

From an April Chicago Tribune article:

Amid renewed national attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, hundreds of Chicagoans have taken the city up on its offer of free testing kits to determine if they are drinking tap water contaminated with the brain-damaging metal.

A Tribune analysis of the results shows lead was found in water drawn from nearly 70 percent of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Tap water in 3 of every 10 homes sampled had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper’s analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.

It was the lead from service lines in Flint, Michigan that contaminated that troubled city’s drinking water. Service lines are the connecting pipes from water mains to homes, schools, and businesses. Upkeep of them, and their replacement, is the responsibility of the property owner in Chicago. And replacing those service lines isn’t cheap, it will cost a property owner anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000. A lead filter is a cheaper alternative.

The Flint water crisis was brought about when that city, in a cost-saving measure, switched from purchasing its water from Detroit–which gets it from Lake Huron–to the Flint River. Chloride corrosives from the river reacted with the lead in the service lines, putting dangerous amounts of lead into Flint’s drinking water. While the US EPA says no amount of lead is safe, the EPA action level is 15 ppb, which many Flint homes exceeded.

But there is no federal standard for tap water lead levels in regards to individual residences.

The Tribune article cited here discovered that some Chicago homes tested had lead tap water with amounts slightly above 15 ppb.

Chicago is currently replacing 900 miles of water mains, and such work can increase lead levels in drinking water, the EPA says. And that might be the cause of the high lead content in Chicago’s water.

Excessive lead levels are particularly damaging to children as it can lead to developmental problems. In fact, dangerous lead exposures among Chicago’s children could be a factor in the city’s high rate of violent crime.

The Chicago Park District may soon shut off nearly half of its water fountains on its crowded Lakefront Path because of the high lead content in its water. For twenty years I swigged that water when I was training for marathons.

Chicago’s two-term mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is up for reelection next year, has been mostly quiet about the lead issue.

I’ll leave the final words for Randy Conner, the city’s Water Management Commissioner, “Chicago has the best drinking water and the cleanest drinking water that is ever to be found.”

Pass me the bottled water as I praise the day I moved to the suburbs.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit from Morton Grove, Illinois.

By John Ruberry

Since Donald J. Trump’s upset win in 2016 over Hillary Clinton–who after the election the left-wing media belatedly informed us was a flawed candidate–we’ve been bombarded with story after story that the president is either colluding with Russia or is weak in dealing with it.

But the Democrats have a decades-long history of failure involving Russia and the Soviet Union, which is something Mark Levin reminded me last week, as the media spewed venom after Trump’s summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin last week.

Here are some of those fiascos.

At the Yalta Conference in 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt, historically the most popular president among Democrats, signed over most of the eastern Europe to the Soviet Union, including Poland. It was the invasion of that nation by the Nazis that led France and Great Britain to declare war on Germany.

Graffiti in Latvia

While campaigning for a full presidential term in 1948 Truman said, “I got very well acquainted with Joe Stalin, and I like old Joe! He is a decent fellow. But Joe is a prisoner of the Politburo.”

Many Democrats still celebrate the memories of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who gave away atomic bomb secrets to the USSR. They were executed for treason in 1953. Alger Hiss, a State Department official, was convicted of perjury three years earlier. Many Dems revere his memory too. After opening up Soviet archives in the 1990s, it was discovered that indeed all three were Soviet agents, and yes, traitors.

“He savaged me.” is what John F. Kennedy said of Nikita Khrushchev after a two-day summit in 1961. The Soviet leader judged JFK as weak, two months later the communists began building the Berlin Wall. The following year the Soviets commenced building a missile base in Cuba, which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly started a nuclear war.

Amazingly, the Democrats’ “Lion of the Senate,” JFK’s brother Ted Kennedy, hadn’t learned his lesson after being thumped in the Democratic primaries at the hands of incumbent president Jimmy Carter in 1980. The peanut farmer was trounced in a landslide in the general election later that year. Yet Kennedy was considering challenging Reagan in 1984. His plan was to–wait for it–collude! Teddy would aid Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in confronting Reagan–and the leader of the Evil Empire would assist Kennedy in facing off against the Gipper.

Barack Obama’s feckless response to the Syrian Civil War allowed Russia to gain a foothold in that troubled nation. After Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, Obama did nothing.

Shortly after becoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton presented a “reset” button to Russian counterpart, signifying a new start to relations between our countries.

Bonus round:

The Democrats’ favorite newspaper is the New York Times. Its Moscow correspondent in the 1920s and 1930s, Walter Duranty, received a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Stalin’s USSR. But not only did Duranty fail to report on the famine in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s, he claimed such stories about it were untrue. But Duranty knew that as many as 10 million people starved to death during the famine, which as a direct result of Stalin’s barbaric policies. The proliferation of fake news is not a recent development.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. His wife was born in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.

By John Ruberry

Little Marathon Pundit and I were on vacation earlier this month and our travels brought us to Wisconsin and Michigan. On our final day of that trip we visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, just six days prior to the 105th anniversary of the birth of the 38th president.

Of the presidents of my lifetime, Gerald Ford is the obvious choice for the “Most Likely to be Forgotten Award.” That’s partly understandable. His 29 months in office was the shortest term of any president who didn’t die in office. And Ford was the closest thing to a “regular guy” to live in the White House. The media loved Ford for that–delighting on him toasting his own English muffins in the White House kitchen. They loved Ford–yes, he was a Republican–until he pardoned his predecessor, Richard M. Nixon, one month after being sworn in to office.

Immediately Ford became a buffoon and a dope. He now was the media’s enemy and ordinary instances were blown out of proportion. He stumbled and fell from the steps of Air Force One. Have you ever had a misstep on a set of stairs? He sliced a few golf balls into crowds–those onlookers would not have been there if he was still House Minority Leader. Ford was an accomplished skier, but do you know what? Skiers fall. And so did he. Chevy Chase’s impersonations of him on Saturday Night Live portrayed him as dimwitted and yes, a man who could barely remain on his feet.

But Ford was arguably the greatest presidential athlete. He was an All-American football center for the University of Michigan. He was offered contracts by the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. Until very late into his long life Ford regularly swam laps, Ford had an outdoor pool built on the White House grounds to replace the indoor one that Nixon converted into a press room so he could remain in shape.

Ford “the dummy” graduated in the top third of his class at Yale law school.

In short, because of the Nixon pardon, Ford was bombarded by, not fake news, but a fake perception from the media.

The museum of course looks back at Ford’s improbable rise from being abandoned by his father two weeks after his birth to becoming an Eagle Scout and a star athlete. After college and law school Ford returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids to practice law. After Pearl Harbor Ford joined the Navy. Shortly after marrying Betty Bloomer in 1948, Ford won his first election as congressman of Michigan’s 5th district. By the mid-1960s Ford was the House minority leader.

The film about Ford’s life, “A Time To Heal,” plays there.

As the Watergate scandal raged. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, pleaded no contest to tax evasion and resigned. Nixon, under the provisions of the recently enacted 25th Amendment to the Constitution, nominated Ford as Agnew’s replacement, which Congress approved. Thus Ford became the first vice president–and the only president–not elected by the American people.

“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots,” Ford said in his brief inaugural address, “and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.” And alluding to Watergate, he added, “Our long national nightmare is over.”

But Ford was president during an unusually eventful 29 months, which the museum documents. What transpired included: His controversial choice of liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president, rampant inflation and the brutal l974-75 recession, the Mayaguez incident, the fall of South Vietnam, a summit meeting with Leonid Brezhnev, his signing of the Helsinki Accords, two assassination attempts–within a month, a general gloom of the American psyche, and his defeat by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election after a hard-fought primary battle with Ronald Reagan.

Quite a bit of bad stuff, to be sure. But the American Bicentennial was celebrated in 1976.

Oh yeah, Ford pardoned Nixon.

Blogger with Ford

The current special exhibit at the museum is centered on his wife, Betty Ford, the centennial of her birth was in April. Her life was a momentous one too. Unlike her recent predecessors as First Lady, Betty was outspoken. Six weeks after moving into the White House she underwent a mastectomy–which brought much needed attention to breast cancer. Two years after her husband’s electoral defeat she was treated for alcoholism and an addiction to painkillers. Rather than hiding in shame, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center, America’s best-known substance abuse treatment center.

Yesterday during the Gerald Ford birthday celebration at the museum a statute of Betty was unveiled.

Jerry and Betty Ford–two Americans who had two remarkable lives.

If you are anywhere near Grand Rapids, a visit to the Ford museum is worth your time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

“I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law….Roe v. Wade is a constitutional right that is well established.”

Thus spake Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), according to a CNN report.

But which Roe v. Wade decision does Sen. Collins stand by? There’s the imaginary Roe, which dictates that unregulated abortion be available throughout pregnancy. Then there’s the actual Roe, which permits states to leave abortion unregulated but also permits many laws protecting the lives and safety of mother and preborn child.

Where does Sen. Collins stand on First Amendment protections for peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities? After all, McCullen v. Coakley is “established decision, established law.” Or does she consider peaceful pro-life witness to be an attack on abortion rights?

How about restrictions on public funding of abortion and abortion counseling? The Supreme Court OK’d such restrictions decades ago. Abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU Reproductive Rights Project use terms like “gag rule” to describe efforts to keep abortion providers out of taxpayers’ wallets. In the Senator’s view, do restrictions on public funding amount to “hostility” to Roe v. Wade?

Parental notification for minors’ abortions, reflection periods before abortion, informed consent laws, restrictions on mid- and late-term abortion, protections for children who survive attempted abortion: certain forms of these laws have been found consistent with Roe. Then again, PP and ACLU consider such measures attacks on abortion rights.

The pro-Roe Senator Collins could vote with a clear conscience for a jurist who supports the abortion regulations that have been approved by the Supreme Court since Roe. Such a nominee would not be hostile to the actual Roe decision, even if that nominee displeased PP and the ACLU.

Maybe one day there will be less deference to a precedent that’s inconsistent with human dignity. For now, though, we’re left with wondering what Senator Collins means by “hostility.”

Ellen writes about the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

Now’s the time to celebrate the First Amendment and support independent journalism by hitting DaTipJar. Thank you!

By John Ruberry

Until the latest leftist outrage—the need to eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)–the gripe about President Donald J. Trump was that he is the leader of a cult.

It all started when outgoing US Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said that his party was in a “cult-like situation” over Trump.

The left-wing media pounced on the remark and ran with it.

Not surprisingly there is a personality cult in American politics and of course it involves the left, which invented what Nikita Khrushchev condemned as “the cult of personality” that surrounded Joseph Stalin, and it’s centered on Barack Obama.

The sheep in Orwell’s 1984 chanted “All animals are equal” and the Obama minions chanted “Yes we can.”

Especially during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama followers would speak of an Obama-way-to-do-this and ask “What does Obama think about that?” The Obama campaign “O” symbol served as a 21st-century version of the Soviet hammer-and-sickle. The mainstream media was along for the ride. The best example was the “God of All Things” cover on Newsweak. oops, make that Newsweek.

The Is Barack Obama the Messiah? blog did a stupendous job collecting worshipful images from the Obama cult.

But like most demagogues, Obama stunted the next generation of leadership. So the Obama cult continues. Although he hasn’t really gone away, Democrats are clamoring for Obama’s return, in a sort-of leftist version of Joseph Campbell’s hero journey, which will end, Beowulf-like, when Obama slays the orange-haired dragon–the Russian usurper!–and completes the work of his presidency by eliminating private-sector health care, instituting an open borders policy, and of course shutting down Fox News.

As for “the Trump cult,” many backers of the president were furious with him–including myself–when Trump signed into law the fiscal 2019 budget. And if Trump commutes the prison sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, I’ll be angry with him over that.

There is no Trump cult.

UPDATE 7/19/18: Oops. I meant to write Orwell’s Animal Farm up above, not 1984. My mind was on my upcoming vacation when I wrote this post!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Welcome to Liberal, Kansas

By John Ruberry

“You’re not of the body,” is what Dr. McCoy shouted at his Enterprise officers after being brainwashed in the ways of Landru in the Star Trek episode, The Return of the Archons

The most intolerant people I know are liberals, who I often refer to as leftists.

First a story:. Back in 2007 I visited Liberal, a small city in southwestern Kansas. The Sunflower State is one of the most least liberal states in America, so how did Liberal get its name? According to a Liberal visitors guidebook, a generous 19th century homesteader bucked the trend to charge passersby for water for their livestock. When learning that, it’s said that the travelers would reply, “That’s mighty liberal of you.”

Two nights ago Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump’s press secretary, sat down with members of her family to have dinner at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.

Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Red Hen pulled her aside–then asked Sanders to leave because she worked for the president.

In a 21st century way, that was mighty liberal of Wilkinson.

I have another story for you: In the 1980s, Republican governor Jim Thompson was having dinner at a restaurant in the Southwest Side Chicago district of Michael Madigan, a Democrat, who was then, as he is now, the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. The restaurateur called Madigan on the telephone and asked, “What do I do?” Madigan replied, “Give him first class treatment.”

That was mighty liberal of Madigan, in the 20th century way.

But in the present day liberals, make that leftists, not only can’t tolerate dissent, they can’t tolerate the very concept of contrary ideas. It devolves into blind delusional hatred, which was first identified by the late Charles Krauthammer in 2003 when he identified Bush Derangement Syndrome as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Bush Derangement Syndrome was a mild case of the sniffles among the libs compared to the raging fever that is Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Leftists gather their news from their preferred sources, such as the CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. They congregate in private Facebook groups where no conservatives are allowed. “Aha,” a liberal will scream out while reading my entry, “But don’t you wingnuts do the same thing, getting your news from Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and Breitbart? Don’t you have your own Facebook groups?”

Guilty as charged. But there’s a big difference with our side. The mainstream media leans to the left. Proof? Last week I was channel surfing and both ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, on their late night comedy shows, were simultaneously attacking Trump’s policies. Of course neither of them were funny.

When I was accompanying my mother, who has since passed away, for her chemotherapy treatments, we’d be subjected to the propaganda from the leftists on The View in the waiting room.

Sports reporting has become politicized. ESPN’s SportCenter dishes out liberalism, as do newspaper sports columnists Nancy Armour of USA Today and the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh.

Those of us on the right can’t bury our heads in the sand even if we wanted to.

Curt Schilling, a conservative, was immediately fired from ESPN for sharing a Facebook post that was viewed as anti-transgender.

A 2016 poll discovered that liberal and Democrats are three-times more likely to unfriend someone on Facebook over politics as opposed to conservatives. I’ve had good friends I’ve known for years, including a former girlfriend, unfriend me on Facebook because I support Donald Trump and they don’t. I’ve never unfriended anyone on FB over politics. I’ve only blocked abusive people on Twitter–never once over their political views.

Which is why I was not surprised when I heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked into the alternative leftist universe of the Red Hen in Virginia, she was told to scram.

Sanders is not of the body. She is not a denizen of the liberal echo chamber.

Finally, I’ll end with a quote. When the 1992 Los Angeles riots raged Rodney King pleaded, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Sanders should have been given first class treatment at the Red Hen, just as any other patron there deserves.

Despite our political differences, Americans still have plenty in common.

Wait! I’m not done. Of course parallels are being drawn between the Sanders booting and the devout Christian Coloradans who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. They view same-sex weddings as a sin. Personally, I believe the bakers should have taken the order with a love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin approach.

But our constitution offers religious protections, that are still not completely determined, even after the US Supreme Court ruled in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Admiral Theater billboard outside of Chicago

Stormy Daniels was in Chicago last week, taking her clothes off and dancing for 15 minutes. Yep, a quarter of an hour, that was, at least on Thursday, the duration of her show.

Although I was off work on Thursday and the Admiral, an old vaudeville house that has been a strip club for decades, is just 10 miles from my home, I wasn’t there. Tickets to her show were pretty cheap, $30-$50. Compare that to the usual $25 entrance fee to the strip club, plus a one-drink minimum for a non-alcoholic beer which will set you back another eight bucks.

I assume the owners of the Admiral had to pay Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, a hefty fee for her appearances. If so, they had to make back their money elsewhere, so a photo meet-and-greet was organized–$20 bucks a pic–which ignited a spat that led to the Admiral’s owner, Sam Cecola, cancelling her Friday and Saturday night gigs.

Oh, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, Daniels claims to have had sex with Donald Trump twelve years ago. Trump’s former lawyer, the embattled Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to Daniels to keep quiet about it.

The dispute, according to the Chicago Reader, was not limited to Daniels’ objection to the photo ops. Keep in mind, this is a person who has sex, often unprotected, with men and women, and sometimes both at the same time, on camera. The Admiral also wanted Daniels to mimic Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday Mr. President” routine she offered to John F. Kennedy in 1962. Thursday was Trump’s 72nd birthday. She declined, another woman lip-synched Marilyn. Cecola says Daniels was an hour late for Thursday’s show, she demanded a bigger cut from that photo receiving line, and she didn’t rehearse her act. The porn actress also was perturbed by the presence of a Trump impersonator hired by the Admiral.

Sheesh, it’s only because of her claims about the real Trump that so many people, including myself of course, are paying attention to her.

By Friday afternoon Cecola and Daniels–metaphorically speaking, of course–kissed and made up. The shows were back on.

As you know, I didn’t attend any of the Daniels performances, but I’ve been to the Admiral a few times. (A blogger’s life brings me to many surprising places.). What kind of place is it? Muscular bouncers are everywhere and there is a no-touch policy in regards to the strippers–they prefer to be called dancers of course–although the last time I was there a friend of mine paid $100 for a booth dance. VIP rooms are even more. But table dances are just $10.

Blogger at Chicago’s Trump Tower

The seedy side of the Admiral, in what the Chicago Tribune Morgan Greene called “a wide ranging interview” with Daniels about the Chicago dust up and her life as a mainstream celebrity, was not covered, nor was the content of her porn movies. Anyone who makes the president look bad must be taken seriously by the Trump-hating media. Greene says that Stormy isn’t interested in politics but a quick Google search uncovers that in 2010 she was briefly a Republican candidate for the US Senate seat then held by incumbent David Vitter of Louisiana, who once was a client of an escort service. Hey Greene, it’s called research.

At 39, Daniels doesn’t have much time left to cash in on her notoriety. If she doesn’t squirrel away her money, she might be on the washed-up celebrity bartender circuit in a few years and collecting money from photo meet-and-greets. Men wearing Trump wigs will be welcome, I am sure.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

A major story broke last week, and while the mainstream media dutifully reported on it, there was no blanket coverage, unlike in the case of the guilty plea of Trump campaign hanger-on, George Papadopolous, one of the big catches of Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe.

What was that big breaking news? Recently-retired Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe, who National Review’s Andrew McCarthy calls “a textbook swamp creature,” was arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI. Wolfe worked for the Senate Intelligence Committee for 29 years and he’s suspected of being a longtime leaker of classified information to reporters.

One of those journalists may have been Ali Watkins, 26, a Washington-based New York Times writer. As part of the Wolfe investigation, several years of telephone and email records belonging to Watkins were seized by federal investigators. The Committee to Protect Journalists says it fears the move “could be an opening salvo in an ongoing battle over reporters’ ability to protect their sources.”

Ah, about that source: In an article about the mainstream media uproar about the seizure, The Times, in the seventh paragraph of that piece, admitted about Watkins, “She and Mr. Wolfe had been in a three-year relationship, which drew the attention of prosecutors who were investigating unauthorized leaks from the Senate Intelligence Committee, including articles that Ms. Watkins had written for two previous employers, Politico and BuzzFeed News.” Yes, Little Red Watkins was inappropriately involved with the Big Bad Wolfe.

Oh, Wolfe is 57.

The Old Gray Lady also disclosed in that article that Watkins was informed in February that those electronic records of hers had been seized. After speaking to her attorney, Watkins decided not to tell the Times. Left undiscussed is whether she told anyone at the Times that she was involved in a relationship with Wolfe. Buzzfeed and Politico knew.

The mainstream media is comprised of phonies and frauds. Had Watkins been an FBI agent investigating Wolfe, they’d be calling for her dismissal. But Watkins is still on the job–on the same beat–which is federal law enforcement. No suspension, no transfer to the sports department or local school coverage for the Times for her.

Here’s the big question: Did the New York Times know that Watkins and Wolfe had that “relationship,” which I assume was of a sexual nature, before she was hired? Did they know before Wolfe’s indictment?

The media plays tough when it discovers blood in the water surrounding political figures, particularly ones it despises, such as President Donald Trump. But when a member their club is caught acting unethically it just circles the wagons and moves into protection mode.

Trump is right. The swamp needs to be drained. The Deep State needs to be dethroned.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Theodore Herzl School of Excellence, Chicago’s West Side

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

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

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

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

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

“Very little,” Jackson replied.

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

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

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

Her ex-employer won the bid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama’s daughters attended a private school in Chicago.

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

And what about the filth and the sexual assaults?

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

Most CPS schools are warehouses of the poorly educated.

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

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

Fitch rates CPS bonds as junk.

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

Does it continue on its same road to defeat?

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

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

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

Blogger in downtown Chicago

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

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

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

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

By John Ruberry

“It [the Thames River] had borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashing in the night of time, from the Golden Hind returning with her round flanks full of treasure, to be visited by the Queen’s Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic tale, to the Erebus and Terror, bound on other conquests—and that never returned.”
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

Last Monday I completed watching AMC’s ten-episode masterful series, The Terror, a telling, with many needed embellishments to fill in the missing details, of John Franklin’s Lost Expedition of 1845-1848.

The voyage was a British Navy attempt to navigate an ice-free route through the Canadian Arctic, the Northwest Passage, an envisioned shortcut to China, that to this day, is a rarely navigable by large ships. The expedition was led by Sir John Franklin, who was also the captain of the Erebus. Francis Crozier captained the Terror. The ships were last seen between Greenland and Baffin Island in 1845. After wintering off of Beechey Island, where three crew members died, the ships became trapped in the following year, it’s believed they never sailed again. Franklin died in 1847, and the last communication from the expedition, a note left in a cairn on King William Island, reported that an astounding 24 men died before the ships were abandoned in 1848. The crew of the ship totaled 134 when it departed the Thames. Only a few bodies and some bones–some of which betray evidence of cannibalism–and a smattering artifacts were discovered after an exhaustive series of rescue missions. Over the following decades it was ascertained that the men may have been debilitated, both physically and mentally, by lead poisoning from shoddily soldered cans of food.

There were no survivors.

That’s the essence of what is known of the expedition.

The Terror series, based on a novel by Dan Simmons, imaginatively fills in the details of what might have happened to the crew.

Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) ignores the advice of Crozier (Jared Harris) and they get stuck, well you already know that part of the story. The ships are menaced by a mysterious creature, Tuunbaq, which appears to be a polar bear. An Eskimo woman (Nive Nielsen) becomes their only human connection to the Arctic, of which Crozier says, “This place wants us dead.”

True, very true.

About Tuunbaq: Is it real, or an elaborate exaggeration where Inuit legend melds with lead-poisoned induced dementia?

The most compelling character is a young petty officer, Cornelius Hickey (Adam Nagaitis), who in a role reminiscent of George Segal’s in the Japanese prisoner of war movie, King Rat, uses the catastrophe to recreate himself as a leader. As so often happens, when order collapses cunning operators such as Hickey move in. Something bad becomes something worse.

Of course they don’t realize it right away, but the crew of the Franklin Expedition are imprisoned just as the inmates in King Rat were.

Crozier finally decides to abandon the ships–and the crew embarks on an 800-mile journey by foot to a remote mainland Canadian outpost–pulling many of their belongings, including unneeded books, in lifeboats refashioned as sleds.

The situation becomes dreadful for them as the series gets even better.

The Terror was filmed in Hungary, superbly done CGI replicates the ice-bound ships and the rocky terrain of Beechey and King William islands. If you perform a Google image search of these forlorn islands, you’ll swear the series was filmed on location.

Paul Ready’s portrayal of surgeon Harry Goodsir, who remains kindly even while he gently declines the request of a dying man that he not perform an autopsy on him, is also praiseworthy.

I enjoyed the series, although I have to call out an overdone flogging scene that devolved into sadomasochistic torture.

Then again, like Conrad’s steamboat in his novella, the Terror and the Erebus sailed “into the heart of an immense darkness.”

AMC is still showing The Terror and it’s available where I live on Xfinity On Demand.

This show is not for the squeamish.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.