By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

Chicago’s Northwest Side

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Blogger in downtown Chicago

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

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

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

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana is facing a $650 million dollar fiscal cliff and two previous special legislative sessions have failed to solve the dilemma, and so special session number three begins today, at a cost of about $60,000 per day.

Throughout this crisis the normal groups have been targeted and threatened for extinction: higher education and health care.  In May, 30,000 Medicaid recipients were threatened with eviction from nursing homes as their benefits were threatened.  The popular TOPS scholarship program has been targeted for deep cuts which has filled parents and students with anxiety. The latest threat is that the food stamp program for the entire state will be cancelled in January unless legislators find a solution to this budget shortfall.

In simplest terms, state democrats want to raise revenue through additional taxes while state republicans want to cut funding.  It’s a bit more complex than that, obviously, but that’s the crux of the issue:

Just hours after the second special session of the year ended, the Louisiana House Republican Caucus, which has positioned itself as the largest opponent to Edwards’ agenda, vowed it “will not waver” in the third.

“Since the first day of this legislative session and throughout the special session, the Louisiana House Republican Delegation has been crystal clear in its opposition to growing the size of government,” the caucus said in its statement. “We will enter into the upcoming special session laser-focused on reducing state spending and meeting the critical needs of the state. Our commitment to the taxpayers will not waver.”

Governor John Bel Edwards (D) wants to raise revenue through extending an expiring tax:

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to give a short session-opening address about 5 p.m., urging lawmakers to agree to extend one-half of an expiring 1 percent state sales tax. House Republican leaders have been steadfastly opposed to the half-cent proposal and continue to push for a smaller fraction.

And so while both sides are steadfast in their positions, it seems, and unwilling to come to any compromise, we are spending around $650,000 million for each special session.

Makes perfect sense to me.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia (Oct. ’18).  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

Sun-Times headquarters

By John Ruberry

A week ago the Chicago Sun-Times began a high-profile begging campaign with a white splash–a blank sheet of paper–as its front page to draw attention to an op-ed, “Imagine Chicago without the Sun-Times: An urgent appeal.”

Or, the editorial could be titled, give us money or the Sun-Times will shut down.

“Until now, we’ve offered our online content for free. But we can no longer afford to operate our business this way,” the Sun-Times said in that plea. “Imagine our city without our headlines,” it continues. “Without our journalists to tell your side of the story.”

Your side?

My side?

Since then I’ve noticed three follow-ups, including two columns–my guess is they were ordered by Sun-Times brass to write them–by Richard Roeper and Neil Steinberg. This morning on Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up, the Sun-Times’ managing editor, Chris Fusco, along with James Warren, who held the same job at the competing Chicago Tribune, pleaded the case for online Sun-Times subscriptions, which the host, Mike Flannery, endorsed as he told the pair that he had just signed up.

Warren said of the current owners of the newspaper, “They’re severely undercapitalized.”

Who owns the Chicago Sun-Times? A consortium of left-leaning investors, including a former Chicago alderman and failed Democratic candidate for governor, along with the Chicago Federation of Labor, which is an umbrella group of local unions. The CFL’s executive board is heavy with public-sector union bosses.

Chicago is one of the few cities left that has two mass-market daily newspapers. Television struck the first blow against big-city newspapers decades ago; the internet, which newspapers embraced twenty years ago when most of them put their content online for free–naively hoping that ad revenue would pay the bills–provided the second blow.

Houston, we have a problem. The city that seems poised to surpass Chicago in population, became a one mass-market newspaper town in 1995 when the Houston Post folded.

Or does Houston really have a problem?

Wikpedia lists nearly two-dozen Houston area newspapers, to be fair, none of them I’ve heard of until today. Sure, some of them are online-only publications. But is a book a book if it only appears on Kindle?

I believe so.

Of course there are scores of blogs based in Houston, perhaps many more, similar to the one you are reading now, as well as my own Chicago-area blog, Marathon Pundit–both of which represent my side. Perhaps yours too. The media elites love to dismiss blogs and news sites such as the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, or Breitbart as fake news, but of course the big shots never get things wrong.

Oh, the Chicago area boasts a dozen daily newspapers.

Let’s take a closer look at the Sun-Times’ side.

Richard Roeper was suspended then demoted by the Sun-Times after he was exposed for buying 25,000 Twitter followers.

Neil Steinberg, who blocked me on Twitter shortly after Election Day two years ago because I objected to a whacked-out anti-Donald Trump column spewed by him, is in my opinion the most execrable columnist in America. He should, as the late great Sun-Times-based Ann Landers would regularly advise, “seek counseling.”

The Holocaust was in part a failure of imagination. Jews just couldn’t imagine it. Which has to trouble anyone insisting it can’t happen now. Because that’s exactly what they thought then.

If you can’t see how this could turn really bad, really quick, let me ask you this: When Donald Trump fails to provide the boon he promised, when his protectionist trade policies crater the economy, who is he going to blame? Himself? Donald Trump does not blame himself.

Who will he blame? When he’s in Pennsylvania, talking to coal miners whose industry he did not revive; when he’s in Youngstown talking to factory workers whose jobs never returned, who will he blame? Who?

You know the answer.

Since November, 2016 the Trump economy has boomed, his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both Orthodox Jews, have enjoyed enormous power, some say too much, in the White House. And Trump will move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to the delight of many Jewish-Americans and of course, the Israeli government.

There is no Trump pogrom.

Steinberg later wrote a penitent book about the experience, but in 2005 he was arrested and jailed for a night after hitting his wife while he was drunk. He initially tried to use a public defender as his lawyer. Steinberg was being paid by the Sun-Times, right? At the time Steinberg was a member of the Sun-Times editorial board.

Not my side

Let’s take a look at the Sun-Times’ other regular opinion columnists. Mark Brown, Lynn Sweet, and Mary Mitchell are also leftists. The paper does re-print an occasional S.E. Cupp, piece, but this co-called conservative is a #NeverTrump Republican.

I didn’t forget about the Chicago Federation of Labor. As Illinois continues to plummet into the financial abyss, many members of the unions that comprise the CFL are doing well because they are or will be receiving generous but unaffordable taxpayer-funded pensions. While a couple of Republican governors share blame in the debacle, Michael Madigan, the man a former Sun-Times reporter, Dave McKinney, says is “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois,” deserves most of the dishonor. Illinois’ “House speaker-for-life” and “state Democratic Party chairman-for-life” has raked in a lot of CFL cash over the years, as has his daughter, the lame duck state attorney general, Lisa Madigan, as this Illinois Policy Institute graphic explains.

Definitely not my side.

Mike Madigan is the problem in Illinois, but don’t expect the Sun-Times to call for his ouster.

As Illinois and Chicago continues to lose population because of tax increases to attempt to pay for the local edition of what I called in this space The Great American Pension Swindle, this people-drain becomes the Sun-Times’ problem too. Fewer people living here means fewer readers and subscribers. If you live in Omaha, what does the Sun-Times offer you? Chicago’s best days are in the past and I expect that Chicago won’t remain a two mass-market-newspaper town for long. The Sun-Times is battling history with fewer troops in its camp.

Blogger at Chicago’s Trump Tower

But there will be other voices that will persevere.

Including mine.

And no, I won’t become a monthly subscriber to the Sun-Times.

Now, if the Sun-Times wants to add opinions like mine, then perhaps I’ll reconsider.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinoisan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The weird egg laying mammal with a duck’s bill on its face may hold the key to the problem of our antibiotics not working well against resistant bacteria and germs. Via Sky News:

A breakthrough by Australian scientists has found that the platypus – which is already a unique creature – is also in possession of fairly unique biochemistry.

Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Deakin University have discovered a special protein contained in platypus milk.

CSIRO scientist and lead author Dr Janet Newman said: “Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry.

“The platypus belongs to the monotreme family, a small group of mammals that lay eggs and produce milk to feed their young.

“By taking a closer look at their milk, we’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”

The study, published in Structural Biology Communications, finds that the way platypus mothers feed their young – which unusually for mammals hatch from eggs – has led to the antibacterial properties developing.

Platypus do not have teats, but instead express milk on to their belly where the young suckle it – meaning the milk becomes exposed to an environment where it could be contaminated by local bacteria.

Evolutionary processes have meant that the milk contains a special protein which protects the platypus babies against this bacteria.

Dr Julie Sharp of Deakin University said: “We were interested to examine the protein’s structure and characteristics to find out exactly what part of the protein was doing what.”

They found that the protein contained a unique 3D fold which had never been seen before in the structure of the molecule.

As Instapundit likes to say, “Faster, Please.”

Pic: Laura Romin and Larry Dalton. Via Sky News

Platypus, funny face, savior of the human race? (Apologies to The Doors)

Which will come first, the Zombie Apocalypse, or the Cure from mammals who lay eggs?

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

News of the financial problems at Toys ‘R’ Us had been in my local news long before it became big national news, because we have a store in my area that people were concerned about closing, back when the chain was simply going to shut some stores in an effort to stay in business, before deciding to go out of business altogether as it this week it was declared that it will.

Much like a certain failed U.S. Presidential candidate, Toys ‘R’ Us is blaming its catastrophic failure in every direction except where the blame squarely lies – on itself. It wasn’t killed by Amazon, it wasn’t killed by Target or Walmart, and it wasn’t killed by babies or a lack thereof. Toys ‘R’ Us killed itself, not only by failing to adapt to a changing marketplace but also, and more importantly, by failing to provide adequate customer service which would have garnered it some customer loyalty.

Shopping at a brick and mortar Toys ‘R’ Us store is a miserable and stressful experience. At my local store the place was always in disarray and there was never anyone to help. The checkout lines were always long and the employees were often very clearly unhappy to be there. Nobody wants to shop someplace aggravating if they can avoid it, and lots of people are willing to pay a little bit more someplace else to avoid a hassle. Not to mention that the prices at the Toys ‘R’ Us were really not competitive at all so, for all the frustration that shopping there entails, you weren’t even getting a good deal.

Shopping online at Toys ‘R’ Us, in my experience, was also an exercise in frustration – the search function on their site stinks, there is a long wait to get your item shipped for a fee, and you can’t opt to have your purchase shipped to the store for pickup – something almost every kind of chain store does these days. There is no “app for that” with Toys ‘R’ Us, for people who like that sort of thing, which seems weird to me since there is an app for pretty much everything you can think of so it doesn’t seem like it would have been impossible for them to do even with their money problems.

The reason why Toys ‘R’ Us failed is because they failed the people who could have saved them; they failed their customers, often failing them so egregiously that they turned off many people from ever shopping at Toys ‘R’ Us ever again. Repeat customers can be the lifeblood of a business, but Toys ‘R’ Us had little interest in customer retention over the years or they would have changed their horrid corporate culture long before it became a policy of retail suicide.

For a sampling of the real reasons why Toys ‘R’ Us is a failed business, have a look at some consumer complaints:

Beware of Toys R Us online, I ordered & paid for $105 worth of Cra-Z-Art SoundMoovs arm bands/electronics at Christmas, instead I received a $5 Thomas the train, huh?? After calling they corrected the order and sent me the armbands. Then the emails began, reminding me that I needed to return the armbands? Why would I return something I purchased?? After calling AGAIN, they said I needed to return the Toy Train, via US Post office!!? Pain in the rear, but okay, it’s done right? SURPRISE, they have now charged me AGAIN another $105.00 for the same items I already paid for. They said, so sorry but it will be 10 days before my $105 is refunded. By the way, some of us don’t have an extra $105 dollars laying around to support others mistakes. A customer for 10 years, I’ve spent thousands over that time in their store. Their apology gift to me? $10 off coupon for my next order… Sad, but there won’t be a next order. AMAZON it is…

Don’t ever buy online at Toys R Us! Ever!!! It’s been a month since I purchased 2 games for my son for Christmas and one of them was never shipped! I ordered the games on Thanksgiving. I called to track it and automated system told me it was shipped. I check the tracking number and item was never shipped. It just had a tracking number. I called again to asked for my refund and was promised it would take 48 hours to process for the credit. I called Dec 7, then again Dec 10, Then Dec 12th, then Dec 17, and then Dec 20 and Dec 27 and again today. It’s the 28th of December and I’m still dealing with their lying asses over one month later. Each customer service rep said that they would fix my issue and it doesn’t get fixed. I never received an email that the order was canceled or an email about my credit either. How many more times I would have to call to get my money back for a game that was never shipped?

What a terrible experience!! We were told by really immature store manager that they didn’t match prices when it says it in 8 foot tall letters on front window!!! REALLY immature, acting snarky, rolling eyes and shaking heads, we have grandkids that like this store. Just a shame the company cannot hire friendlier people than this especially since this is a “FAMILY STORE.”

There is MORE, and it indicates a pattern of an utter lack of concern for the customer; and you cannot survive as a retail business if your standard policies serve mainly to step on and piss off your customers. Toys ‘R’ Us died entirely of self inflicted wounds. Let the demise of Toys ‘R’ Us serve as a cautionary tale about how not to have a strong and loyal customer base.

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

Here in New York’s Scenic Hudson Valley, we are still digging out from two big Nor’easter storms that we’ve gotten in the past week. There are huge piles of snow and big broken tree branches all around my property, but my family was thankfully spared from the power outages that hit this area hard and our little house is still standing. Unfortunately, I’m on my second week with a nasty upper respiratory infection that my kids have caught as well so no sledding or snowman building for us. My dogs, however, had a grand old time jumping around their frozen play yard, so there’s that.

I recently learned that hot toddies can be made with pineapple juice and rum. Not for the kids, of course, although it would have been acceptable for previous generations, and while it did not really much help my symptoms but it did help me care a little bit less about them for a little while. You can make the toddies with any kind of juice, apparently, and whatever spirit you prefer as well – the key ingredients besides the booze and juice are honey and cinnamon. Heat the juice, add the other stuff, stir, and enjoy!

My mom used to make hot toddies with orange juice and whiskey before I developed a food allergy to oranges, but they are traditionally made with tea. Here is a link to a recipe for that: Dr. Pat’s Hot Toddy Cold Remedy

I’m going to have to cut this post short as there are coughing children who need my attention (so no toddies for me). I hope you are all safe and warm and well. I’ve got over the counter cold medicines, Vick’s Vapor Rub, and chicken soup to try to get us through our winter sicknesses but I am open to suggestions. If you’ve got a favorite home remedy or winter comfort food, please share in the comments section.

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