Bloodletting the American economy

By John Ruberry

I am living in the third week of Illinois’ shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The streets are quiet, the parking lots in many retail spots are either empty, if it’s a mall, or less crowded if that shopping area has a grocery store.

At home there are three of us. I’m the only one with a job. I’m a commission sales person but income is down. Mrs. Marathon Pundit, after getting laid off a month ago, drove Uber until the shelter-in-place order was put in place on March 21. She filed for unemployment for her first time the following week. Little Marathon Pundit’s employer shut down when the shelter-in-place order went into effect. She was paid until she was informed by a letter yesterday that she was furloughed–then she promptly filed a jobless claim. Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have done the same recently.

We are holding up okay. We are healthy and not suffering from anxiety. I’ll have more on mental health later.

As of Easter morning there have been nearly 20,000 confirmed novel coronavirus in the Land of Lincoln with 677 deaths. Each person was loved and will be missed. Each death is a tragedy.

Yet most of the COVID-19 fatalities already had illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Or they suffered from unhealthy underlying factors such as high blood pressure and obesity. Or they smoked. Let me repeat, each death is a tragedy.

Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about what I still believe is an overreach in Chicago in response to coronavirus. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, among other things, has closed Chicago’s sprawling lakefront to even solitary walkers, runners, and cyclists. Barbershops and hair salons, along with many other businesses, have been viewed as non-essential by Governor JB Pritzker, although that didn’t stop Lightfoot from getting her  hair done.

But Lightfoot’s reaction is mild compared to what is going on in a nearby state, Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a Democrat like Lightfoot and Pritzker. While she hasn’t run out of things to ban or shutter, Whitmer, who is supposedly on Joe Biden’s shortlist of running mates, might reach that millstone.

Travel between homes–even walking across the street–is banned in the Great Lakes State, unless it involves checking on someone’s health. Stores deemed essential are open, but in a bizarre overreach, garden center sections in those open retail outlets are cordoned off, including seed displays. Gardening, generally a solitary pursuit, is a fabulous mental health salve.

Yes, Michigan has one of the highest coronavirus rates in the nation. Cases are concentrated in the Detroit area, which by all accounts has disproportionately more residents suffering from the underlying health issues I mentioned earlier.

There is speculation over a second wave of COVID-19 coming later this year. If that’s the case in between there will be a mental health crisis. Joblessness and money troubles are a reliable predictor of suicides

Not every family is a happy one. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has already decried the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” now that much of the planet is enduring a lockdown. Alcohol sales are up since the shelter-in-place orders began. Will this lead to a higher rate of alcoholism? Will problem drinkers who kicked the habit suffer a relapse? Will there be a hike in narcotics abuse?

Liquor stores are open in everywhere where they were before the pandemic–I’m not calling for their closure. In Michigan you can buy booze and visit a marijuana dispensary. But stay away from that seed aisle at the local big box store! Governor Gretchen Whitless is watching!

Lee Chatfield, a Republican, is the speaker of the Michigan House.

Flint, which is no stranger to economic turmoil, issued a 9am-6pm curfew as long as Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order is effect. Violators face up to $2,000 in fines and six months in jail. Even the ACLU is rolling its eyes over the Flint curfew. I’ve been to Flint. Take my word for it, most residents of the Vehicle City don’t have $2,000 lying around. 

Two hundred years ago  bloodletting was viewed by most physicians as a valid and effective medical treatment for a variety of illnesses. George Washington, a believer in bloodletting, was arguably killed by his doctor who bled him as he was suffering from a throat infection. That cure for Washington and countless others was worse than the disease. 

Now I fear we are bloodletting the American economy. I fear the wide-ranging shelter-in-place orders could trigger an economic depression with the horrible health repercussions I described above. And more. 

President Donald Trump is right. We need to re-open the American economy as soon as possible. 

Our collective health depends on it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

I oppose Trump’s commutation of Blagojevich sentence

By John Ruberry

“I didn’t cross any lines I didn’t break any laws,” disgraced former Illinois governor told Rod Blagojevich Fox Chicago’s Larry Yellen in his first interview after his 14-year prison sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump.

Blago did both, which is why I oppose Trump’s commutation. I’m also on the other side of the opinions of my conservative friends and relatives here in the Land of Lincoln. Two of them are lawyers who have tried cases in front of now-retired federal judge James Zagel, a Ronald Reagan appointee. One of those attorneys remarked to me that he was “a hardass with a tin ear.” When I pointed out that one of the counts that the Chicago Democrat was convicted was for was attempting to extort a children’s hospital, he conceded, “Yeah, that was a bad one.”

So is trying to sell a US Senate seat to the highest bidder. As is lying to federal agents.

“I will govern as a reformer,” is what Blagojevich declared in his first inaugural address. His idea of reform was replacing the crooks and ward heelers surrounding his predecessor, Republican George H. Ryan, with his own crew of corruption. Blago’s friend and top aide Christopher Kelly was one of them. Shortly before he was to begin his five-year prison sentence, Kelly committed suicide. Two of Blagojevich’s chiefs of staff served time. Tony Rezko, his political fixer and fundraiser, served several years in federal prison. While they may have willingly been on board Blago’s corruption express, the former governor aided in ruining several lives.

Rezko of course was a key fundraiser in the early years of Barack Obama’s political career. The fixer and his wife played a role in the purchase of the Obamas’ Chicago mansion, the transaction has never been completely explained.

“He honestly believes he did nothing wrong,” Yellen told Mike Flannery this weekend about Blago on Flannery Fired Up

On my own blog I explained my opposition to the commutation with one caveat. If Blago spills the beans on what he knows about his political adversary, longtime state House speaker and Democratic Party chairman Michael Madigan, I’ll give Trump’s move a second thought. There is a current federal investigation of Illinois corruption and Boss Madigan’s name keeps coming up. True, whatever Blagojevich knows probably falls outside of the statute of limitations, but it can’t hurt either. Illinois needs to be power-scrubbed and sand-blasted. Illinois needs much more transparency. 

And as I’ve said many times, one way to finally clean up Illinois is to have judges like James Zagel impose maximum sentences on crooked pols and public workers. Fear is a powerful motivator. The 28-year sentence that former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick received–he had his hands in a lot more pots than Blagojevich–is a good example.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Tlaib makes a bigoted statement and gets a pass, Blackhawks announcer gets pilloried for innocent remark

Blogger on the left, as broadcast on WGN-TV Chicago during a Blackhawks game in Nashville in 2018

By John Ruberry

Oh, the things the left gets away with…

Unless you are consumer of conservative media, or news sources from Detroit–I’m both of those things—you probably missed a piece of awful offal from US Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a member of “the Squad.”

If you live in the Chicago area, as I do, you probably heard about the “racially insensitive” comments made by longtime Chicago Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley during a preseason game against a German team.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, was touring Detroit’s Real Time Crime center, which utilizes facial recognition technology to identify criminal suspects. Tlaib has her issues with facial recognition forensics, She Tweeted in August, “@detroitpolice You should probably rethink this whole facial recognition bulls**t.”

In a tour last Tuesday of the center with Detroit’s police chief, James Craig, one that the Detroit News described as “tense,” the freshman congresswoman told Craig that only blacks should be employed as facial recognition analysists at the center. Yep. She said that. Her actual comments were, “Analysts need to be African Americans, not people that are not. I think non-African Americans think African Americans all look the same.”

Wow.

Craig, who is black, took the high ground by replying, “I trust people who are trained, regardless of race; regardless of gender. It’s about the training.”

Of course it is.

Craig later condemned Tlaib’s remarks. “If I had made a similar comment people would be outraged,” he told Detroit’s ABC affiliate, “they would be calling for my resignation.”

CNN.com covered the Tlaib facial recognition comments, as did Fox News, but the national media otherwise ignored her obnoxious remarks, although a Washington Post technology writer covered some practical issues with facial recognition in response to what she said.

In short, Tlaib got a pass because she is woke. She’s also a Democratic Socialist.

Not so Pat Foley, the television voice of the Chicago Blackhawks. I don’t know Foley’s politics. Perhaps he’s apolitical. But Foley, who is white, is not woke. He has not spoken of the glories of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. He does not make large contributions to left-wing organizations. He has not apologized for his “white privilege.”

Oh, what did Foley say that got the left so upset? During that ‘Hawks preseason game against Eisbären Berlin, while opposing forward Austin Ortega handled the puck, Foley said, “Ortega, who sounds like he ought to be a shortstop.”

Yep, that’s it. A Chicago Tribune writer deemed Foley’s quip “racially insensitive.” The Blackhawks, in their apology stopped short of that, calling what he said only “insensitive.” Sports Illustrated covered the kerfuffle.

The Blackhawks in that statement noted that Foley, a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award by the Hockey Hall of Fame, apologized to the Berlin team.

What appears to have ignited the controversy was a Tweet from an Hispanic hockey fan, Ghostchant, who distorted Foley’s words. “‘Ortega, sounds like he should be a shortstop’ instead of hockey.” Yep, “instead of hockey.”

But there is something else. Foley didn’t say “instead of hockey.” The Tweeter, who, if he has a sense of honor would place himself into his personal penalty box for a spell, added those words.

Here’s the entire Tweet along that “insensitive” comment from Foley.

In this split-second-glance-at-my-smartphone world, it’s easy to see why Ghostchant’s dishonest Tweet went viral. Many people look, get outraged, then re-Tweet or post on Facebook, without digging into the veracity of information on that puny screen, or, as I suspect in this instance, bothering to play the accompanying video clip.

Foley’s reputation has taken an undeserved dirty hit.

Tlaib, on the other hand, just keeps going.

What happened to Foley reminds me of a comment made by Nixon White House thug, Charles Colson, who later redeemed himself post-prison. “Anyone who opposes us, we’ll destroy,” he said, “as a matter of fact, anyone who doesn’t support us, we’ll destroy.”

That’s today’s left. Destroy first. Ask questions later. If at all.

There’s a lesson here. If you are a prominent person, unless you are deemed woke, you cannot comment on race or ethnicity, according to the rules of the high priests of the left.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.