Illinois cannot cope with the present, let alone with the future, so it’s fighting a symbolic battle from the past.
Here’s a little history lesson: In 1972 Congress submitted the Equal Rights Amendment to the state legislatures, which read:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
There was a rush of states falling over year other to ratify would have been the 27th Amendment before the seven-year deadline for passage, which in an unprecedented move, was extended by Congress for an additional three years. Thirty-five states–nearly all of them did so in the first year after congressional passage–ratified the ERA. Then opposition, led by conservative firebrand Phyliss Schlafly, who ironically lived in Illinois at the time, focused on such concerns that in an ERA America, women would be eligible for a military draft and gender-specific bathrooms would be abolished.
Illinois did not ratify the ERA.
Three states, in a move never tested in a federal court, later rescinded their ratifications. No states ratified the ERA during the extension period and the Equal Rights Amendment died in 1982, three states–or six–short of what was needed to be enacted.
Or did the ERA really die?
Last year, thirty-five years after the deadline expired, Nevada ratified the ERA. And last month the Illinois state Senate voted to do the same. In the House, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who nominally represents me in the lower chamber, is the sponsor for the ERA there. It’s a pet cause of Lang, a consummate left-wing political hack. He’s the House deputy majority leader, in reality, he’s the head waiter for House Speaker for Life Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who Reuters says is “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.” Where is Lang’s pension fix? Illinois has one of the worst-funded public-worker pension systems of the fifty states. Its credit rating is the lowest of any state ever. Why? Pensions of course. And those generous retirement plans are in reality deferred compensation in exchange for public-sector union support of the Democratic Party. Yes, a couple of Republican governors, Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar, are also partly culpable. Illinois’ pension bomb, both at the state and local level, and the tax hikes to attempt to pay down that debt, are a millstone for the state and the reason the Prairie State is suffering from declining population.
Other than more tax increases, Lang has no solution to solve the pension crisis. And yes, he’s definitely part of the problem as Lang has been a state legislator since 1987.
What to do?
If you’re Lang, you create a distraction with a nostalgic, for the left that is, flavor. Ratify the ERA. The Democratic nominee for governor, JB Pritzker, is on board.
Of course Congress could vote to pass, with identical wording, a new Equal Rights Amendment. Lang can just call his pal US Rep. Jan Schakowsky, his (and yes, my) representative in the US House. She’s an even bigger leftist than he is. Then the states can have another go-around. That’s what the our nation’s founders would want.
On the other hand, passing an constitutional amendment is very difficult to do. In 229 years it’s only been accomplished 27 times. But the US Constitution has in reality been amended thousands of times–by the courts. Same-sex marriage was legalized in such a manner, as was abortion.
Other than making women eligible for a military draft, what would the ERA do?
But that’s not the point. Liberals are obsessed with symbolism.
After the 9/11 attacks author Tom Clancy expressed this notion better, telling Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “The political left is, you know, they deal in symbols rather than reality.”
The ERA is a symbol.
“The general difference between conservatives and liberals is liberals like pretty pictures and conservatives like to build bridges that people can drive across,” Clancy continued. “And conservatives are indeed conservative because if the bridge falls down, people die. Where as the liberals figure, oh, we can always build a nice memorial to them and make people forget it happened and it was our fault. They’re very good at making people forget it was their fault, all right.”
The ultimate blame for Illinois’ pension debacle and the resulting people-drain lies with the left.
And Illinois is a collapsed bridge.
Will passing the ERA make Illinoisans feel better?
John Ruberry is a fifth-generation Illinoisan, who, with a 401(k) plan, is funding his own retirement. He regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
Hayden: [stopping his horse and drawing a pistol] Good night Mr. Breen John Breen:You mean I can go? Hayden:Anytime John Breen: [looking at the armed men around behind him] What makes you think I will? Hayden:Because that way you’ve got a chance, a small one, but a chance John Breen: [griping reigns of his horse] Well never let it be said I didn’t take it
The Fighting Kentuckian 1949
On May 10 1941 Rudolf Hess flew solo to England to propose peace between England and the Third Reich. It had been a plan he had been working on since Sept of 1940, running short of fuel he had to bail out and was captured the next day making the case for peace between the British Empire and the Third Reich.
From Sept 1940 to May 1941 England had been standing alone against the Undefeated Reich, Italy and Japan, their army and not recovered from the loss of their equipment at Dunkirk. The Battle of the Atlantic against the U-Boat fleet was still very much in doubt and the prospect for help was not good. The non-aggression pact between Russia and Germany was still in force and the American public was not inclined to enter another war in Europe and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which would change their minds was still seven months away.
It’s a good thing for the world that Britain in 1941 was not run by the folks at Alder Ray Hospital in charge of Alfie Evans, the people at the NHS, the Judges in charge of his appeal, or the British Government of today that let it happen. For those folks and those on social media who have steadfastly defended them, the idea of costly fighting on with the odds against them would have had no appeal when you had a no cost alternative that guaranteed their existing empire.
Much easier to keep what they had and give up the freedom of France, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Norway and Poland. then take the long shot risks for the sake of their freedom.
The world is very lucky that the half American Winston Churchill was in charge at the time and was able to lead and inspire his people to fight on.
Alas for Alfie Evans that Churchillian “never say die” attitude while expressed by thousands of Americans online and in person was not present in the British Government in general or in the NHS in particular. A single hour of Winston and Alfie Evans would have been in Italy weeks ago given food and water with a chance, however small, for survival.
How incredible is it that the we have the spectacle of a German Doctor saying that this decision would be unthinkable in modern day Germany
A leading German pediatrician is saying that the way the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is dealing with disabled toddler Alfie Evans and his parents would never happen in his country given its history with the Nazi regime.
“We have learned in Germany because of our history, that there are things that you do not do with severely disabled patients,” Professor Nikolaus Haas, head of the Child Cardiology and Pediatric Intensive Medicine Unit at Munich University Hospital, told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper in an April 26 article.
“Our ethical understanding in Germany is different, I mean – thank God. The [hospital’s] logic that it is better for the child to die than that someone else looks at it, and even to sue [for that] in court, this is an unimaginable behavior for me,” he said.
Alas this is not unimaginable this is reality. Alfie Evans is dead, a bit shy of his 2nd birthday and the risk to the NHS and it’s defenders posed by his continued survival has died with him, ironically the same week that the newest son of British Royalty was named.
“First we must cross the river,” Benito was saying. “Do you believe me now when I tell you that you must not attempt to swim it, or even get wet from it, or must you try that too?”
“What happens if I just dive in?”
“Then you will be as you were in the bottle. Aware and unable to move. but it will be very cold, and very uncomfortable, and you will be there for all eternity knowing that you put yourself there.”
Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle Inferno 1976
A long time ago there was a country called Rhodesia. It was the breadbasket of southern Africa however it was ruled by a white minority government. This was an injustice.
That government was eventually replaced by a black majority government under Robert Mugabe rightly allowing proper self-rule. It was renamed Zimbabwe and started on a new chapter in its history
Unfortunately after a while it became clear that Mr. Mugabe was more qualified as a revolutionary than as a leader and while his ruling parties cronies did well the people did not. In order to try to retain electoral popularity started targeting white own farms which produced most of the country’s food. Many farmers left to avoid persecution which eventually led to the government confiscating property owned by white farmers and dishing it out to others who did not have experience in large-scale farming in the name of righting past wrongs.
Unfortunately this not only led to economic calamity but it led to food shortages as Zimbabwe which was once a net food exporter suddenly could not feed itself. After two decades it’s actually reached the point where the country is considering giving land back to this farmers in order to keep itself fed:
Among remaining farmers who have been recommended for a reprieve of Mr Mugabe’s edict that whites can no longer own land in Zimbabwe is Elizabeth Mitchell, a poultry farmer who produces 100,000 day-old chicks each week.
Her farm, Barquest, which lies around 160 miles south of Harare in Masvingo Province, had been allocated by the government to Walter Mzembi, the tourism minister, but he recently retreated after the provincial leadership backed her request to stay.
Shuvai Mahofa, Masvingo’s Provincial Affairs Minister, has recommended five more white farmers be issued with 99-year leases because their operations were, she said, of “strategic economic importance”.
Decades later the country has still not recovered.
South Africa‘s parliament has passed a motion that could lead to the seizure of land from white farmers without paying them compensation.
Passed by an overwhelming majority of 241 votes to 83 votes against, the proposal to amend Section 25 of the constitution would allow expropriation of land without any financial recompense.
It was put forward by the radical left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, whose leader Julius Malema told the country’s parliament: “We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land.”
White farmers in South Africa claim they are being targeted in a series of brutal attacks over land that are being overlooked by police and implicitly encouraged by the country’s parliament.
Activist groups promoting the rights of white people in the country claim there have been 90 recorded attacks in 2018 so far, with one farmer murdered every five days on average.
There is no official data supporting the idea that white farmers are more likely to be victims of attacks in South Africa, and the government strongly denies white people are being deliberately targeted and says farm murders are part of South Africa’s wider violent crime problem.
But the sheer brutality of the reported attacks – and the growing anger of a community in South Africa that believes it is being persecuted – are increasingly raising concerns.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, who recently declared his party was “cutting the throat of whiteness”, denied white farmers were being killed. “We don’t know violence, we know negotiations,” Malema told a packed Human Rights Day rally in Mpumalanga Stadium on Wednesday.
“And we are very robust in our engagement sometimes. A racist country like Australia says: ‘The white farmers are being killed in South Africa.’ We are not killing them. Now Australia says: ‘Malema, EFF want to kill white farmers, they must come to Australia.’
“If they want to go, they must go. They must leave the keys to their tractors because we want to work the land, they must leave the keys to their houses because we want to stay in those houses. They must leave everything they did not come here with in South Africa and go to Australia.”
Why is South Africa not learning the lessons of Zimbabwe? Well I talked about the reasons 5 years ago at the time of Nelson Mandela’s death:
Without question the removal of the evil Apartheid laws was a positive good and franchise being extended to all citizens is simple justice. A People must have the right to govern themselves and a government that doesn’t reflect the consent of the governed is unjust.
What is not axiomatic is that a popularly elected government will govern well.
The people have freely chosen to elect The African National Congress for 20 years by landslide majorities. That party has failed to stem unemployment, has seen life expectancy drop by nearly a decade during their rule and been a haven for murder and rape.
If the South African government seizes private property for free, someone somewhere within the economy will have to pay, whether directly through loss in current and future on farm job opportunities as well as export revenues, or through protracted economic decline that will erode the purchasing power of money, losses in pensions and savings, and deindustrialisation that will destroy future economic growth and off-farm job opportunities for the current generation.
Mr Broad said an “even bigger humanitarian crisis”, like a food shortage, could emerge if the situation escalated.
“The great lesson from Zimbabwe is when you value your farmers, you have food on the supermarket shelves,” he said.
If the goal was a prosperous and well fed South Africa that advice and example from history would be noted but for Marxists and Socialists the goals are not a prosperous and well fed South Africa but a South Africa governed by prosperous and well fed Marxist Socialists.
And when such people fail to govern well, as they invariably do, a scapegoat is required to pacify the people and the farmers of South Africa have been elected, and if such a decision leads to economic disaster and famine among the people, as long as that result doesn’t affect the ruling parties, they will shrug it off and proclaim any who question their decision as racists.
The saddest thing about what is going to happen is that unlike Mugabe in Zimbabwe where he ruled with an iron fist and brought this disaster down upon his land South Africa had Mandela who choose not to be a dictator and left an actual democracy allowing the people to freely choose their own path and yet they have chosen the same path as Mugabe.
Democracies and Republics always get the Government’s they deserve, I had hoped that after decades of oppression by a minority and bad government by the majority South Africans might have decided they deserved better.
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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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
The Current dispute between Poland and Israel over the history of the Nazi Occupation of Poland during World War two is one of the most foolish things I’ve seen two countries do in a long time.
It not only serves the purpose of their common enemies, of which there are many, to foment trouble between common friends made to take sides but clouds a fact so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to have to say it:
Poland and Israel are natural allies.
Think about how many things Poland & Israel have in common:
Both Poland and Israel are dealing with a left that berates them for defending their boarders.
Both Poland and Israel have forcibly made stands against Islamic Terror
Both Poland and Israel are threatened by Russian Allies
Both Poland and Israel and have been invaded by either the Russians or their allies during their countries lives.
Both Poland and Israel have found themselves in longshot wars against multiple enemies in the last century.
Both Poland and Israel have minorities (Russian & Arab) within their borders that are natural allies of their enemies.
Both Poland and Israel have historically had their countries overrun conquered, and wiped off the map and know what is to lose their homeland
Both Poland and Israel are strongly pro-america, strong allies and part of United States Defensive Planning.
That’s why this dispute over history is not only dangerous but plays right into the hands of those who today, not 30, or 50 or 75 years ago directly threaten both Poland and Israel.
No country likes to be the subject of mendacity and to state that the Polish State was complicit in the Holocaust, when it was overrun by BOTH the Nazi’s and the Soviets in WW2 and furthermore was subject of an armed occupation that didn’t end until 1992 (a full 44 years after the state of Israel was established) is not only the height of absurdity but a legitimate insult. Israel who has been the subject of international blood libels can appreciate that
At the same time to deny that, like in every country that the Nazi’s occupied, there were Polish collaborators both willing and unwilling who aided Nazi attempts to exterminate the Jewish race, or to deny any existence of antisemitism, either current or past, on the part of Polish nationals is also hogwash. Pols who had to deal with 40 years of occupation as a Russian satellite and force fed propaganda in an attempt to whitewash their history can appreciate that.
Now I’m a free speech guy and I think Poland is making a mistake with this law targeting speech, even libelous speech against their government. It’s much too easy for such a law to be abused, further if you can ban one type of speech you can ban another. If a person chooses to make an ass of himself by saying outrageous things I say let that person freely do so and let others freely call out such people for the liars and asses they are. This is something Israel has to deal with all the time.
So in the interest in uniting these national allies, both of whom I admire, may I humbly suggest the following joined declaration by the Polish and the Jewish states:
We the states of Israel and Poland Jointly Affirm the Following:
That both Jewish people and Polish people were victims of the 2nd World War
That the Polish State bears no responsibility for the atrocities of the Holocaust and any attempt to declare it so is a base lie
That any attempt to deny the Holocaust, or to deny that some individuals from occupied countries, including Poland, collaborated with Nazi attempts to destroy European Jewry is also a base lie.
That the scourge of antisemitism, both in the past and its current resurgence, both in the Arab world and within Europe particularly among Islamic migrants is an international disgrace.
Poland and Israel both not only condemn antisemitism but commit themselves as nations to opposing its spread.
The states of Poland and Israel both have the right to exist, secure within their own borders and have the right and obligation to protect and secure those boarders for the sake of their people.
That Israel commits itself to the protection of and the free access to sites in the Holy Land that are considered sacred not only to the Polish People but to Christians worldwide moved by the love of God and the desire to serve him.
That Poland commits itself to the protection of and the free access to sites in Poland that are considered sacred not only to Jews but to those worldwide who wish preserve the memory of those who the Nazis attempted to exterminate and to unite in the cry of “Never Again!”
Finally both Poland and Israel both affirm their commitment to fight the war against international terrorism and, when possible cooperate to bring the scourges of ISIS and Al Qaeda and all terrorist who would target the innocent to their knees.
I can think of no better way to not only defuse this crisis but to send a message to Poland’s and Israel’s common enemies that while like all friends there might be occasional disagreements between the two, they will stand united against the common enemies seeking to bring them both down.
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“But… but maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or… or some of those men in Washington.”
Julian Shellhammer, Macy’s toy department head in Miracle on 34th Street.
“On 24 March 1943, Päts was sent to forced treatment in psychoneurotic hospitals first in Kazan, then in Chistopol in Tatar ASSR. His forced psychiatric hospitalization was justified by his ‘persistent claiming of being the president of Estonia.'” Wikipedia biography of Konstantin Päts, the Estonian president who was deposed by the Red Army.
“I mean, psychiatry: it’s the latest religion. We decide what’s right and wrong. We decide who’s crazy or not.”
Dr. Kathryn Railly in Twelve Monkeys.
Last month during a two-day long private meeting with over a dozen members of Congress–all Democrats save one Republican senator–Dr. Bandy X. Lee, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Yale, said of President Trump, “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”
Lee is the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a book where 27 mental health professionals–meaning, I assume, as professionals that they earn their living in that field–rant about the “dangerousness” of the 45th president.
Two days ago The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey reported that Lee says there are Washington DC-based shrinks and legal organization who are willing–and no, this is not from a 24 script–to work to commit Trump against his will if White House staff issues troubling reports about him.
Trump Derangement Syndrome has reached a disturbing low, but no doubt the last. (Oh, I can make that diagnosis because I am not a mental health professional and TDS is not a clinical term.) Some people, with as many degrees slapped on them as you’ll find ads on hockey rink boards. just can’t accept the fact that Donald J. Trump is president. Are Lee and her cohorts intelligent? In a way, yes. On the other hand there is documentary about the fall of Enron entitled The Smartest Guys in the Room.
Ah, but there is some good news. The American Psychiatric Association reaffirmed its 1973 condemnation of what it calls “armchair psychiatry.”
Today, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reiterates its continued and unwavering commitment to the ethical principle known as “The Goldwater Rule.” We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media. Armchair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical.
The Goldwater Rule, as Alan Dershowitz points out in the Washington Examiner–Dersh voted for Hillary Clinton by the way–goes back to the 1964 presidential election when a magazine, based on interviews with 1,100 psychiatrists, deemed that the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, was unstable and therefore mentally unfit to serve as president. None of these smartest guys in the room had examined the Arizona senator, who served in the upper chamber with distinction for two decades after his landslide defeat, nor had they even met him.
The winner in that presidential election and the man Dershowitz voted for, Lyndon B. Johnson, got us entangled in the Vietnam War which led to the deaths of 58,000 Americans.
The “experts” were wrong.
The Trump-is-crazy meme will probably fade away soon, but not completely, I fear. But the left will proceed with more plots to remove Trump from office, which so far have included the Hamilton Electors (before he was sworn-in), Russia, emoluments, tax returns, and of course Russia.
Here is my non-professional mental health advice for those of all you Trump Derangement Sufferers: Deal with the strong likelihood that Trump will be president for the next three years–and probably seven. Presidents who run for reelection usually win. Accept it and find a way to get on with your lives, without watching CNN or MSBNC during every waking hour. I cannot promise happiness, no one can. But I suspect you will be less miserable.
Oh, by the way, Trump is not crazy. Not even a little bit.
For the uninitiated, the show is about, yes, the Peaky Blinders; who are named for the razor blades sewn into their flat caps which they use to attack their foes, that is when they are not shooting them. They are a Gypsy organized crime family headed by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). In 1919 Shelby Family Limited is a nothing more than a bookmaking operation based in the grimy Small Heath neighborhood of Birmingham. When season four begins at Christmas in 1925 the Peaky Blinders operation has expanded into London and it has extensive legitimate business holdings.
Hyman Roth told Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part Two, “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.” Tommy has no such line Peaky Blinders, but it would be credible if he did.
The next paragraph is worthy of a spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the first three seasons.
Season three was a mixed bag for me as the Russian caper that dominated it was a road to storyline-nowhere. That season ended with a bang as Tommy rats out the rest of the Shelby family–and season four picks up from there. And that’s not the only season three hangover. New York mafioso Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) is seeking vengeance for the murder by the Peaky Blinders of his father and brother. Brody’s performance ranks among his best work. As Changretta, there are traces of Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone accented with the psychoses of Joe Pescsi in Goodfellas.
The 1920s weren’t roaring in Great Britain–the economy struggled and communism gained a foothold within the political sphere. An attractive young communist woman. Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy), is stirring up trouble in the Shelby factories. Hmm, I wonder where that is heading? Tommy clearly hasn’t forgotten his gambling business roots–he hedges his bets in the struggle by also scheming with the 1st Baron Stamfordham, the king’s private secretary.
To fight Changretta Tommy hires another Gypsy, Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen), whose reputation for evil even unsettles the other Peaky Blinders. Yes, Gillen is Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. Gold and Tommy hatch a boxing match caper involving Jewish mobster Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy).
There is much bloodshed much betrayal. But Tommy perseveres and like a snake slithering up a flagpole, he keeps climbing despite the odds against him in class-obsessed Great Britain.
Will Tommy fall? If he does, we’ll have to wait until at least until season five to find out.
I was out of town in July when Detroit, the movie about the destructive 1967 riot and a police attack on a small group of guests at the Algiers Motel, hit the theaters. Directed by Kathryrn Bigelow, who is best known for Zero Dark Thirty and the Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker, is again teamed with scriptwriter Mark Boal. It stars John Borega, renowned for his role in the Star Wars reboot, as a torn African-American, who despite good intentions gets pulled into the carnage and the aftermath of the upheaval.
But by the time I got back home and found the time to see Detroit it was gone from theaters. Even before the Harvey Weinstein-ignited sex scandals, 2017 was an annus horribilis for Hollywood. Yes, Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast were tremendous hits, there were many notable flops, and among them was Detroit. That’s a pity because it is a masterful piece of filmmaking.
Last night I watched it by way of OnDemand on Xfinity.
The 1967 Detroit Riot is the demarcation line in history for that city, just as the Potato Famine is for Ireland and the defeat of the Armada is for Spain. It’s the Motor City’s before-and-after moment. “Ah, but that was before the riot,” or “riots,” sometimes the plural form is used, is something all Detroiters of a certain age say. Prior to the riot Detroit was America’s fifth-largest city, but now, for the first time since 1850, Detroit is not among America’s twenty-most populous cities. In 1950 Detroit was America’s most prosperous municipality, now it is one of its poorest. True, Detroit’s problems were evident in the 1950s and early 1960s, but at the time the few people paying attention to such things viewed that period as a rough patch or perhaps nothing more than a modest transitional period.
The world premiere of Detroit took place at the Fox Theatre two days after the 50th anniversary of the start of the riot, the old movie palace is the setting of one of the scenes in the movie. The film begins with an undermanned police raid of a black-run speakeasy–called a “blind pig” in Detroit–that quickly turns into a widespread tumult of looting, arson, and death. Archival news footage shows the devestation followed by a clip of Governor George Romney, Mitt’s father, announcing that the Michigan National Guard has been called out. By the end of the five-day riot Michigan state troopers and federal troops had been dispatched to Detroit as well.
Among the riot scenes is one with now-disgraced US Rep. John Conyers (Laz Alonso) urging a crowd for calm–they ignore him. Five months ago Conyers was still a civil rights icon. Now Conyers is shunned.
But most of the movie is centered on police tormenting suspects and witnesses at the Algiers, the reputed site of a sniper attack. After a performance by the Dramatics–who later gained fame for the hit “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” one of the group’s members, Larry Reid (Algee Smith), along with his personal assistant, take refuge at the Algiers, which is located just outside of the Virginia Park neighborhood, the heart of the riot zone. For a while it seems that despite the haze of the smoke from the arson fires and the constant sirens, the Algiers is the smart choice to have a party while Detroit burns. That is until an evil Detroit police officer, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), his two racist partners, troops from the National Guard, and Melvin Dismukes (Borega), a security guard, storm the Algiers in search of a sniper, who we know is Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), who simply but recklessly fired a track and field starting pistol. What follows is a series of intense torture-filled series of interrogations. Two young white prostitutes, one of them is portrayed by Hannah Murphy, who plays Gilly in Game of Thrones, are among those brutalized.
“I’m just gonna assume you’re all criminals,” Krauss tells them. One of those “criminals” is Robert Greene (Anthony Mackie), a Vietnam veteran who came to Detroit like hundreds of thousand of others before him–he is simply looking for work. Don’t forget, the blind pig raid busted up a party welcoming two other Vietnam vets home. Krauss denigrates Greene, says he “probably just drove a supply truck” while serving and accuses of him of being the pimp for the prostitutes.
Later Krauss asks the women, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves, having sex with n*ggers?” The other prostitute replies, “It’s 1967, a**hole.” But the mixing of blacks and whites was still a problem for many 50 years ago.
Finally and tragically the Algiers incident ends but the legal ramifications please few. Conyers appears again. And one of the characters finds deliverance.
Like Zero Dark Thirty, the feeling of Detroit is claustrophobic, which of course is intentional. The lighting isn’t perfect, that approach undoubtedly was chosen to enmesh Bigelow’s scenes with the archive footage.
Understandably Detroit is still coming to terms with the ’67 riot. I visited Virginia Park last month, while there are still many abandoned homes–this is Detroit after all–there are some new ones too. The site of the long-ago razed blind pig and the neighboring stores where the riot broke out is now a park–albeit one that no children were playing in. To be fair it was a chilly autumn afternoon. In July a Michigan historical marker was erected at that site. On the flipside, sandwiched between New Center and the mansions of Boston-Edison, where Henry Ford, Ty Cobb, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy once lived, Virginia Park’s future appears bright. Deliverance may be coming there soon too.
Besides Xfinity OnDemand, Detroit is also available on DVD. The trailer is viewable here.
If you know a millennial who craves communism, then I suggest that you sit that person down to watch the documentary Karl Marx City by Petra Epperlein and her husband, Michael Tucker, which was released last year. Epperlein was born in 1966 in Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany, which is now, as it was before, the city of Chemnitz.
And as it is was when she was a child, the most noticeable feature of her hometown is the giant bust of Karl Marx, which looks over the dwindling population of Chemnitz. Its bulk makes it too expensive to remove from its perch on the former Karl-Marx-Street.
The Marx monument is the ideal metaphor for the former East Germany. Just as Big Brother is always watching in George Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry for State Security, colloquially known as the Stasi, was watching too. Cameras were seemingly in every public space, as were Stasi agents and informants. In a nation of 17 million people, there were an astounding 90,000 Stasi agents aided by 200,000 informants. In contrast, the FBI employs a paltry 35,000.
What was the Stasi looking for? Everything. Just grab whatever information that can be found and use it for a case later. Because not only was everyone a suspect in this worker’s paradise, everyone was probably guilty. And if they weren’t guilty they likely would be soon.
Early in Karl Marx City Eppelein tells us that her father, 57, committed suicide in 1999 after washing his company car and burning his personal papers. Afterwards her family discovers cryptic typed letters anonymously mailed to her father that accused him of being a Stasi informant.
Shot in black and white, perfect grim communist hues, Epperlein, looking similar to Liv Ullmann’s mute character in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, in a bit of twisted humor wanders the decrepit and mostly empty streets of the former Karl Marx namesake town holding a massive boom microphone and wearing vintage headphones while we listen to her voiceovers–in contrast to the clandestine recording done by the Stasi.
Epperlein visits the Stasi archives in Chemnitz and Berlin where we see file after file on multiple floors. She’s looking for her father’s file, but we learn that the German Democratic Republic didn’t organize its files in the manner that Google stores information on mainframes where we can instantly retrieve volumes of information on just about anything. Instead there’s something here, there’s something there.
We see a grainy Stasi film of a couple walking on sidewalk. The man picks up an object. Then he puts it down. Why did he do that? Another man picks it up. The object turns out to be a knife. He keeps it. Why?
Epperlein tracks down a childhood friend who was a true-believer in communism. Now she worships trees. Her father, a retired Stasi agent, recounts his regular break-ins at apartments. What was his most common discovery? Handwritten schedules of West German TV shows and small bags containing a tooth brush and other personal hygiene items, just in case the occupants are arrested–or forced to escape to the West.
Many political prisoners were indeed locked up for subversion. Many ended up in the West, but rather than this being an innocent Cold War liberation, we learn they were sold by the workers’ paradise for ransom to the West for much needed hard currency.
The suicide of Epperlein’s father was hardly an anomaly, taking one’s own life in the GDR was common after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Recently Chemnitz had the lowest birthrate of any city in the world.
One of the experts interviewed for the film scorns the Oscar-winning film, The Lives of Others. While Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List was real, there was no Stasi hero fighting back against oppression.
Near the end we learn the truth about Epperlein’s father.
Karl Marx City is available on Netflix and on Amazon.
John Ruberry, whose wife was born in the Soviet Union, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
Last week I had some time off from work and I did what few people do. Before sunrise I left home and drove to Detroit for a pleasure visit.
It was my second trip to the Motor City. My first Da Tech Guy account, from 2015, is here.
What follows is a progress report with a grade.
First of all, is Detroit back? Well, if you are like most visitors and you don’t venture beyond downtown, Midtown, Greektown, New Center, or its three casinos, you’ll say, “Yep, Detroit is a thriving city, it’s back.”
But most of the the neighborhoods, Corktown, Palmer Woods, and Sherwood Forest are exceptions, are either rundown and decrepit, or near-apocalyptic wastelands, such as Brightmoor. And as for Palmer Woods, just three blocks from its southeast corner, near where I parked my car to snap a picture of a feral dog–90 minutes later a store manager was murdered during an armed robbery.
But even in its rough patches–actually most of Detroit is one expansive rough patch–there are noticeable improvements.
Two years ago I was able to walk into vacated schools and factories with only a nagging guilt about trespassing preventing me from entering. That didn’t work, I walked in anyway. Harry B. Hutchins Elementary School, where I spent an hour taking photographs in 2015, is fenced off now. The Packard plant, the world’s largest abandoned factory, has a small but aggressive security presence. I wandered around there undisturbed for hours during my previous visit. Fisher Body 21, an old General Motors factory, is a glaring eyesore at the intersection of the Edsel Ford and Chrysler freeways. While I was able to stroll into that one, the windows in the stairwells must be bricked-off. The stairways are now as unlit as a cave beneath the dark side of the moon. Only a fool, or someone wearing a miner’s hat with a supply of back-up batteries, would climb them now.
So for urban explorers such as myself, Detroit is no longer a free-range video, photography, and souvenir collection zone.
Two years ago no one with authority appeared to give a damn. I credit the attitude change to Detroit’s reform mayor, Democrat Mike Duggan–who lives in Palmer Woods by the way. Duggan was elected four months after the Motor City’s bankruptcy in 2013. Earlier this month Duggan, who is white, overwhelmingly defeated Coleman Young II, the son of Detroit’s first black mayor. The elder Young’s 20-year tenure can best be deemed as controversial. The former communist utilized race-based politics and dog whistle words–city (black) versus suburbs (white)–which kept him in office but drove businesses and of course jobs out of Detroit. He was the steward of the city’s descent. While the white population is growing for the first time since 1950, Detroit remains a super-majority African-American city. Yet Detroit voters rejected the younger Young’s own dog whistle call to “Take Back the Motherland.” Good for them.
While there still are vacant buildings downtown, two of the most obvious ones that I noticed during my first visit, the 38-story Book Tower and the former Wayne County Building, are being rehabbed. Both were seen in the premature Detroit-is-back Chrysler Super Bowl ad with Eminem from 2011. A mile up Woodward Avenue to the northwest is the gleaning new Little Caesars Arena, the new stadium for the Red Wings and the Pistons. Detroit’s NBA team has returned to the Motor City after a nearly three-decade absence. Across the street from the arena are the luxurious Woodward Square Apartments. With Ford Field, the home of the Lions, and Comerica Park, where the Tigers play, as well as some theaters and other new or rehabilitated apartments, the result is the new District Detroit, an entertainment and residential area that rivals any in the United States.
So there is a lot of good going on in Detroit.
As for the bad, let’s discuss those forsaken areas, and it goes beyond the crumbling and abandoned housing stock and the crime. Most pedestrians in “the other Detroit” walk on the streets, because the sidewalks are for the most part crumbing. Some are overgrown with weeds. Nearly all alleys are impassable. Even large trees can be found growing in some. Keep in mind that in 1950 not only was Detroit America’s fifth largest city but it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Municipal alley garbage pick-up ended decades ago and many garages of otherwise well kept-up homes are collapsing. Why maintain a garage when you can’t access it from your alley? And besides, there are plenty of vacant lots, with a bit of elbow grease, that can be converted into grassy parking lots. Rubbish can be found everywhere. Illegal dumping–much of it done by suburbanites–is a serious problem in Detroit. Side streets have many potholes and even more cracks. On the other hand, Duggan has made good on his promise to install more street lights.
And that post-apocalyptic neighborhood of Brightmoor? A few sections that were once packed with residents have devolved into the kind of emptiness that you expect to see from a country road, a phenomenon known as an urban prairie.
Critics from the left will lash out at me as I take measure of Detroit’s unpleasant underside and yell, “What about racism?” Yes, for decades Detroit’s blacks suffered from institutional racism. So did black Atlantans. The year after Detroit elected Coleman Young, Atlanta, whose blacks endured Jim Crow laws, followed suit and elected its first black mayor. Atlanta became the city that was “too busy to hate.” In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, which is something pre-Young Detroit unsuccessfully bid on an unprecedented nine times.
Back to the good: Most Detroiters are generally friendly people, strangers say “hello” to each other. That’s a commendable behavior I’ve never seen in any big city.
Back to the bad: Detroiters are the rudest and most reckless drivers I’ve encountered outside of New York City. And remember, Detroit’s streets are in terrible shape, so such road effrontery is especially hazardous.
Detroit is not “back.” but it is coming back. But some unfinished business remains that could send the onetime Arsenal of Democracy back in the wrong direction. While the deadly 1967 riot and the contraction of the Big Three auto makers, as well as fiscal malfeasance, corruption, and numbing levels of crime are largely responsible for Detroit’s demise, the municipal income tax, a commuter tax, and loads of burdensome regulations also played a role. Those taxes, largely idiosyncratic to Detroit among big cities, still remain, along with those regs. And Detroit’s property tax system, according to the Detroit News, is “fundamentally flawed” and was “particularly devastating in the cycle of decline and renewal Detroit has undergone.”
“New Detroit” has emerged from the starting block but the Motor City is wearing ankle weights.