Chicago’s lakefront

By John Ruberry

“Decent people shouldn’t live here. They’d be happier someplace else.”
Jack Napier/The Joker in Batman.

Often, I’m asked, “Why is Chicago so corrupt?” The short answer? It’s always been that way.

Now let me expand a bit.

Earlier this month the Department of Justice released a report that excoriated the Chicago Police Department for use of excessive force, slipshod training, and soft discipline within its ranks. The report was produced because of the shooting in 2014–with sixteen bullets–of an unarmed teen black Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago cop.

But the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass noted a significant omission in that report: Chicago’s corruption culture.

It wasn’t the Chicago cops who shaped the police culture. The political corruption and cynicism of politicians over decades in a one-party Democratic machine town shaped the culture.

Kass adds that it was City Hall that sat on the damning police video of McDonald getting shot. It was released over a year later–seven months after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was releected. Kass, without mentioning his name, reminded readers that longtime CPD chief of detectives, William Hanhardt, was placed in that position by his political friends. Hanhardt, a mob cop, ran a jewelry theft ring while he was chasing select other bad guys.

But why is Chicago so corrupt?

Chicago, like other Midwestern cities, was settled first by New Englanders and upstate New Yorkers, white Anglo-Saxon protestants mainly. But Irish people fleeing the Potato Famine and seeking work on such projects as the Illinois & Michigan Canal, along with Germans, were the first wave of immigrants to Chicago. My great-great grandfather, another John Ruberry, was part of this wave. But the Irish already knew English and the arguably more numerous Germans initially did not. Which meant that the Irish were able to qualify for government jobs. Then some of them made the logical next step–run for political office.

The eighteenth-century Irish were unwilling subjects of the British Empire–they viewed government as an alien force and many didn’t see anything wrong with stealing from that government. Old habits are hard to break–and many Irish-Americans saw public service as an opportunity to stuff their pockets with bribes and kickbacks–and to place their friends and relatives in other government positions. Or to offer other friends and relatives government contracts, who might reward their patrons with “gifts.”

So Chicago’s culture of corruption was born.

Other immigrants followed–many with similar backgrounds. Poles didn’t have their own nation for the entire 18th century, the majority of Chicago’s Italian immigrants came from southern Italy, and there was no love between them and the Italian royal house, which emerged from the northern half of the peninsula. The Czechs and the Croatians were part of Austria-Hungary.

Abandoned South Side home

Even newcomers to Chicago who were Americans fit the bill.

Until the mid-1960s blacks who came to Chicago as part of the Great Migration were subject to Jim Crow laws and could not vote. Clearly local government was not their government. Puerto Rican corruption is even worse than that of Chicago.

You can make the same argument about Mexico, the latest source of mass-immigration to Chicago.

Another Chicago newspaper columnist, the legendary Mike Royko, often quipped that Chicago’s official slogan should be “Where’s mine?”

Roughly once every 18 months a Chicago alderman is sentenced to prison. One of Chicago’s dirtiest secrets is the coziness between politicians and street gangs.

My point is not to demonize any group but to explain how Chicago got to the unhappy place where it is. For instance, my father, another John Ruberry–he went by Jack–once told my mother, “I’d like to work in politics.” She replied, “That will never work out–you are too honest.” My dad was 100-percent Irish-American. And yes, my mother was right–and my father never ran for public office. This decent man moved his family out of Chicago in 1968.

Meanwhile, Chicago, and yes, the rest of Illinois is a cesspool of cronyism and corruption.

Oh, you WASPs, particularly Republican ones reading this post–I’m coming for you.

Much is made of Chicago not having a Republican mayor since 1931. But that mayor was William Hale Thompson, a Boston-born Protestant who was probably Chicago’s most corrupt mayor. Thompson was a protector and sponsor of Al Capone. Thompson, a crook, was able to reap dishonest benefits from a crooked bureaucracy that was already in place. After his death two safe deposit boxes containing nearly $2 million were discovered. Although Thompson’s successor, Czech immigrant Anton Cermak, founded the modern Chicago Democratic machine, he was a better mayor than Thompson.

I began with a quote from one Batman movie and I’ll end this post with a quote from another, this time from Batman Begins.

The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Chicago is clearly in decline. Payoffs to public-sector union members, pensions that weren’t properly funded, gave Chicagoans–including of course the decent ones–their largest property tax hike ever two years ago, followed by more tax increases last year. No serious person believes there won’t be more soon. Last year more Chicagoans were murdered than those killed in New York City and Los Angeles–combined.

Chicago is at its lowest population in one hundred years, coincidentally, that was when Chicago was still a boom town and William Hale Thompson was mayor.

While there is no League of Shadows, Chicago is long overdue for a check against human corruption.

Where is Chicago’s Bruce Wayne?

Or its Bruce Waynes?

And no, I’m not calling for bubonic plague in Chicago. The city is emptying out just fine on its own.

John Ruberry, a decent man who moved his family out of Chicago in 1999, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. 

Starting tomorrow the rubber hits the road we will now see if he can cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a Herring govern.

If he can win the war on terror and turn the economy around he’ll be a winner in my book.

DaTechGuy Jan 20th 2009

8 Years ago I wrote a post titled President Bush rank:  Obama where I ranked the Bush presidency vs others presidents.  After ranking Bush I said this about the incoming Obama administration:

President Elect Obama has the potential to end up anywhere on his list. The trick is not to under rate him due to unreal expectations or overrate him due to his unique place in history. Lets hope he earns high ratings due to high performance. As of today it will come down to the economy and the war on terror but who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Well it’s eight years later and now we know so let’s again look at my grouping from the past.

I grouped them into 5 sections the top teir one being

TR, Cleveland, Lincoln, Polk, Washington 

As I said at the time both Cleveland and Polk are great presidents who don’t get enough credit these days.

The 2nd group was

Reagan, Truman, FDR, McKinley, Monroe, Madison

As the years go by Reagan continues to knock at the door of that top level but in my mind still doesn’t get in, and while many of my fellow conservatives would disagree I say victory in WW 2 when the world was at Stake trumps FDR’s socialist New Deal

The 3rd Group was

Kennedy, Ike, Coolidge, Hayes, Jackson, Tyler, Jefferson, John Adams and now George W Bush

The Obama years particularly the comparison concerning the war on give the temptation to move Bush 2 into the higher level but I’m not quite there yet, plus his foolish response to the financial crisis at the end of his term enabled a lot of the trouble that Obama made during his years.

Put simply Barack Obama has no business being mentioned in the same league with with any of those first three tiers

The 4th group was

Clinton,GHW Bush, Ford, LB Johnson, Taft, Andrew Johnson, Pierce, Fillmore, Taylor.

And Obama doesn’t rank with any of the.   Ford did yeoman’s work restoring the country, Clinton while a walking scandal was able to work with a GOP congress, Johnson for all the disaster of the great society has the civil rights act and was actually winning in Vietnam before the left undercut him, Taft while no TR continued man of his policies and while Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore and Zach Taylor either failed to stop a coming civil war or failed to unite a nation after one, all respected the rule of law or the Constitution.  And the First Bush not only won the 1st Iraq war but managed to build a international group to support it.

The bottom tier of US presidents is

Carter, Nixon, Hoover, Harding, Wilson,  B. Harrison, Garfield, Grant, Buchanan, WH. Harrison, Van Buren, JQ Adams.

Barack Obama owns this bottom tier and the question really is where within it does he lie?  It’s a measure of how bad the Obama years were that it forces us to make levels in the bottom tier of presidents in order to find his true ranking.

The best of that bottom tier are:  Wilson, Nixon and WH Harrison and Ben Harrison his grandson and Obama can’t compete with any of them

He easily ranks below Wilson because Wilson’s win in the 1st World War Trumps Obama’s failures, He also ranks below Nixon because not only did Tricky Dick have many actual accomplishments he only talked about weaponizing the IRS to use against his foes the Obama administration actually did it.  In many ways the Obama years where an image of what the Nixon might have been if the press was solidly republican and saw their duty as defending him.  Ben Harrison managed to blow the country’s surplus by giving it out to civil war vets and creating a giant deficit that still haunts us today and his tariff policies were awful which is the reason why his successful foreign policy agenda doesn’t get him out of this level  He ranks below WH Harrison because Harrison died within a month of being sworn in and doing nothing would have been better than the Obama years.

How sad is it that a literal “Do nothing” president is far superior to Obama

The next level of that bottom tier are  Garfield and JQ Adams Obama is not as good as either

Adams is the best of this batch, he came in under a cloud and accomplished little despite his incredible skills, but he also didn’t have any big failures, Garfield didn’t get much of a chance getting shot very early in his terms but his fight over patronage in NY puts him over obama.

That leaves Carter, Hoover, Harding,  Grant, Buchanan, Van Buren and  can Obama beat any of them?

There are two distinct groups here, Buchanan, Van Buren and  Hoover served at a time of Crisis and failed

Grant, Carter and Harding all came in after a crisis and either didn’t succeed or made things worse.

of the six Harding is the easiest to rank above the others simply because of the economic state of the country.  His scandals were unable to make things worse.

Hoover and Van Buren both served in times of crisis and despite good records proved unequal to the task but both of them rank above Obama as neither was able to make a bad situation worse and made honest efforts to solve problems.

That leaves Grant, Carter and Buchanan  vs Obama This is tough.

Grant likely has to make the top of the list here, His presidency was scandal ridden but had at least four years of prosperity and his foreign policy was mixed rather than a failure.

Carter has to come in next, his policies harmed the economy tremendously, his foreign policy was for the most part disastrous from giving away the panama canal to the Iran Hostage crisis and only his hijack of the talks between Israel and Egypt save him from dead bottom.  The line that Jimmy Carter was a best case scenario for Obama which started to be said around 2012 turned out to be very true.

So that puts it down to Obama vs Buchanan as to who is the worst president of all time.

The Failures of the Obama years from the massive corruption, the use of government as a weapon against political enemies, the enabling of our foes and the subjugation of our friends combined with a dismal economy and the war on Christianity both overseas and at home makes Barack Obama unique among president in that you have to go back to Jefferson Davis to find an American president more dedicated to harming the United States of America than him.

However while Obama’s failures might have lead to civil war Buchanan’s actually did.  While one could argue that the crisis was building for years so you can’t blame Buchanan one might also argue that he saw it coming and did not act to prevent it.

In both cases Obama’s actions and Buchanan’s inaction were consistent with their worldviews.  Buchanan’s sympathy to both Slavery and the south and Obama’s dislike of America and embrace of our enemies made any other result unlikely.  Obama suffers because in comparison because of the high expectations the people had of him but Buchanan suffers because unlike Obama he actually had years of experience in both the House and Senate as well as being Secretary of state to an ambassador to both Russia and England.

Frankly in my mind you could choose either as the worst of the lot and not have a bad pick but if I’m pressed to choose I’d have to put Obama above old Buck simply because Obama was an inexperienced and incompetent Chicago machine pol who had no business being president thus his failures, while deliberate, are not entirely unexpected.  Buchanan was an experienced and seasoned pol and diplomat so in my mind his culpability for the failures which led to incredible bloodshed are considerably worse.

So as of right now I rank Barack Obama as 43rd out of 44 presidents of the United States edging out James Buchanan.  I’m sure others can make a case to reverse this order but that’s how I see it.

Meanwhile we have Donald Trump coming in.  He has two intrinsic advantages:

The media and those who write history absolutely hate him so not failing will be seen as a success.

He follows the worst administration in 156 years so he can’t help but do better.

I think for Trump success or failure will come down to three things:

  1. The Economy.  If growth returns then that is what people will remember
  2. War on Terror.  Trump has a tough call here, he wants to both fight the war while keeping the US out of nation building.  That’s a tough combo to pull off but if he can stop ISIS while securing the US he’ll be a success
  3. The Southern border.  Normally this would not be as important but because he made it an intrinsic part of his campaign if a wall is not up or at least substantially built that will hurt him

Again like Obama he could end up anywhere on this list but if he manages these three things he will likely make at least tier 2.  If he manages at least 2 of them tier 3.

Eight Years ago I said it would be fun to find out where Barack Obama would end up on my list.  I was wrong, so rather than say the same about Trump let me just say it won’t be boring.


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By John Ruberry

Last night Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus since 1967, announced that it is pulling up stakes and shutting down the circus for good.

For a very brief period I was one of its center ring performers. More on that later.

Steeped in history more than any other American entertainment offering, the Greatest Show on Earth can be traced to the 1860s with a circus run by James Anthony Bailey. In 1881 he teamed up with P.T Barnum, a circus latecomer who made his name as an oddity museum and freak show operator, creating Barnum & Bailey Circus. Its first big attraction was Jumbo, purportedly the world’s largest elephant–and an unintended result was the adding of “jumbo” to the English language.

Three years after Barnum & Bailey was founded, the five Ringling brothers, entertainers from Baraboo, Wisconsin, started their circus.

Technology was at first kind to these circuses, trains allowed the shows to travel quickly from city to city, abandoning wagons except for the parades with wild animals that served as priceless publicity for drumming up ticket sales. Trains gave Barnum & Bailey the opportunity to travel outside of its base in the Northeast–and the Ringlings weren’t confined to the Midwest anymore.

The Ringling family purchased Barnum & Bailey in 1907 and the shows were consolidated in 1919.

An elephant helped establish Barnum & Bailey and the combined circus was partly brought down by elephants.

Sometime around 2000 animal rights organizations, notably PETA, began protesting circuses and the Greatest Show on Earth was of course its biggest target. The mud and dung started flying with animal cruelty accusations from these groups, particularly regarding elephants. But Feld Entertainment collected $25,2 million in a settlement from animal rights activist groups over their charges of cruelty to pachyderms.

The battle was over but the war was lost. Two years ago Ringling Brothers announced that its elephants would be retired from the circus in 2018, but that date was moved that up to May of last year, largely because of what Ringling CEO Kenneth Feld called “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” local ordinances.

When he announced the shutdown of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Feld didn’t cite one item but offered, “The competitor in many ways is time.” People, particularly children, are less patient than ever in the age of smartphones, tablets, and YouTube–and the length of its shows has dropped by nearly an hour since Feld Entertainment purchased Ringling Brothers. Technology now worked against the circus.

But Feld’s daughter, Juliette, went in a different direction, stating “We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Brothers was getting to see elephants.” Ticket sales, which have been declining for a decade, dropped noticeably when the shows became elephant-free.

Of course it’s the goal of the animal rights activists to have all circuses to be strictly human affairs. They’ll never deny that. So the camels, alpacas, lions, and tigers that are part of the Ringling menagerie will be retired, likely ending up in reserves.

Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, 500 Ringling employees will be out of work, and it’s my fear that it will be tough going for them, as circus life tends to be a multi-generational endeavor.

Interviewer: “So, what makes you think you can be a good fit at our big box store?”

Job seeker: “Well, I’ve worked at Ringling Brothers for thirty years and I’ve lived on circus trains all of that time. I was educated at circus schools because my parents worked for Ringling Brothers too.”

Thanks for hanging in there, I’m getting to my center ring moment now.

Twice I attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey shows. My dad took my brothers and I to a performance at Chicago’s International Amphitheater in 1967. It was a dazzling experience–and the hall was packed. Nearly forty years later I brought Little Marathon Pundit to the Ringling circus, this time at the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont. Yes, the show was shorter, there was a motorcycle daredevil act in addition to the animal performers, but there was no big band this time–a rock combo offered music and there were a lot of empty seats. Outside the auditorium there were protesters even though it was snowing.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Back inside, as David Larible, a clown, descended the stairs of the arena I snapped a photo of him with my then-exotic smartphone. He motioned me to follow him, brought me to the center ring, where I, along with a few other lucky attendees, participated in a musical instrument comedy skit, as my daughter heartily laughed. It was one of those unforgettable father-daughter moments.

Yes, I’m a former Ringling performer.

You can argue that Ringling Brothers was dying then–but certainly the animal rights radicals hastened its death. And when this venerable circus is dead–a part of America will have died with it.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

“So listen, there’s still a little bit of it to go,” the host of NPR’s witty Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, Peter Sagal said as he opened his New Year’s Eve show, “but all the pundits and the pollsters have already called it: 2016 will go down as the worst year ever.” Which led moderator Bill Kurtis, the longtime journalist and Chicago news anchor to reply, “Sure, 1346 had the plague, but at least Black Death was a cool name.”

I’m here to explain, at least for me and people who visit Da Tech Guy and my own blog, Marathon Pundit, that 2016 was a darn good year, and absolutely a better one than 1346.

Defying the “pundits and pollsters,” but perhaps not the same ones Sagal was talking about yesterday, Donald J. Trump was elected president–he’ll be sworn into office in nineteen days. Although not as historic as being the first African-American elected to America’s highest office, Trump will be the first president who was not a prior public office holder or a general. That’s yuge.

Like Bob Dylan in 1964 keeping his love for the Beatles to himself and not, initially, telling his folk-music pals, I secretly hopped on the Trump Train in the autumn of 2015, but I was a vocal passenger well before the Iowa Caucuses. Like Sean Hannity, I saw Trump’s, yes, historic candidacy as the last chance to save America from collectivism and socialism, mediocrity, malaise, globalism, cronyism; and in what would have sealed the unpleasant deal, a runaway leftist Supreme Court. I am not an aberration, there are tens-of-millions of Americans who look at the rise of Trump in a similar manner.

A Hillary Clinton victory could have possibly hobbled America as much as the 19th century Opium Wars did to China. A large and populous nation does not necessarily mean that it will be a prosperous and powerful one, as India and Indonesia show us. And Russia is not prosperous.

I look at Trump’s win as the best news of the decade. But even as blogs and new media continue to prosper–my blog’s readership soared last year–the old guard media, which is dominated by leftists, for the most part despises Trump. Their bad news needs to be your bad news.

My daughter at the old
M*A*S*H set

The old year of course will forever be remembered as the year of so many celebrity deaths, which included Leonard Nimoy, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Dick Van Patten, Omar Sharif, Yogi Berra, and in one last cruel harvest by the Grim Reaper, a beloved actor from the television show MASH, Wayne Rogers, passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Wait…wait…don’t tell me! Yes, those are deaths from 2015. Celebrities die every year. Trust me, they really do.

Okay, second verse almost as same as the first: In 2016 the celebrity departures included David Bowie, Prince, Florence Henderson, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and in one last cruel harvest by the Grim Reaper, a beloved actor from the television show MASH, William Christopher, passed away on New Year’s Eve.

[Editorial note: The WordPress blogging platform does not like words with asterisks within them.]

Admittedly, some of these celebs are a bit different from the Class of 2015. Although enigmatic, Bowie, Prince and Michael meticulously cultivated their public images, they became familiar presences on MTV; so people, even if they weren’t fans, believed they “knew” these performers, and their 1980s videos enjoy eternal life on VH1 and on YouTube.

Fisher played Princess Leia in Star Wars, which was arguably the most influential movie, both artistically and in the business-sense, since The Jazz Singer. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, then you probably haven’t seen many films. Florence Henderson’s TV show, The Brady Bunch, was not a first-run success, but it achieved legendary status on the re-run circuit. Like Bowie’s “Modern Love” video on MTV, sometimes you need to watch something every day instead of once-a-week for it to be properly digested.

Oh, I mentioned earlier that Dick Van Patten of Eight Is Enough died in 2015. And few cared because I’m pretty sure you have to buy DVDs of his show to watch it.

As members of the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation pass on, there are proportionately more self-absorbed people remaining, those of course being the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Snowflake Generation, many of whom view every event, whether it is a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, an election, and of course, a celebrity death, as being about themselves. When Ish Kabibble, a kind of proto-Jerry Lewis, died in 1994, my parents didn’t take it as a personal loss.

John “Lee” Ruberry of
the Magnificent Seven

Here is some more good news from 2016: Third quarter growth in the United States was a robust 3.5 percent, perhaps because the end of the Obama era was in sight. And since Trump’s win, the stock market has been soaring, clearly many people, smart ones, are confident that 2017 will be a year of strong economic growth.

Now if we can only convince the self-absorbed ones to stop thinking about themselves so much, then 2017 will certainly be a great year.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrellBy John Ruberry

It’s time to take a break from politics.

Many times while surfing on Netflix I came across a recommendation to watch the seven-part 2015 BBC One miniseries, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is described as such: “In 1806 ambitious magician Norrell leads a revival of practical magic in England and ignites a fierce rivalry with bold young conjurer Strange.” If that sounds like a dopey show, well, that’s what I thought too. But I yielded to the luring and tuned in. I’m grateful that I did.

Magic in the alternative universe of Strange and Norrell is not smoke-and-mirrors and rabbits being pulled from hats, it’s a neglected scientific discipline that for unexplained reasons was abandoned in England in the early 16th century. But Gilbert Norrell (Eddie Marsan), a magician from York, becomes a national sensation when he brings to life the statues of  York Minster Cathedral and, in his only use of dark magic, brings back from death the future wife of a prominent member of parliament, Lady Pole (Alice Englert).

But just as in another alternative universe where humans can sell their soul to the devil, the dark side, in this case a mysterious being known as the Gentleman (Marc Warren), sabotages the transaction and establishes Norrell’s second rivalry.

Norrell offers his services to fight the French and their allies in the Napoleonic Wars, although only Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) directly utilizes magic at the side of the Duke of Wellington (Ronan Vibert), who is initially skeptical of him. Included in the broad historical sweep of Strange and Norrell is the blind and mad King George III, and although not by name, the anti-industrial Luddites.

The rest of the cast is wonderful, particularly Ariyon Bakare as a mysterious butler and Vincent Franklin as the duplicitous promoter of Norrell and Strange. The special effects, with the exception of the ravens in the last two installments, are first rate.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a welcome diversion from the usual, and it’s a particularly good series for binge-watching.

Besides Netflix, the mini-series is available on many on-demand systems and on DVD.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

forwardBy John Ruberry

There are thousands–maybe hundreds of thousands–of explanations about why Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton last week that you can find online and in print, as well as why the Republicans maintained control of Congress and gained governorships.

Here’s another one, although this discussion confronts one angle, what I call “inevitable leftism.” Barack Obama was the “Hope and Change” candidate for president in 2008; four years later, “Forward” was his rallying cry. Some conservative pundits noticed that “Forward” has a long history as a communist and socialist slogan.

Leftists, Obama is one, firmly believe that their cause is one of inevitable success, that humanity is headed towards–choose your term–a collectivist, socialist, or communist utopia. They view popular leaders such as Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan, as atavistic aberrations, mere potholes that can be paved over when the time is right, sooner, as opposed to later.

Except when they are wrong.

The French Revolution, still idealized by the Left, deposed a king and disestablished the Roman Catholic church, and replaced the Ancien Régime with an atheist republic that executed thousands, which was quickly transformed into a dictatorship led by an Italian. Along the way the days and months were renamed in a new decimal calendar–hours and minutes were divided by ten too, as were weights and measures. A couple of decades later there was a king again in France, the Catholic church was the state religion–but the metric system survived, yet strangely enough, it still hasn’t completely caught on in the United States.

Maximilien Robespierre, the guiding force of the French Revolution, and his inner circle were certain they were guiding the world on the right path. He may have even held on to that belief as he walked up to the guillotine, two years after Louis XVI after made the same, final stroll.

The Russian Revolution’s state, the Soviet Union, was similarly hailed by the Left as a societal inevitably, it also led to regicide, and tens of millions were killed. Because the USSR survived much longer than the French Republic, it succeeded in shattering Russian culture. But the surviving Russian nation is a South American-style sham democracy run by a thug, not a nation consisting of a populace that lives “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Barack Obama is not a psychopath or a murderer. But he’s a leftist, albeit one along the lines of French President François Hollande. Obama decided that America needs government-run health care in 2009 but he knew that what the Democrats euphemistically call single-payer would be unpopular, so a hybrid program, quickly dubbed ObamaCare, was developed as a bridge to that health care utopia. ObamaCare is deeply unpopular, and it was one reason for Trump’s win. The president-elect says he will repeal most of ObamaCare. The Democrats’ push for gay marriage is another page from the book of Dem inevitability, but only 21 nations allow same-sex marriages, none of them are in Asia, and South Africa is the only country in Africa that allows it.

It was the Democrats who, through their many friends in the judiciary, that created the so-called crisis surrounding the minuscule segment of the population who feel compelled to use the washrooms and the locker rooms–even in high school–of the opposite gender. They view choose-your-own-bathroom as their next social inevitability. The Democrats are the party of the confused horny teenage boy who wants to shower with girls.

Next year France will hold a presidential election. Marine Le Pen, a far-right politician with a fierce anti-immigrant stance, whose election as president last year ago seemed as likely as Trump moving in to the White House was, is confident of her chances. Hollande hasn’t declared himself as a candidate. Is Le Pen, another atavistic aberration, the inevitability of France?

France is ten percent Muslim. With the higher birth rates of its Muslim citizens a majority Muslim France could be possible by the end of the century. Gay marriage has been legal in France since 2013. Will it be in 2113?

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

The policy of open borders is also viewed as the next level of human achievement by the Left. It has worked well for the European Union, but there’s a big difference between thousands Germans buying homes in Italy and thousands of Middle Eastern migrants arriving in ramshackle boats there. Democrats, and even some Republicans, have been ignoring calls from ordinary citizens, now dubbed “the Forgotten Man,” to secure the southern border for decades. Opposition to open borders was the main reason why British voters voted to leave the EU.

Of course no one can predict the future. Not even leftists, even though they never tire in telling you how smart they are.

In the United States the hubris of inevitability led to the defeat of the Left last week.

Forward was the wrong way.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

baldilocks

Model of Ancient Jerusalem
Model of Ancient Jerusalem

I’m “reading” Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Jerusalem—actually listening to the audiobook version from the Los Angeles Public Library. It’s a lot easier to get other things done this way, though it is sometimes necessary to scroll back when my attention wavers. With these big, sprawling histories, it’s easy to lose track of who the author is talking about.

Previously, I had checked out Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1918, but I didn’t finish reading it in the allotted 21 days and I couldn’t renew it because, apparently, it’s in high demand. When you want to renew a copy of an e-book or audiobook that other people are waiting for, you must return in and the library will remove availability to the book files. Then if you want to check it out again, you must put it on hold and go to the back of the line.

That’s how my unfinished “reading” of The Romanovs turned into my present “reading.”

And I said all that to point out something about these histories and about histories in general: I am grateful to God for being born at the time and in the place that I was.

From what I can tell about most of human history, sudden death, wasting disease, torture, dismemberment, and enslavement have been right around the corner for everyone: kings, priests, pashas, sheiks, emperors, scribes, nobles, serfs, slaves, and warriors. Up until very, very recently, all man- and womankind have had sudden destruction haunting them from infancy and if they made it out of infancy, the lifespan was usually no longer than 50 years. And let’s not even discuss the bathing and toilet accommodations!

And if you were a woman or a child, your body did not belong to you. Period.

Really, I am so tired of the whining that goes on about life in America. It isn’t perfect; no existence anywhere has been since Adam and Eve so severely miscalculated. As a matter of fact, life has been nasty, brutish, and—following the Great Flood—short. And poopy.

Now, too much time is spent coveting your neighbor’s private space to eat, sleep, copulate, and clean himself instead of appreciating your own private but smaller space to eat, sleep, copulate, and clean yourself.

That’s what I’m getting from Montefiore’s work—a sense of how good we all have it. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

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trump-for-america-bw-and-color

By John Ruberry

“I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!”
Peter O’Toole’s Alan Swann character in My Favorite Year.

A couple of writers I usually agree with, the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass and Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, the latter unsuccessfully  ran for Congress six years ago in the Illinois district where I live, are predicting a Hillary Clinton win in Monday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University.

Kass and Pollak acknowledge Clinton’s extensive debate skills, she was a victorious US Senate candidate in 2000 and 2006 and Clinton came very close to winning the Democratic nomination in 2008. The latter contest had numerous debates, including some one-on-one contests between Hillary and Barack Obama. Donald Trump has never participated in a one-on-one debate.

But Americans have heard this song before. While Kass acknowledges the 1960 John F. Kennedy–Richard M. Nixon debates set the standard for future matchups being about style over substance; Nixon was the more experienced debater, but Kennedy, still the most telegenic president in American history, emerged the victor. Nixon won the substance battle–the comparatively few radio listeners to the debate agreed–but the Age of Television began over a decade earlier.

joel-pollak-marathon-pundit
Blogger Ruberry with Joel Pollak in 2012

And what is largely overlooked from the first Kennedy-Nixon debate, which coincidentally was held 56 years to the day ahead of Monday’s faceoff, is that Nixon had some minor health issues on debate day–a knee injury suffered on the campaign trail and a subsequent infection earlier that month led to the Republican being hospitalized. Then Nixon contracted the flu. His rotten luck continued when the GOPer banged that same knee on a car door as he was entering the debate studio. Even in black-and-white, Kennedy looked tan and fit during that first debate, although his bronze skin tone, rare among those of Irish descent, was probably because he was suffering from Addison’s disease. Nixon looked pale. He was sweating, and it appeared that he needed a shave.

The better debater–and ironically the healthier man, lost the initial and of course most important of the 1960 debates. Nixon had to wait eight more years to win the presidency.

Trump, at age 70, is the Energizer bunny of the 2016 presidential campaign. The brash teetotaler clearly has the stamina to last 90 minutes standing on the debate stage.  But three times this month Clinton, age 68, had public bouts of unhealthiness that were captured on video–a four-minute long coughing fit, a collapse as her legs uncontrollably wobbled, and a Marty Feldman-wild eyes moment.

Can Clinton endure 90 minutes on her feet with no commercial breaks? Or bathroom or coughing breaks? While waiting for an opposing quarterback to throw an interception is generally not the best tactic of a successful NFL game plan, it certainly works well for the opponents of the Chicago Bears since Jay Cutler became their QB.

As for the Age of Television, and its cousin internet video, Trump is the master here. The billionaire real estate businessman hosted his popular Apprentice franchise for 11 years on NBC. Clinton, after nearly 40 years in public life, even on her increasingly few good days, still seems uncomfortable in front of TV cameras. Just as Nixon was, ironically. I mean this as a compliment: Trump is not a politician, he’s a TV star.  A skilled negotiator, Trump knows that if you get inside an opponents head, you’ve hobbled that person. Can Clinton debate the Trump on stage and the one in her head simultaneously?

Yes, Hillary can talk about details of police better than Trump. Will that matter?

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Sure Trump can blow it for himself by meandering into an insult rant during the debate, or worse, he could offer a cruel quip if (or when?) Clinton shows another sign of ill health, which would probably result in voters sympathizing with the Democratic nominee.

Moving beyond Kennedy-Nixon, in 1980, Ronald Reagan–an actor by the way–appeared far more presidential than the policy wonk incumbent, Jimmy Carter. In 2000,  Al Gore’s imperiousness mixed with too much wonkishness gave voters the impression that he had been running for president since 1969.

Come to think of it, Hillary Clinton has been positioning herself for a presidential run since then too. You could not say that about George W. Bush in 2000. And of course you can’t say that about Donald Trump either.

Not that Trump is dumb, he isn’t. But people don’t like smartass know-it-alls.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

I must say nothing amazes me more than this meme that we keep hearing after very single attack by an Islamist:

The CNN report itself — the written report, not the clip above — is another marvel, making the story about everything else but the terrorist attack. Paragraph after paragraph of quotes appear in the article about religion of peace, worries about backlash, members of the Somali community worried that their families may have been victimized, before it actually gets to the attacks. It barely mentions that Adan demanded to know the religion of his victims, noting only that he “made a reference to Allah” and “asked at least one person if they were Muslim.” That sounds rather … polite, no? Well, except for the whole attempted-mass-murder thing.

The big story here isn’t the “potential for backlash.” It’s the terrorist attack that nearly took nine or more lives in the sleepy community of St. Cloud. Maybe other outlets will focus on the real story.

The “concern about a backlash” meme is so often repeated that it’s rarely questioned by the left, but two words illustrate how idiotic it is:

Emmett Till

For those of you who don’t know your history Emmett Till was a 14 year old chicago boy who was lynched during a visit to Mississippi in 1955 for the horrible crime of supposedly flirting with a white woman which apparently upset the sensibilities of certain folks.

It’s worth noting that Emmett Till’s murder was not unique in the era of Jim Crow:

From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States.  Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black.  The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched. 

That works out to about 1 black man lynched every ten days during that period of time.

What does this have to do with Islamic Terror?  Think about it for a second.

Ask yourself how you would react to local police after a lynching during the days of Jim Crow stating:  “They were unclear on the motivations for the attack” and local and national newspapers gave credence to such a statement?

Ask yourself how you would react if after a lynching local and national media in unison said the primary thing to worry about would be a backlash against whites over lynchings of blacks?

Ask yourself how you would react if local and national media insisted that the Jim Crow culture had no bearing on the decision of groups of “lone wolfs” who lynched blacks or that any connection with the culture of Jim Crow to lynching was illegitimate?  

Because when you claim that we are unsure of the motivations on Islamic Terror, when you go on about a potential backlash against Islam over terror attacks and you insist that the culture of Islam has nothing to do with the motivations of terrorists & that moderate Islam has no obligation to help the FBI weed out potential terrorists, you sound just like an apologist for Jim Crow circa 1930.

Closing thought as I’ve already said during Jim Crow you had one black man lynched every 10 days. As of this writing it has been 5488 days since Sept 11 2001 and in that time there have been 29,258 attacks by Islamic terrorists worldwide, an average of one attack every 4 1/2 HOURS a rate over 53 times the rate of lynching in the US during Jim Crow.


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p12079367_b_v9_acBy John Ruberry

Without the phenomenal box office success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, HBO’s Game of Thrones series may not have ever launched. And without GoT’s ongoing critical and audience raves, The Last Kingdom would almost certainly never have been giving the green light by the BBC.

I just finished binge-watching the first season of The Last Kingdom, which like Game of Thrones is a television version of a series of books, in this case Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories. I might not have ever heard of the BBC series had not the ninth season of the Doctor Who reboot had been bombarded with Last Kingdom trailers. I guess that’s the point of promos.

Season two of The Last Kingdom is currently in production.

So how is it? Well, in a few words, LK is pretty good. After all, I kept watching, didn’t I?

Here’s how the series is set up–with spoilers for the most part that cover only the first half of the first episode:

The action begins in the late ninth century as Danish invaders–the word “vikings” is never used–have transformed themselves from coastal raiders into a disciplined army who have conquered each English kingdom save Wessex. The lead character is Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), the son of a Northumberland noblemen who as a child witnesses his father fall in a battle against the invaders. After he humorously attacks a Dane, Uhtred is taken as a slave. Losing his Christian faith, Uhtred the Godless, much in the matter of white characters captured by Indians in Old West movies, seems unsure of his loyalties, but he’s determined to reclaim his family castle from his duplicitous uncle.

An adult Uhtred, after his Danish family is killed by other Danes, makes his way to Wessex where he pledges loyalty to King Alfred and joins the Saxon cause.

Attractive in a Jon Snow sort of way, Uhtred doesn’t have a vow of chastity to hamper his romantic pursuits.

Religion greatly drives the plot, The priest who baptizes the young Uhtred–twice–has also made his way to Wessex, where he serves as a counselor to Alfred. Refreshingly, the Christians in The Last Kingdom are pious, but not portrayed as foolishly pious. The only religious character treated with disdain is a Danish sorcerer.

Alfred (David Dawson), the devout king, doesn’t let his sickliness damper his resolve to save his realm and drive the Danes out of England.

Besides Alfred, other historical characters who appear in The Last Kingdom are the Danish chieftains Ubba and Guthrum, Saxons Odda the Elder, King Edmund of East Anglia, Alfred’s nephew Aethelwold, and Welsh monk Asser, the biographer of the Wessex ruler. A glaring oversight is the omission of Ivor the Boneless, the Dane whose name still perplexes historians. Ivor was the half-brother of Ubba.

The show plays homage to the legend that Alfred, asked by a woman to keep an eye on loaves of bread being baked, allows them to burn as his mind wanders to pressing matters of kingship.

The cinematography is superb although the filming of the series in Hungary, rather than England, might be the catalyst of one of LK’s noticeable shortcomings, cheap-looking wardrobes and crowns that appear to be plastic. If the series was shot in Britain, or even Northern Ireland where some of Game of Thrones is filmed, I’m sure the costume department of The Last Kingdom could have scrounged up more convincing crowns some better period clothes from a regional Shakespeare company.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

If you are looking for one more Game of Thrones comparison, then I won’t let you down. While gratuitous nudity is absent from The Last Kingdom, the brief glimpses of bare flesh amid the armor and swords appear forced as if someone is screaming at the directors, “We need naked bums for better ratings!”

I’ll be back for season two, hoping for more. (More meaning better shows, not bare buttocks.) After all, the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood didn’t hit its stride until season two and it didn’t achieve consistent greatness until The Children of Earth in season three.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit
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