The war on statues may never end

Lincoln and Douglas at Freeport, Illinois

By John Ruberry

While we’re not–yet–at the French Revolution level of destroying then recreating society, the Angry Left is focused on defacing and toppling statues of men deemed racist. Or by having sympathetic politicians remove them, such as what happened last week with Jefferson Davis’ statue at the Kentucky state capitol. So far women in bronze and marble, to my knowledge, have been spared, but one of Illinois’ representatives at National Statuary Hall at the US Capitol just might be inflicted with induced restless legs syndrome. I’ll get to her later.

Monuments of Confederate generals and of course Jefferson Davis have been the hit the hardest by the vandals. But the rage is now world wide. Winston Churchill’s statue at Parliament Square in London had “was a racist” spray painted on its pedestal. There’s an Abraham Lincoln statue there too, Black Lives Matter activists defaced that one. Up in Scotland, a statue of medieval monarch Robert the Bruce, whose views on black people are unknown, had “BLM” and “was a racist king” spray painted on it.

Because I’m from Illinois, I’d like to zoom in on my state. Let’s return to Lincoln. While Honest Abe was always anti-slavery, his views on black people prior to the Civil War would be classified as racist today. Lincoln’s stance on slavery in the 1860 election was to confine it to states where it already existed. By 1863 he was an abolitionist, at least in areas held by Confederate forces. Two years later the Great Emancipator enthusiastically backed the 13th Amendment that finally ended slavery in America. Oh, Lincoln saved the union too. That’s why he is considered the United States’ greatest president by most historians.

Lincoln gained national prominence in 1858 during his campaign for the US Senate against Stephen A. Douglas. Other than his connection to Lincoln, Douglas, “the Little Giant,” is largely forgotten now. His Kansas-Nebraska Act, which eliminated the Missouri Compromise in determining which states would be slave or free, ignited Bleeding Kansas, a brutal warmup to the Civil War. But Douglas was a political dynamo in the 1850s and he was the nominee for president for the northern Democrats in 1860.

Douglas and Lincoln agreed to a series of seven debates throughout Illinois during the 1858 campaign, the famous, or make that formerly famous, Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Late in the 20th century bronze statues of both men were placed at each of those sites.

Hmmm.

Douglas’ views on slavery were purposely murky, he believed in “popular sovereignty,” that is the voters, who comprised only of white males in the 19th century, should decide where slavery should exist. The Little Giant owned a plantation in Mississippi with slaves. Well, not exactly, but it was in his wife’s name.

How long will it be before those Douglas statues in Illinois will be vandalized? When will the call for their removal begin? And those seven plazas with Lincoln and Douglas will look unbalanced with just one man. Will Lincoln, who at one time of course was a racist, albeit most whites were bigots in the 1800s, get yanked too from those spots too?

Nancy Pelosi is calling for the removal of eleven statues honoring Confederates at Statuary Hall. Each state gets two statues, some of these honorees are well-known, Andrew Jackson represents Tennessee, George Washington is one of Virginia’s statues. Both men of course owned slaves. Some of the honorees are virtually unknown. Frances Willard, the longtime president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a group that assisted in establishing Prohibition in America, represents Illinois in the hall. Like Douglas, she was a big deal in her day. But Willard held racist views and she feuded with African American civil rights leader Ida B. Wells.

When you remove the Confederates, the slave holders, and the racists, how many statues will be left in Statuary Hall?

How many statues in front of libraries, village squares, or county courthouses will be removed?

Where does is it all end?

And if all of the statues are gone, then what?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The desecration of the Cook County Forest Preserves

By John Ruberry

One respite from the hectic way of life in Chicago and its suburbs are the 70,000 acres that comprise the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. I run on trails there that are near my home. I take nature photos there. Others walk, ride bicycles, or just sit and collect their thoughts. Some picnic in the preserves, whether it’s a family or a group of hundreds.

On there is a seamy side too. Some parking lots at the preserves are popular spots for romantic hookups, once in a while some of those large picnics turn violent, occasionally the bodies of murder victims are dumped there, and the Forest Preserve District has a reputation of hiring otherwise unemployable Democratic Party patronage workers. Charles “Cap” Sauer ran the preserves for years. He once confided to Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko about some of his workers, “They know that if they are going to receive a day’s pay, they must give me at least a half a day’s work.”

Despite little or no evidence that outdoor activities pose COVID-19 risks, the FPDCC is making using the preserves more difficult and less enjoyable for the owners of them, that is taxpayers, even though exercise is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. 

Many forest preserve parking lots, which are often strewn with potholes, are closed on weekends and even daily in some cases because of alleged overcrowding. Oh, if a parking lot is full, drivers do what? They leave. Public washrooms are closed. Where are people supposed to relieve themselves? As a runner, I know how to, let’s say, improvise a short distance from a trail. Let’s say you’d like to sit down during a long walk and you don’t care to plop down on the grass. There’s a rare bench here and there but during normal times people find a picnic table. At most of the preserves near me the tables are now stacked. wrapped in police tape, and barricaded by snow fences. There are “snitch signs” placed all through the preserves asking those full-bladdered visitors to rat-out large groups. Even though for most people their forest preserve experience is a solitary one, as it is with me, or it’s done in twos-or-threes.

Story continues below the photograph.

Barricaded picnic shelter with stacked tables at St. Paul Woods Forest Preserve

Water fountains have not been turned back on after being shut off last year for the winter. Yes, today is the last day of May. Oh, there is no shortage of FPDCC workers–none have been laid off.

Those most revealing sign is one outside St. Paul Woods here in Morton Grove. “Keep it moving. No picnicking. No congregating.” Or as Dean Wormer famously phrased it in Animal House, “No more fun of any kind.”

How did it come to this situation? Yeah, I know, the coronavirus outbreak. Cook County has over 5 million residents. There have been 45,000 confirmed cases of it in Cook with about 2,100 confirmed deaths. And of course most of those fatalities consist of people who were already quite ill.

But we got here because Cook County voters elected a hardened leftist,  Chicago Democrat Toni Preckwinkle, as president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Part of that job is overseeing the Forest Preserve District. Leftists remind me of the smug titular character in the underrated Coen Brothers movie Barton Fink. He loves “the people” but Fink doesn’t like people. The same goes with Preckwinkle and other leftists in government. And their idea of government is that we are a government with a people, not the other way around. 

These are their woods, not ours.

Stay out of my parking lot! 

Stay away from other people! 

No water fountains for you!

Hold your bladders!

No more fun of any kind!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Masks dehumanize us

Discarded medical mask, Miami Woods, Morton Grove, Illinois

By John Ruberry

On my way to work here in Illinois–where Democratic governor JB Pritzker says I have to wear a mask–I was listening to Dennis Prager’s show when he said something along the lines that people connect to each other by way of seeing their faces. Very true. The most obvious example is by way of dating sites, nearly all of the profiles include face pics. Whether you are old or young, thin or heavy, bald or hairy, every expert on creating profiles for LinkedIn recommends using a quality head shot on that employment networking site. 

Faces are how we remember people. When you think of Angelina Jolie her lips come to mind. With Jay Leno it’s his prominent chin. With John Bolton his bushy mustache is his visual trademark. If they are wearing masks you won’t see their distinctive facial features. 

A masked face doesn’t allow you to see smiles.

It’s unclear how effective masks are in preventing the spread of COVID-19, with the exception of the N95 mask, which gets its name because it’s supposed to block 95 percent of small particles.  

What is clear is that the projections of the death total from the novel coronavirus have been alarmist. The most dire one predicted 2.2 million COVID-19 deaths in America–and that prediction likely led to many shelter-in-place orders being put in place, including the one that was extended by Pritzker, most likely illegally, until the end of May. The latter order opened a few more places, such as golf courses, but added a mask requirement for businesses open to the public, such as big box stores. Dine-in restaurants, hair salons, and health clubs remain shuttered. Churches too. 

Humans are primates and primates are social beings. We’re not cats. While there are a few among us who choose the life a hermit, even existences commonly connected with solitude, such as that of a monk or a nun, involve a community where people see each other. Monks typically live in monasteries with other monks. Nuns dwell in convents with other nuns. 

So far COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as the 1918 Flu Pandemic which killed anywhere from 50-100 million people worldwide–and many of those who died of it were in their twenties and thirties who were otherwise healthy. It is not the Asian Flu of the late 1950s which killed roughly two million. While every death of course is a tragedy, so far 300,000 people have died of COVID-19. In 1918 the world population was about 1.6 billion, in 1958 it was a bit short of 3 billion. Today’s world population is 8 billion. 

A few weeks ago I questioned whether the draconian methods to shut down our economy were worth it, bankruptcies and unemployment are common triggers for substance abuse, depression, spousal and child abuse, and suicide. Since that post we’ve learned nearly all of the coronavirus fatalities suffered from pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. 

Now because of masks we are becoming the faceless, like the disturbing images in the “Life of Julia” Obama-Biden campaign video from 2012 that preached to the masses–not to individuals–the inherent power of a government that does everything for you. But remember Barry Goldwater’s warning, “Any government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”

Like Prager, I’m not a conspiracy nut. But a couple of weeks ago he wrote that the coronavirus overreaction is a dress rehearsal for a police state. Chicago’s vast expanse of lakefront parks–which is 18 miles long–have been closed for six weeks and counting. Churches and dine-in restaurants are closed statewide, as I mentioned earlier. In regards to the latter, for health reasons will the state or local governments in Illinois retain the power to shutter restaurants that serve, let’s say, too much high-fat food? That possibility is no longer far-fetched. 

The lakefront parks won’t be closed forever. But I can easily see Lori Lightfoot or a future Chicago mayor limiting Lincoln Park or Jackson Park to a few hundred visitors each day–with government workers with internal passports first in line of course–in the name of nature preservation or fighting global warming. It will of course all be done in the name of the faceless masses. 

I’m running low on orange juice. I may need run to the supermarket. Where is my mask?

I’ll be less of a human wearing that mask. Is that the plan?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My suggestions for Illinois’ bankruptcy auction

Blogger at the Damen Silos

By John Ruberry

Last week I suggested that Illinois, arguably the most broke state in America, put itself under receivership to fix its dire financial problems, which include nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills and an astounding $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

I chose receivership as bankruptcy is not a legal option for the fifty states. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered bankruptcy as a possibility, so it appears he’s open to changing the law so financially reckless blue states, Illinois, as well as New York and California, can call into one of those 800 lines that advertise on television late at night offering Chapter 11 as a salvation. (Okay, I’m kidding on the 800 line.)

Oh, Mitch, your home state of Kentucky also has a financially anemic public worker pension fund.

So state bankruptcy is no longer a pipe dream, although Illinois and New York’s Democratic governors, J.B. Pritzker and Andrew Cuomo respectively, immediately dismissed McConnell’s sound idea. But right now these blue states are acting like old-money aristocrats who believe bankruptcy is beneath them even though their income stream has dried up and their trust funds are depleted.

When there is a bankruptcy there is often a liquidation sale. Illinois has many valuable assets. Not enough to cover the $7 billion in unpaid bills–let alone the $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations–but the Land of Lincoln has to begin somewhere to dig itself out of the hole created by irresponsible politicians from both parties. So here are my suggested on what needs to go.

The Damen Silos: Illinois has owned the abandoned grain silos at Damen on the Sanitary and Ship Canal on Chicago’s South Side since the 1970s. It’s a popular spot for urban explorers–I’ve been there–and for graffiti-taggers. An explosion scene for Transformers: Age of Extinction was filmed at the silos. But the state has owned it four over four decades. Get rid of it. The location is also near Interstate 55. While demolishing the site will be pricey for the new owner which will drive down the selling price, every dollar counts during Illinois’ financial emergency. As it stands now, the Damen Silos are a towering monument to Illinois incompetence.

Illinois’ governor mansion: The last Illinois governor to live full-time in America’s third-oldest governor’s mansion was Republican Jim Edgar, he of the failed “Edgar ramp” pension rescue. He left office in 1999. Another Republican gov, one-termer Bruce Rauner, led the recent private efforts to restore the residence, which was in poor shape. The renovation cost $15 million. The project was completed last July. Four months later Pritzker trounced Rauner in his reelection effort.

Sell the mansion. It can be central Illinois premier luxury B&B. In fact it can be America’s premier luxury B&B.

When Illinois’ governor needs to be in Springfield there are plenty of hotel rooms to choose from there. Or the state can buy a humble bungalow for the governor.

A whole bunch of state parks: Illinois has 142 state parks. Many are tiny and little-visited. Illini, William G. Stratton (named for a governor who was indicted for tax evasion), Jubilee College, and Gebhard Woods state parks immediately come to mind as expendable. At least of half of Illinois’ state parks need to go on the auction block. Illinois has a very popular state park that I’m thinking of that I’ll talk about later.

The former Tinley Park mental health facility: Governor Pat Quinn shuttered the sprawling 250-acre site in 2012. There are toxic wastes that need to be cleaned up. But in real estate, of course, the most important concern is location, location, location. And the old asylum has a great one, at Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street in southern Cook County a few blocks away from an Interstate 80 exit.

Illinois Department of Transportation snow plows: Snow removal and the spreading of salt on roads where IDOT bears maintenance responsibility should be privatized.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield: The Disney-esque ALPLM was the brain-child of Julie Cellini, the wife of longtime state contractor and power-broker William Cellini. A Republican, William got caught up in the Rod Blagojevich scandals which earned him a short stay in federal prison. Julie envisioned the state-owned library and museum as a way to upgrade Springfield as a tourist destination as opposed to merely being a two-hour detour and bathroom stop for travelers on I-55 who visited the Damen Silos in Chicago earlier in the day. It hasn’t worked. And it appears that the ALPLM was conned when it purchased $25 million worth of Honest Abe artifacts, the centerpiece of that swag was a stovepipe hat that was said to be worn by our 16th president. Except that there is no evidence that Lincoln ever wore that hat. At onetime the ALPLM owned a dress once worn by Marilyn Monroe. Who knows what other unrelated treasures that are gathering dust in closets there? Well here is one: There are five copies in Lincoln’s handwriting of his Gettysburg Address. All of them are considered priceless but a since-fired ALPLM director lent the one the library owns to a tiny museum owned by Glenn Beck for a paltry $50,000.

Illinois is incapable of running the ALPLM.

Lincoln’s New Salem: A twenty-minute drive north of Springfield near Petersburg is Lincoln’s New Salem. This was Lincoln’s first home away from his parents. The town lasted only ten years but it is central to Lincoln lore. This spot, consisting mostly of rebuilt log cabins, has many visitors, primarily kids on school field trips, but its value to buyers grows if it is packaged with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Young Americans for Freedom owns the former Ronald Reagan Ranch in California. Perhaps they might be interested in the above sites tied to our first Republican president too. Hey, Disney might want to grab them for a Lincoln Land attraction. Is that a dumb idea? Well it is not as dopey as buying a Marilyn Monroe dress for a Lincoln museum.

The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago: Colloquially known as by its original name, the State of Illinois Center, it was designed by renowned German-American architect Helmut Jahn. Great artists are capable of colossal flops, after all Prince released several unlistenable albums, and Jahn’s Thompson Center is the turd in his career punch bowl. The heating and cooling systems have never worked well and they are expensive to operate. Its marble floors are slippery when visitors bring in snow from their shoes and it snows a lot in Chicago Ironically its atrium is supposed to be a monument to openness in government. But under the decades-long tenure of Boss Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the speaker of the Illinois House, government in Illinois has not been transparent at all. The building is named for James R. Thompson, the Republican governor who signed the three-percent annual compounded pension raise into law. Governors back to Blago have suggested selling the white elephant, which sits on prime real estate in downtown Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park: Illinois’ crown jewel in its state park system is Starved Rock in LaSalle County. Desperate times call for drastic action and that is why the Prairie State needs to sell its most-visited state park, which includes an NPS-style lodge with cabins. Private industry can do a much better job running the park, which has crumbling roads, and perhaps new owners build a couple of more lodges. What did I say about location earlier? As with the former Tinley Park mental home, Starved Rock is a short drive from I-80.

What are your suggestions for things and places for divestment by Illinois?

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois should put itself under receivership over pensions

Blogger two years ago

By John Ruberry

“As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.” Chicago Tribune Editorial Board in 2016.

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Rahm Emanuel in 2009.

Last week the president of the Illinois state Senate, Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), sent a letter the state congressional caucus, a gerrymandered lot–more on that latter–asking for $41 billion in aid in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The devil is in the details–Illinois is a hellish place—and in that letter from Harmon is a request of $10 billion to fund its woefully-underfinanced public pension plans.

Illinois’ pension crisis goes back decades. In 1989 Governor Jim Thompson, a Republican, signed into law an annual compounded three-percent cost-of-living-adjustment for the state’s public pensioners. But the funding wasn’t there. His successor, Jim Edgar, another Republican, seemingly placed a fix into the system in 1994, “the Edgar ramp,” which started with low payments for the 15 years of his plan. But by that time, when the “ramp” was to kick in, Great Recession arrived. And there were “pension contribution holidays” before then. When the 2008 economic collapse hit Rod Blagojevich, who was as bad as math as Edgar and Thompson, was governor.

In the early 1990s pension payments consumed four percent of the Illinois budget–now it’s 25 percent. The state-controlled public pension plans are only about 30 percent funded.

All that time–except for two years–powerful Chicago Democrat, Michael Madigan, has been speaker of the state House.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, 19,000 state pensioners collect more than $100,000 annually. On average these pensioners paid a paltry $160,000 into their retirement plans. What a great deal!

New Jersey and Kentucky have public pension funding issues that are as bad, or perhaps slightly worse, than that of Illinois. Will they be asking for pension bailouts next?

Cutting the three-percent COLA has been tried–it was ruled unconstitutional in a unanimous decision by the Illinois Supreme Court because of the pension guarantee clause in the state constitution. Repealing that clause is the smart thing to do but it’s a politically tall hurdle. Such an amendment would likely have to pass both chambers of the General Assembly. Thanks to Madigan, a skilled gerrymanderer who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, there are Dem supermajorities in both chambers. Two attempts by petition to effectively ban gerrymandering by way of a constitutional amendment was struck down in court. Allies of Madigan were behind the anti-Fair Map suits. The petition process to amend the Illinois constitution is deeply flawed. 

The organized labor wing of the Democratic Party, the public sector unions, won’t remain quiet if pensions are challenged. Hey there unions, you contributed to this problem too. In 2005 most public service unions signed on to that year’s pension holiday.

Last week Fitch lowered its bond rating for Illinois to BBB- with a negative outlook. That’s one level above junk.

I’m against an Illinois pension bailout by the federal government. For the most part. But if such aid comes in the form of an International Monetary Fund-style rescue package with conditions that Illinois cleans its fiscal house, such as dropping the 3-percent COLA and taking aim at the top pension earners, those six-figure retirees, I’m willing to listen. 

But receivership is best. Okay, let me dream a bit. As Chicago architect Daniel Burnham said a century ago, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” I know, states are viewed as sovereign entities and cannot, as Detroit did in 2013, declare bankruptcy. But what if Illinois agrees to a strings-attached receivership deal? An emergency manager can be appointed. Pritzker, or whoever is governor if receivership comes about, can still handle the ceremonial stuff, such as ribbon cutting for a new bridge and placing bets with other governors when Chicago sports teams are playing for a league championship.

Oh, I’m thinking loans from the feds, not handouts.

As badly funded as Illinois’ pension plans are, many local government pension systems are in worse shape. Illinois municipalities and government agencies, unlike those in Michigan, cannot do so under current state law. That needs to change too.

On a personal note, several friends and relatives of mine are collecting state pensions. Money that was taken from their checks every two weeks for their retirement was instead spent on lord-knows-what. They deserve to be angry and that fury needs to be directed at every Illinois governor from Thompson through Blagojevich. And of course at the Where’s Waldo of Illinois failure, Boss Michael Madigan. He deserves the most rage.

Let me be clear: I don’t take my pension reform views lightly.

Prior to Harmon’s bailout request, the latest pension fix idea was a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Illinois flat income tax guarantee and replace it with a graduated one. That amendment will be presented to Prairie State voters in November. My guess is that it will fail. And even if the graduated income tax amendment passes, the additional revenue won’t be enough. Illinois, which has had negative population growth for six straight years, can’t tax its way of the mess.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit

Bloodletting the American economy

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our collective health depends on it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season Three of Ozark

By John Ruberry

Late last month Season Three of Ozark began streaming on Netflix. The center point of the story is the Bryde family, father Marty (Jason Bateman), a former Chicago financial planner, mother Wendy (Laura Linney), a onetime Illinois Democrat political operative, and their children, teens Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).

In the first season Marty, talks his way out of assassination by convincing his killers that he can be of great use to his Mexican drug cartel client, who turns out to be Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), by laundering even more money for him in the Lake of the Ozarks region of southern Missouri. He does that of course for self-survival, but also for his family.

If you haven’t seen Ozark yet the following paragraph and the trailer contains minor spoilers.

But being the money guy–with bloody hands–is a strain for the other Byrdes, even though Wendy is for the most part a willing participant as the family moves up from laundering cash though a failing restaurant, then a fledgling church, and finally a casino boat, which is how the second season ends–the final shot is a sepia still of the Byrdes–with none of them smiling–at the grand opening. 

Warning: “F bomb” in the trailer.

The second season introduced the cartel’s lawyer, the cold-blooded Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), another Chicagoan. Like the Byrdes, she is facing a challenge by balancing her criminality with her family, specifically her teen daughter Erin (Madison Thompson). Helen and Erin in Season Three move to the Ozarks for the summer.

The primary new character in the third season is Wendy’s troubled younger brother Ben Davis (Tom Pelphrey), who offers the best performance so far in Ozark in an Emmy-worthy performance. Laura Linney is superb again too.

Meanwhile the Navarros are at war with another cartel. And as with most of the major European wars since the 17th century, the battles cannot stay contained in a tight geographic area. The cartels are always “all in” in their fights–and the title of the last episode of the third season is “All In.”

The FBI, which is not shown in a favorable light throughout the series, remains hot on the heals of the Byrdes. Which means Marty and Wendy not only have to balance their money laundering and shell companies with the needs of Navarro along with the demands of parenthood, but they are also under the constant scrutiny of the FBI, this time led by an agent of better character than what we’ve seen before here, Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes). 

One one more headache for the Byrdes is the Kansas City mob.

Of course there was criminality in the Ozarks before the arrival of the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of Missouri, Marty and Wendy, who as F. Scott Fitzgerald said of former in The Great Gatsby, “smashed up things and creatures.” Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), the leader of that family’s small-time criminal family, is now an integral member of Bryde Family Enterprises. But the other homegrown female crime leader, Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), an avowed enemy of the Brydes, revs up her operation after a respite.

This is the best Ozark season yet. The penultimate episode, “Fire Pink,” is the most powerful one and it contains an homage to the film noir classic The Killers, which starred Burt Lancaster. The 1964 remake, a thriller with John Cassavetes in the Lancaster role, is worth a look too. It was Ronald Reagan’s last dramatic film appearance. 

Ozark is rated TV-MA. It contains graphic violence, torture, obscene language, and nudity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Lockdown in Illinois goes from smiling faces to a preview of tyranny

Blogger running on a Cook County Forest Preserve trail earlier this month

By John Ruberry

Illinois is now in its eighth day of lockdown as part of Governor JB Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Life is anything but normal here.

There’s not much good to report.

On the other hand a few days ago I planned to compose a feel-good entry focusing on the the few good things to report on from where I live in Morton Grove, Illinois about coronavirus. But things quickly turned south. And now we just might have a preview of the damage an overreaching government that claims to be looking out for us can inflict.

I’m a runner–and I’ve not let the lockdown cut back on my hobby. (Oh, Peter Da Tech Guy has been begging me to write a running post for a while–here you go!) After all outdoor activity, including running, is allowed according to Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order, as long as I practice safe-distancing, which I do. During my runs through the Cook County Forest Preserve trails near my home, I’ve seen more people on the paths, including entire families, since the issue of the shelter-in-place order. When the coronavirus crisis fades away, some of those folks might pick up a new appreciation of nature and become physical fitness enthusiasts as well.

I’ve also seen more people smiling at me and waving during my runts. And I reciprocate.

That was through Wednesday.

In Chicago in the early part of last week, particularly on the lakefront, the parks and paths were packed with runners, walkers, and cyclists. There were picnics and barbecues and basketball games. Which caused Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, to freak out.

“You cannot go on long bike rides,” the Democrat scolded. “Playgrounds are shut down. You must abide by the order. Outside, is for a brief respite, not for 5Ks. I can’t emphasize enough that we abide the rules.”

“If we have to … we will be forced to shut down parks and the entire lakefront,” the mayor said that day.

And so she did. In a condescending press conference the following day, Mayor Tenderfoot announced, while upping her warning that training for marathons was also not allowed on the lakefront during the lockdown, that all Chicago parks along the lakefront, along with the 606 Trail on the North Side, were closed and would be barricaded. Violators of Lightfoot’s order face a citation and a $500 fine.

Okay, I get it. COVID-19 can be deadly. Playing close contact sports such as basketball is stupid. But cooping people up in home will be psychologically demanding. And what will happen if the internet in Chicago slows down to a trickle because of an overwhelming demand in residential areas?

Will spouse abuse instances spike? And child abuse?

And it’s not just a Chicago issue in Illinois. At a large park in Skokie, the town just east of me, a friend of my daughter’s was playing tennis with her boyfriend. Someone living next to the park called the police, they them to told stop playing and leave. The cops also cleared out the rest of park. There were no gatherings there of more than ten people. Just a few people here and there, I was told.

On Friday Lightfoot encouraged people to call the non-emergency 311 line to inform on businesses that are deemed non-essential that remain open. Employees can rat out their bosses. Violators face up to a $10,000 fine.

What we are witnessing in Chicago is a preview of life under a Green New Deal tyranny-of-the-enlightened-few led by know-it-alls like Lightfoot. Because of “climate change,” the city’s lakefront could be closed for weeks during the summer. After all, many people drive to the lakefront parks and the adjoining neighborhoods.

On a national basis industries such as travel could be altered and possibly destroyed. Travel by jet spread the virus. So let’s shrink the airline industry, which produces greenhouse gases. What about the jobless pilots, machinists, and the flight attendants? Force them to attend a green jobs training program doubling as a re-education camp.

If the government goes after jet travel will the automotive industry be next? What about recreational boating? Why not shutter restaurants that serve food deemed as unhealthy? Who hasn’t heard obesity called an epidemic?

Does a family of four really need a huge house? Do you really need to take an out-of-state vacation?

Presumably in a Green New Deal America the running trails near my home will still be open and I can train for a marathon if I choose. But I’ll expect to see fewer smiling faces there.

Yes, I’m taking COVID-19 seriously. I’m washing my hands and drowning them in hand-sanitizer. I’m keeping safe distances.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Adventures in Tyranny

Crises and actors

by baldilocks

Don Surber:

The biggest fear for Democrats today are chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Democrat governors in Michigan and Nevada have banned their use to fight COVID-19, not because the drugs may harm people but because the drugs may work.

The party’s flying monkeys in the press are casting shade on this possible cure.

Politico reported, “President Donald Trump’s all-out push to advance unproven corona virus treatments is deepening a divide between the White House and career health officials, who are being pulled away from other potential projects to address the president’s hunch that decades-old malaria medicines can be corona virus cures.

“The White House directed health officials to set up a project to track if the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine show promise — a dayslong effort that distracted from urgent tasks like trials of other medicines thought to have more potential against the virus. Food and Drug Administration officials also reversed a nearly six-year ban on a troubled Indian manufacturer in a bid to secure the drugs, and top advisers to Trump have encouraged other agencies to locate as much of the product as possible. The White House is also pressuring Medicare officials to pay for unproven treatments being given to desperate patients during a pandemic.”

The headline read, “Trump’s push for risky malaria drugs disrupts corona virus response.”

The risk the Democrats fear is success.

Emphasis mine.

Hard to believe, is it not? But then, if someone had told you three months ago that, by the end of March, we’d all be in our homes, banned from going to work, school, church, etc., and afraid to touch anything, much less each other, you would have labelled the prognosticator as nuts.

And could it be that a drug which has been around for centuries and used to treat malaria and many other conditions is the answer?

Don is right, but it isn’t only success of Donald Trump that they fear. Remember: “never let a crisis go to waste?” In my opinion, they are seeing how much that citizens will put up with from government.

Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam [D] held a press conference Tuesday morning where he recommended limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, in accordance with President Donald Trump’s most recent coronavirus guidelines.

By Tuesday night, Northam had sent out the 10-person limit as an executive order.

Churches, too.

California:

LOS ANGELES – In a sit-down interview with FOX 11, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared gun stores as nonessential businesses that will be forced to close.

Sheriff Villanueva also said he’s adding 1,300 deputies to patrol, that he’s released 1,700 nonviolent inmates from county jails, and criticized how local politicians have handled the messaging behind the numerous stay-at-home orders

Rescinded … for now.

Illinois:

The mayor of Champaign, Illinois, gave herself the power to ban the sale of guns and alcohol after declaring a citywide emergency to address the coronavirus.

Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen signed the executive order on Thursday declaring a state of emergency for the city. That executive order, which is in line with municipal code, comes with extraordinary powers for the mayor to enact over a short period of time as the city combats the spread of the coronavirus.

New Jersey:

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered all collision repairers and other businesses with personal protective equipment to submit an inventory to the state by 5 p.m. Friday.

“Any business or non-hospital health care facility, including but not limited to dental facilities, construction facilities, research facilities, office-based healthcare or veterinary practices, and institutions of higher learning, in possession of PPE, ventilators, respirators, or anesthesia machines that are not required for the provision of critical health care services should undertake an inventory of such supplies and send that information to the State by no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 27, 2020,” Murphy ordered Monday.

There are many other examples, but, simply, a potential cure will halt the experimentation of various levels of authoritarianism. This is the other fear of the Democrats.

But, if you ask me, the experiment has already shown “successful” results.

And dashing hopes for a cure is an attempt to soften the ground for more. If the people believe that there will be no cure, we are more likely to let government have its way with us.

Pun intended.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Review, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak

By John Ruberry

“While we can’t predict where the next influenza pandemic is going to come from,” Dennis Carroll, the director of the emerging threats unit of US Agency for International Development, says in the third episode of the new six episode Netflix documentary series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, “there are certain places that you want to pay particular attention to–and China is one of those, that’s the place where we’ve seen the emergence of virtually all of the deadly influenza viruses over the last half-century.”

Carroll says this while images of a Vietnamese wet market, where live chickens are sold and slaughtered, are shown.

“We know that viruses move from wildlife into livestock into people,” he says early in that same episode.

I’m writing this from home in Illinois, where I am living under Governor JB Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order because of the COVID-19 coronoavirus outbreak. While the origin of this disease is still being debated it is likely, according to experts, that it did first infect humans at a wet market.

I saw Pandemic last week on my Netflix welcome screen and at first I looked away and said to myself, “If I want to know about pandemics I can switch on the local news–or cable news.” And I was concerned that this was, to use the legendary chant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a “bring out your dead” series. And it starts that way, with Carroll, at a mass grave in western Pennsylvania, one that is marked by a single crucifix. The site contains the remains of victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Yes, not only can it happen here–but it has happened here.

And the “not-if-but-when” pandemic has arrived, only it’s coronavirus instead of influenza.

The focus of Pandemic is on the scientists, the aid workers, and the doctors on the front lines of disease prevention and cures. People like Jake Glanville and Sarah Ives, the scientists who are working with pigs in Guatemala to develop an all-strains flu virus, as well as Dr. Dinesh Vijay, who treats flu patients at a crowded hospital in Jaipur, India. But disease isn’t just an urban phenomenon. In Pandemic, we meet Holly Goracke, the sole doctor at tiny Jefferson County Hospital in rural Oklahoma, who works 72-hour shifts. And we also become acquainted with Dr.Syra Madad, the director of the special pathogens program of New York City Health and Hospitals.

Along the way we are introduced to anti-vaccination activists in Oregon, health care workers at an Arizona border detention center, and World Health Organization disease fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who not only face the risk of contracting the extremely deadly Ebola virus, but also getting murdered by gangs.

Surprisingly, religion is viewed favorably in this scientific docuseries. Madad, Goracke, and Vijay all rely on faith to strengthen them as they battle disease.

Not surprisingly there are a few knocks in Pandemic over lack of funding from the Trump administration. Including from Madad. But she’s not infallible. In January, in a CNBC interview shortly after the debut of Pandemic, Madad praised China’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, although she did parse her statement with, “It’s too early to tell.” I wager she’d like to take that praise back.

If you are suffering from anxiety over coronavirus, you may want to stay away from Pandemic. The same goes if you are an anti-vaxxer–you’ll just get POd. Also, I suggest if you decide to view Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak then take it in just one episode at a time. At times the series is emotionally exhausting.

Pandemic is rated TV-14, Netflix says, because of foul language and smoking. And there are some disturbing scenes.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.