Early in Episode One of Flint Town, an eight-entry Netflix series that debuted this month, we discover a murder victim lying in the snow. And we see snowflakes resting unmelted on his hand–the only warmth he will offer can only come from memories from his loved ones.
Such is life and death in Flint.
Few cities of its size in the United State–probably none–have endured as much devastation as Flint has in the last thirty years. The population of Flint, which was once Michigan’s second largest city, peaked in 1960 at just under 200,000. But the wide scale exodus began in the 1980s when General Motors–it was founded in Flint–began its rapid downsizing of operations in what is still called “the Vehicle City.”
Flint is Detroit’s smaller cousin–sharing most of the same problems. But Flint’s water crisis–lead poisoning spawned by switching the city’s water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron facilities to that of the Flint River–added a tragic dimension to its suffering.
“It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Donald Trump remarks at a campaign appearance shown here. “Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”
Flint Town is a project of directors Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock. It takes a surprising choice of its focus, the under-resourced Flint Police.
“The police officers on the Flint Police Department and underpaid and understaffed, wearing five or six hats, [and] using primitive equipment,” Police Chief Timothy Johnson tells the city council in the final episode. Earlier in the series the dashboard on a Flint police car shows the odometer at 105,000 miles. The man who sits in the cubicle next to mine in my real job, a retired cop from a Chicago suburb about the same size as Flint, says that the cruisers on his force were surplussed at about 50,000 miles.
We see Devon Bernritter, a captain, lament that he was compelled to send three officers on foot patrols because no police cars were available for them. Cops are sent on calls by themselves in Flint in many situations that in other jurisdictions, because of perceived danger, two officers are sent.
Johnson utilizes the same type of resourcefulness that Soviet citizens used when facing problems with inadequate or missing equipment. Volunteers are hired to assist his officers, although unlike everywhere else these aides are armed, including a warm-hearted 65-year-old retiree whose trainer bends over backwards so he pass his marksmanship test. Guns seized in crimes are typically destroyed by most police departments. In Flint they are auctioned off.
Election Day comes to Flint Town. While not ignored, the presidential race–where the white cops favor Trump and the African American ones back Hillary Clinton–takes a back seat to a vote to extend a millage, a property tax, to provide what is of course badly needed funding for law enforcement. In the past those monies were spent, despite promises to voters, elsewhere.
Flint has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence. The latter point was something not even Michael Moore in his Roger and Me documentary could ignore. While its elections are non-partisan, Democrats dominate Flint politics.
“I always wondered why this city was in the position it was and now I see why, it’s at the top,” Chief Johnson boldly tells the city council in a budget hearing.
Yet the rank-and-file Flint cops deeply care about the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, despite toiling in the atmosphere of the cold-blooding killings in 2016, assassinations really, of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Is the love returned? For the most part, no. Flint Town is rated TV-MA for graphic violence and foul language. While Netflix is promoting this batch of shows as Season One, there has been no announcement that a second season is coming. I’d like to see another helping.
In honor of Illinois’ bicentennial, Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald compiled a list of Illinois’ best-known leaders. There is some good in it–Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, and some bad. Ethel Kennedy? Robert F. Kennedy’s widow was born in Chicago but grew up in Connecticut. And besides, her contributions don’t amount to very much.
Illinois has a well-deserved reputation for corruption. So I have put together my own list, the 14 Worst Leaders from Illinois.
My “hall of shame” by no means exonerates anyone not named.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
She is one of two people on both lists. Clinton is a former first lady, US senator, US secretary of state, and of course, the first major party presidential nominee. She was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Park Ridge. Smoke, but as of yet, no fire has engulfed HRC’s public career. Clinton was implicated, but never charged in the Whitewater Scandal. Two years after her Whitewater billing records from the Rose Law Firm were subpoenaed, they mysteriously appeared in the White House living quarters. While secretary of state under Barack Obama, she used a home-brewed private email server. Her handling of those emails was deemed “extremely careless” two years ago by FBI director James Comey. After our consulate in Benghazi was overrun by terrorists in 2012, leading to the death of our ambassador to Libya as well as three other Americans, Clinton spread the lie that a YouTube video inspired the barbarians
I could go on and on about Clinton, but I have other names on my naughty list.
Richard M. Daley
Chicago’s mayor from 1989-2011, Daley’s father, Richard J who was mayor for nearly as long., had a strong background in public finance which allowed Chicago to escape the fiscal problems cities such as those New York and Cleveland suffered in the 1970s. Richie Daley inherited his dad’s name but not his financial acumen. Chicago’s public pensions are the worst-funded of any major city in the country. Property tax increases signed into law to right the ship by his successor, Rahm Emanuel, are probably just buying time; besides, the tax hikes are likely a key reason why Chicago is the only major city with a declining population.
After two Democrats it’s time for our first Republican. Lennington “Len” Small of Kankakee was governor of Illinois from 1921-1929. While governor he was indicted for embezzling money during his time as state treasurer. He was found not guilty, but eight of the jurors on his trial later received state jobs. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
Another Kankakee GOPer, Ryan got in trouble for his scandalous eight years as Illinois secretary of state. Under Ryan, who once was speaker of the state House, the SoS office was enmeshed in a driver’s licenses for bribes scandal. Elected governor in 1998, after his one-term in that post Ryan was convicted of corruption involving perjury and bribery. His scandal was one of the few political ones that involved fatalities. On Election Day in 1994–Ryan was re-elected secretary of state that day–a truck driver who obtained his license by bribery caused an accident where six children from Chicago were killed.
Like Ryan, Powell served as speaker of the state House before his election as secretary of state. His personal motto was “There’s only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that’s a broke one.” Illinoisans who needed their license plates renewed were instructed to make their checks out to “Paul Powell.” What could go wrong? Powell died in office in 1970. The executor of his estate discovered over $800,000 in cash in the Springfield hotel suite where the southern Illinois self-servant lived, including some stuffed in a shoebox. His tombstone reads “Here lies a lifelong Democrat.”
Before his election to Congress in 1986, Hastert, a Republican, was a teacher and a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. He later became speaker of that House. But at Yorkville he was a serial child molester. He was sent to prison not over those assaults, but for lying to federal officials about banking activity involving payments to one of his victims.
He’s on that other list too. Jesse Jackson, the “poverty pimp” civil rights leader, has done little if anything to alleviate the problems of the people he claims to represent, Chicago’s minority poor. His half-brother, Noah Robinson, is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder-for-hire. Jackson utilized his then-powerful Rainbow/PUSH organization to elect his son, Jesse Jr, to Congress and his daughter-in-law, Junior’s wife, as a Chicago alderman. Both went to prison over misuse of campaign funds.
We have to go to the pre-Civil War era for Matteson. The Illinois & Michigan Canal is the reason Chicago is the Midwest’s great city, not Milwaukee or St. Louis. But the canal faced enormous financial difficulties before its completion in 1848. Scrip was utilized by Illinois to fund the canal but in 1859 it was discovered that Matteson, a Democrat who was governor from 1853-1857, converted some of that scrip for personal use. Matteson was investigated but never charged in the case.
Antoin “Tony” Rezko
An immigrant from Syria, Rezko essentially was a collector of Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Governor Rod Blagojevich. Rezko engineered the mysterious land deal that made Obama’s purchase of his South Side Chicago mansion affordable. But his role as a fixer for Governor Rod Blagojevich earned him a trip to prison.
The most recent Illinois governor to be sentenced to prison, the Chicago Democrat attempted to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He essentially transformed the governor’s office into a vast pay-to-play operation. He’s still a federal inmate. Outside of the corruption, Blago was a still terrible governor. Illinois’ precarious financial situation grew much worse during his six years in Springfield, lowlighted by a two-year long pension payment holiday. State House Speaker Michael Madigan–another speaker!–played a large role in that debacle. We’ll be learning more about Madigan a little later. As for Blagojevich, amazingly he is the only Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office.
William Hale Thompson
Chicago’s last Republican mayor, Thompson served two stints in office–from 1915-1923 and from 1927-1931. Thompson let Al Capone and other gangsters run wild during Prohibition. After the death of “Big Bill” in 1944, nearly $2 million in cash was found not in a shoebox, nor in Al Capone’s vault, but in a safe deposit box.
You might have heard his name in the news lately as Kerner, a Democratic governor from 1961-1968, served as the chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission, which explored the causes of the 1967 urban riots. It was released 50 years ago last month. But in 1961 Kerner received a bribe of race track stock, which only came to light after the woman who paid him off him listed that expenditure on her federal income tax return because she viewed it as a legitimate business expense. Who can blame her for that opinion of Illinois? By the time the bribe was revealed Kerner was serving as a federal appeals judge. Facing certain impeachment, he resigned. Kerner was released from prison early for health reasons and died in disgrace shortly afterwards.
Carol Moseley Braun
Capitalizing on anger over the testimony of Anita Hill against Judge Clarence Thomas over reputed sexual harassment during his US Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Braun went from being Cook County Recorder of Deeds to the US Senate in 1992, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in the upper chamber. Even before her election, scandal percolated for Braun over allegations that she and her campaign manager, Kgosie Matthews, who was also her fiancée, diverted campaign funds for personal use. The Chicago Democrat blew off her Senate orientation meetings and instead took a nearly month-long vacation in South Africa with Matthews. What followed was a mind-bogging and ethically challenged six years in the Senate. Matthews was a citizen of South Africa–foreign meddling anyone?–and he was also at one time a paid lobbyist for Nigeria, which was then run by a murderous dictator, Sani Abacha. Over the objections of the Congressional Black Caucus, Braun visited Abacha while she was a senator.
During the ’92 campaign, it came to light three years earlier that inheritance money belonging to her mother, a nursing home patient, was split between Braun and two siblings, instead of being used to reimburse Medicaid. Once the scam became public Braun promptly paid Medicaid $15,000.
Matthews was later accused of sexual harassment of female campaign workers. Braun was elected during what was then called “the Year of the Woman.”
Braun and Matthews–he later left the country–were never charged with crimes.
Like Richard M. Daley, Madigan has modeled his public life on that of Richie’s dad, the first Mayor Daley. But like the son, Madigan, who has been speaker of the state House for 33 of the last 35 years, the Boss of Illinois is inept in regards to government finance, which is why last year Reuters declared him “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.” Madigan, yet another Chicagoan, is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. The “speaker for life” runs the House with an iron fist and his gerrymandering abuse is an insult to democracy. He’s the poster child for the admonition, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Unless you live in Illinois’ 22nd state House district, Michael Madigan’s name will not be on your ballot when you vote in the March 20 primary in the Land of Lincoln.
Not directly, that is.
But his foul spirit will be there.
Even when there is a Democratic governor in Illinois, the most powerful Democrat in the state is Madigan, the state House speaker for 33 of the last 35 years. Since 1998 Madigan has been chairman of the state Democratic Party. He’s the committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward–that post allowed him to nominate Joseph Berrios as chairman of the Cook Party Democratic Party, better known as the Chicago Machine eleven years ago. The message was clear–the boss had spoken. Two other candidates withdrew and Berrios was unanimously elected. Berrios is also the Cook County assessor, it’s his office that determines what the county residents such as myself, as well as businesses, pay in property taxes. The assessor’s office has long been a cash cow for the Democrats.
The major Democratic candidates for governor, with the exception apparent frontrunner, JB Pritzker, accuse each other of not being independent of Madigan. Pritzker’s main challengers, Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss, have called for Madigan to resign his state party post over sexual harassment scandals involving staff members (but not Madigan himself).
Why aren’t they calling for Madigan to quit the speakership? Fear is my guess.
On the Republican side, the incumbent governor, Bruce Rauner, with “amusing and unconvincing effect,” Crain’s Chicago Business says, accuses his conservative challenger, Jeanne Ives, of being a Madigan ally.
Ah, but where are the Madigan allies? Sure, when it was time, again, to reelect the speaker-for-life last year, he prevailed. There was only one “nay” vote from Democrats. And that dissident was punished.
Madigan controls not only the remap of state legistlative districts but also those of Illinois’ congressional districts. He’s the Pablo Picasso of gerrymandering.
I have many friends who live in this blue state who tell me that they detest Madigan–yet they vote for every Democrat on the ballot.
Is the state attorney general able to fight Madigan? Maybe in year. Lisa Madigan, daughter of, well, you know, has been holding that job since 2003. But she’s not running for reelection. Her dad holds considerable sway over Illinois judges too.
Even Barack Obama does Madigan’s bidding. After a Chicago Democrat missed a key House override vote of a Rauner veto, a hand-picked Madigan ally, Juliana Stratton, was endorsed by the then-president and Obama even appeared in a TV ad for the challenger in the next primary election. Madigan and Obama’s candidate won. Stratton is now Pritzker’s running mate.
The Democratic Party of Illinois is Michael Madigan and Michael Madigan is the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Cognitive dissonance is widespread in this state.
While the official state animal of Illinois is the white-tailed deer, in reality it’s an octopus named Mike Madigan. His tentacles are everywhere.
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Donald Trump received during the 2016 general election campaign, only two of them came from publications that have more than 100,000 subscribers. Those papers were the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Florida Times-Union. There were nine anti-endorsements–eight of those urged “Not Donald Trump–” and 64 “No Endorsements.” Most of the rest, 243 of them, were for Hillary Clinton.
Running against Rauner in the GOP primary is Jeanne Ives, who I support. A West Point graduate, Ives entered the race after Rauner signed into law bills that angered Land of Lincoln conservatives, including sanctuary state legislation, a bill that allows Illinoisans to change the gender listed on their birth certificates, and legislation that expands taxpayer funding for abortions. On that last one Rauner broke his promise to Illinoisans--including Cardinal Blase Cupich–that he would veto it.
Rauner’s endorsements are milquetoast testimonials.
“You say you wish more had been accomplished during Rauner’s first term to fix finances, to grow jobs? So do we,” the Chicago Tribune shrugs.
“As we approach this primary election, we have fundamental concerns about the governor’s ability to lead in this incredibly difficult time,” the Bloomington Pantagraph unloads.
“With a handful of exceptions, we believe he has been a failure as governor, and he has only himself to blame. He promised what he could not deliver,” says the Chicago Sun-Times.
In not choosing Ives, each paper mentions her conservative stance on social issues and the Pantagraph specifically cites a controversial TV ad where actors, including a man wearing a dress, “thank” Rauner for signing social issue legislation.
There has been only one poll so far in the GOP race and it’s a month old. At that time nearly 70 percent of likely voters hadn’t heard of Ives. But a few days later Ives’ TV commercials, including the one that has so angered the media and Democrats who have no intention of voting for a Republican candidate for governor, began airing.
The “experts” said Trump couldn’t even win the Republican nomination for president, let alone defeat Hillary Clinton. Sure, Illinois is a blue state, but the Land of Lincoln has been destroyed by the Democratic hegemony led by Madigan. And as I told the Prairie State Wire last week, Illinois hasn’t had a real conservative governor in the modern era.
The United States has survived a Civil War and two world wars, and the Cold War.
But can it survive Russian bots? And a search for “monsters.”
Thirteen Russians were indicted on Friday–none were arrested because they don’t live here–for interfering in the 2016 presidential election by acting as “trolls” from St. Petersburg. These “bots” utilized Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stir up controversy and discord. The group that the accused were associated with was appropriately known as “the Troll Farm.” The scheme was hatched in 2013, a year before Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president, which you’ll recall was initially viewed by nearly everyone as a sideshow and a stage for the real estate mogul to promote his businesses and his Celebrity Apprentice television franchise.
Last spring Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced his appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as the special prosecutor on alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and…any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
As with the indictments of former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort, who briefly was Trump’s campaign manager, and Rick Gates, none of this has anything to do with so-called Russian collusion between Trump World and Russia. The same can be said of the plea deals between former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and low-lever staffer George Papadopolous. These four men clearly fall under “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” The last two pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials but not colluding with Russia. The first two have been charged for actions that predate Trump’s presidential run.
Which led the president to remark on Twitter a few hours ago, “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”
I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!
So far Rosenstein, remember he’s the man who appointed Mueller as special prosecutor, agrees.
“There is no allegation that any American is a knowing participant,” Rosenstein said when announcing the indictments of the 13 Russians. “There is no allegation that the charge altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
And the search for “monsters,” Trump calls it a witch hunt, goes on. While Mueller seems to be on to something with the bots, where was Barack Obama when the Troll Farm broke ground during his presidency? Obama famously and wrongly ridiculed Mitt Romney for calling Russia “our number one geopolitical foe” in a debate. Shortly before leaving office, Obama did tell Vladimir Putin, “cut it out.”
All the same, America will survive the bots.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. His wife, who was born in the Soviet Union, is not a Russian spy, she assures him.
While I’m watching snow fall outdoors at Marathon Pundit world headquarters in Morton Grove, Illinois, the rest of my family is vacationing in southern California.
When they drove into California at Needles, just as the Joads did in The Grapes of Wrath, they were also greeted by more desert, as well as this 76 sign, which informs motorists that regular gasoline is selling for $3.79-a-gallon, more than a dollar above the national average.
Taxes are of course the reason and late last year the Tarnished State increased its gas taxes by 12 cents-a-gallon, to pay for road improvements.
California’s problems are vast. When the cost-of-living is figured in California suffers from the nation’s highest poverty rate. Modern day Joads are better off staying in Oklahoma. California’s roads are in bad shape because of onerous financial obligations in other parts of the budget. CalPERs, California’s public worker pension plan, is a sinkhole, so much so that Governor Jerry Brown is suggesting that pension benefits might be lowered–even for state workers currently paying into the program.
Another budget-buster is California’s high-speed rail project. Eight years ago voters approved the $40 billion project because government would pay for construction, which would make it “free.” Cost estimates for it have already climbed to $64 billion. If completed, and right now that might be stretch at best, it will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The relatively inexpensive segment where construction has begun, between Madera and Bakersfield, is already beset by delays, so much so that Victor Davis Hanson is musing that what little has been built could end up as nothing more than a modern Stonehenge. While the project is receiving federal funds, an increase of cash from Washington DC is not going to happen during the Trump presidency. So don’t count on a bailout, Californians.
Liberalism is expensive. And liberals love trains because, unlike cars and buses, they only go where there are tracks.
Moving up the Pacific Coast Highway into Oregon we learn that legislators are considering implementing an expensive cap-and-trade scheme that will punish large energy users, who are of course also large employers, in order to fight global warming. California has a cap-and-tax racket going already. But there is some good news out of Oregon. Earlier this year, a new law took effect that allows drivers to fill up their own gas tanks–without an attendant. Of course some Oregonians freaked out, No, this was not an episode of Portlandia. Now only another coastal blue state, New Jersey, bans self-serve gas stations.
The United States has much cheaper energy costs than Japan and most nations in Europe, which is one of the reasons, along with President Trump’s slashing of regulations–many of them involving energy–why the American economy is booming.
Does the West Coast want to be left behind as the rest of our nation enjoys prosperity? California, as it has been for decades for good and for ill, is already ahead of the curve.
Almost a year ago here at Da Tech Guy I wrote this about Chris Kennedy entering the race for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor.
He’s not a people person. I can’t remember who said it, but a wiser scribe than me said something along these lines about Hillary Clinton, “Some chefs can’t cook in front of an audience. And Hillary can’t do politics in front of people.”
And that’s Kennedy too.
Chris, a son of Robert F. Kennedy, has lived on Chicago’s North Shore for many years, for much of that time he ran Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, which his family used to own.
Kennedy still can’t cook in front of an audience.
Last year entered the fray of Democratic politics after years of begging from prominent pols.
As I noted in my that Kennedy post, a disastrous elevator interview at a 2016 Democratic National Convention event when he as still weighing his gubernatorial run betrayed Kennedy as a hothead. He is one. A trusted reader of my own blog told me that many years ago he witnessed Kennedy throw a drink in the face of a woman at a chamber of commerce event.
Kennedy’s campaign hasn’t caught fire, unless you include his self-immolation in recent weeks. JB Pritzker, who is part of another Democratic political family that so far hasn’t produced an electoral office holder, has sucked most of the oxygen in the room. He’s gathered most of the endorsements from Democratic politicians and from labor unions. By all accounts he is the frontrunner in the race. While the Pritzker name isn’t as politically magical as the Kennedy name, JB is worth over $3 billion and he’s self-funding his campaign. Chris Kennedy is wealthy enough to live in a huge mansion in one of Illinois’ wealthiest communities, but he is only a meager millionaire who can’t afford the Pritzker approach to campaign finance.
Illinois’ gubernatorial primary will take place on March 20.
Let’s look at Kennedy’s recent stumbles.
Early this month Kennedy accused Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, of purposely driving blacks out of the city to expedite gentrification.
Jeanne Ives, the conservative legislator who is challenging incumbent Bruce Rauner in the Republican Primary, said that “fathers in the home” is the solution to gun violence in Chicago. A bit simplistic? Perhaps. But single-parent homes–which almost always means that there is no father there–by all accounts is a root cause of inner city violence.
Kennedy’s response was, “Well, I wish I could agree with you. I didn’t have a father in my life. Somebody shot him.” RFK’s death of course was a tragedy but his assassination was not a symptom of inner city violence.
Kennedy then stormed out of the forum.
Rauner is ignoring Ives’ challenge and has been running TV ads across the state and online playing excerpts of FBI wiretaps of Pritzker speaking with then-Governor Rod Blagojevich over a possible appointment to be Illinois treasurer, which have been effective.
I think Bruce Rauner is trying to do what he thinks is best for the state of Illinois. And we may disagree on what that is, but his willingness to speak truth to power, to take on the powers that have been strangling our economy for decades in this state is something that I think he should be applauded for.
Rauner has been consistently defeated in his attacks on “the powers,” which are centered upon longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Democrats of course pounced on Kennedy’s pro-Rauner comments.
Last week at a televised candidate forum moderator Carol Marin asked participants to say something nice about an opponent, just as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were invited to do at one of their debates.
Pritzker lauded Kennedy’s charitable work with Special Olympics. Kennedy couldn’t return the favor, calling Pritzker “the poster child of all that’s wrong with the corrupt system in our state – it’s difficult for me to heap praise on him.”
Realizing his mistake, after the forum Kennedy cited Pritzer’s efforts for children’s charities.
It’s gotten so bad for Kennedy that the little-known Daniel Biss, a leftist state senator who represents a district near my home, is seen by some as the best-positioned challenger to Pritzker. In his latest ad, Biss attacks Rauner, Trump, Prtizker, and Kennedy.
Last year Pritzker was caught scamming the complicated and esoteric property tax system in Cook County, where Chicago is. Kennedy blew the whistle on Pritzker, but forgot his own shady history on tax appeals.
So goes the attempt to plant a seed of the Kennedy dynasty in Illinois.
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
Now that we have entered the first full day of President Donald Trump’s second year in office it’s a good time to ask this question.
Is Trump a conservative?
“Yes,” is my firm answer.
Fascinatingly, Trump doesn’t talk about conservatism much, nor did he as a candidate. Contrast the president with the dozens of Republicans elected to Congress since the Tea Party wave of 2010 who talked a tough game on issues such as ObamaCare, illegal immigration, and shrinking the government. But once in power, many of these GOPers backed away from strong conservative stances on those issues.
But here we have a president in Trump who didn’t campaign as a conservative but who is governing as one.
Trump’s first major move in office was to nominate Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. So far Gorsuch has been a solid conservative voice on the nation’s highest court. While there have been some qualification issues on a few district court nominees, the president has nominated a solid group of conservative jurists on the district and appellate levels. As for the latter, Trump set a record for the most appellate nominees confirmed in a first year of office.
Our military, with the aid of allies, has had great success against the Islamic State, to the point where we can say that it’s likely that ISIS has been defeated. A strong national defense is the backbone of any conservative playbook.
And last month the Republican tax cut bill was signed into law–which has already fattened the wallets of Americans. Included in that bill was the elimination of the unpopular ObamaCare individual mandate, which may lead to the unraveling of the signature law of Trump’s predecessor.
The cut in regulations and taxes have spurred an unprecedented rally in the stock market since Trump’s election.
Yesterday, although by video hook-up, Trump became the first president to address the annual March for Life rally.
On his radio show last year Mark Levin called Trump “the most conservative president since Reagan.”
As he is on so many things, Levin is correct.
America has a conservative president again—one who didn’t campaign as one.
It’s an inconsistency I can live with happily.
Today there is a government shutdown–why? Because Trump is standing up for conservative policies.
“But… but maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or… or some of those men in Washington.”
Julian Shellhammer, Macy’s toy department head in Miracle on 34th Street.
“On 24 March 1943, Päts was sent to forced treatment in psychoneurotic hospitals first in Kazan, then in Chistopol in Tatar ASSR. His forced psychiatric hospitalization was justified by his ‘persistent claiming of being the president of Estonia.'” Wikipedia biography of Konstantin Päts, the Estonian president who was deposed by the Red Army.
“I mean, psychiatry: it’s the latest religion. We decide what’s right and wrong. We decide who’s crazy or not.”
Dr. Kathryn Railly in Twelve Monkeys.
Last month during a two-day long private meeting with over a dozen members of Congress–all Democrats save one Republican senator–Dr. Bandy X. Lee, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Yale, said of President Trump, “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”
Lee is the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a book where 27 mental health professionals–meaning, I assume, as professionals that they earn their living in that field–rant about the “dangerousness” of the 45th president.
Two days ago The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey reported that Lee says there are Washington DC-based shrinks and legal organization who are willing–and no, this is not from a 24 script–to work to commit Trump against his will if White House staff issues troubling reports about him.
Trump Derangement Syndrome has reached a disturbing low, but no doubt the last. (Oh, I can make that diagnosis because I am not a mental health professional and TDS is not a clinical term.) Some people, with as many degrees slapped on them as you’ll find ads on hockey rink boards. just can’t accept the fact that Donald J. Trump is president. Are Lee and her cohorts intelligent? In a way, yes. On the other hand there is documentary about the fall of Enron entitled The Smartest Guys in the Room.
Ah, but there is some good news. The American Psychiatric Association reaffirmed its 1973 condemnation of what it calls “armchair psychiatry.”
Today, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reiterates its continued and unwavering commitment to the ethical principle known as “The Goldwater Rule.” We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media. Armchair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical.
The Goldwater Rule, as Alan Dershowitz points out in the Washington Examiner–Dersh voted for Hillary Clinton by the way–goes back to the 1964 presidential election when a magazine, based on interviews with 1,100 psychiatrists, deemed that the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, was unstable and therefore mentally unfit to serve as president. None of these smartest guys in the room had examined the Arizona senator, who served in the upper chamber with distinction for two decades after his landslide defeat, nor had they even met him.
The winner in that presidential election and the man Dershowitz voted for, Lyndon B. Johnson, got us entangled in the Vietnam War which led to the deaths of 58,000 Americans.
The “experts” were wrong.
The Trump-is-crazy meme will probably fade away soon, but not completely, I fear. But the left will proceed with more plots to remove Trump from office, which so far have included the Hamilton Electors (before he was sworn-in), Russia, emoluments, tax returns, and of course Russia.
Here is my non-professional mental health advice for those of all you Trump Derangement Sufferers: Deal with the strong likelihood that Trump will be president for the next three years–and probably seven. Presidents who run for reelection usually win. Accept it and find a way to get on with your lives, without watching CNN or MSBNC during every waking hour. I cannot promise happiness, no one can. But I suspect you will be less miserable.
Oh, by the way, Trump is not crazy. Not even a little bit.
Illinois will have one of the most-closely watched gubernatorial contests this year. Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner has been a tremendous disappointment to me and just about every conservative voter I know. I enthusiastically backed the then-political newcomer in 2014, but this time around, as I explained here at Da Tech Guy, I’m supporting Rauner’s Republican challenger, state representative Jeanne Ives in the March primary election.
Ives is attacking Rauner, and to be fair, the Dems are too. Rauner has much to answer for. Actually he has little to answer for–as Rauner has not accomplished much of anything. For her part Ives is promoting common sense reforms that only public-sector union bosses and their enablers oppose, such as amending the state constitution so pension benefits can be changed, that is, so payment increases can be lowered, and having new state employees enroll in 401(k) plans.
Deals with the Democrats’ state worker wing, the public-sector unions, that some Republican governors signed off on–but not Rauner–have burdened the Prairie State with $250 billion in pension debt. Retiring at 50 with full benefits is nice–except for chumps like me who have to pay for it. Illinois’ current budget is $36 billion and a whopping one-quarter of it goes to government worker pension payments. Illinois has suffered from the worst credit rating among the states for years, currently that rating is just one level above junk.
Illinoisans are responding sensibly and predictably–for four straight years Illinois has had negative population growth.
There is little to celebrate during Illinois’ bicentennial year.
Two candidates on the Democratic side are getting most of the attention from the media and presumably it’s a race between them, as there is currently no polling data on gubernatorial race. Billionaire investor JB Pritzker, a scion of the family that own the Hyatt Hotel chain, has collected the lion’s share of endorsements from prominent Democrats and the party’s union allies. He the only Democratic candidate regularly running ads on radio, television, and on the internet. The other prominent contender is Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy who used to run Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.
Neither have much to say about Illinois’ long-running fiscal crisis and solutions for it, other than “taxing the rich.” But they don’t even talk much about that.
Pritzker’s web advertisements are a daily presence on my Facebook and Pandora pages–in these Pritzker almost always attacks Donald Trump, as he does for instance in this YouTube ad. Trump has not visited Illinois since he was elected president. Last year, in front of Chicago’s Trump Tower, Pritzker released his five-point plant to resist the president. And when the inevitable spring tornado tears through Illinois bringing death and destruction, who will Governor Pritzker call for help?
Since Trump has been monopolized as a scapegoat by Pritzker, Kennedy is left with smaller prey. One of his targets is a worthy one, at least for scorn. That one is Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is also the chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as the Chicago Machine. Pritzker owns a mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast. He purchased a smaller mansion that sits next to his. The billionaire didn’t maintain it–and then he successfully appealed his property tax assessment with Berrios’ office because the other mansion was “vacant and uninhabitable,” saving Pritzker a bundle of cash. Berrios has been under attack by the Chicago Tribune for his assessing practices, which the Chicago Tribunesays favors the rich over the poor. Kennedy is calling for Berrios to resign as assessor, but the tiny yet powerful law firm where the longtime state House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman, Michael Madigan, is a partner was hired to lower the property taxes of a company owned by Kennedy’s Merchandise Mart.
Last week Kennedy moved on to another unpopular target, Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
“I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration,” Kennedy said at a press conference held in a predominately African-American neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. “I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes,” he added.
Phrased succinctly, Rahm, according to Kennedy, is driving blacks out of Chicago.
For a variety of reasons, including most notably high crime and execrable unionized schools, in sheer numbers and by percentage, the black population of many large cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and even Detroit has been falling, as I stated in my own blog when I reported on this story. Kennedy’s claim is tin-foil hat stuff.
And what does Trump and Emanuel have to do with Illinois’ pension debacle? Nothing with the former and a just a little bit in regards to the latter, since Rahm, a longtime prominent Illinois Democrat, was silent about the festering fiscal disease that is devouring ILL-inois. As for Berrios, I’ll place the party boss somewhere in the middle.
But the role of scapegoats, using the term in the modern sense, is to defer attention away from larger problems. And Kennedy and Pritzker don’t have solutions–or if they do they don’t care to share them with voters.
Boss Michael Madigan’s use of “Illinois math” to kick the pension problem down the road isn’t an option anymore. Illinois has reached the cliff.
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.