I oppose Trump’s commutation of Blagojevich sentence

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Who is Mike Bloomberg?

By John Ruberry

As expected because Michael Bloomberg is rising in the Democratic polls, there’s a backlash from the far-left against his candidacy. The far-left of course is no longer a fringe within the Democrat Party. Socialist Bernie Sanders has a very good shot of winning the Democratic nomination. The Vermont senator will almost certainly lose to Donald Trump if he gets the Dems’ nod in Milwaukee, but Bernie will set a new record for highest percentage of vote collected by a self-admitted socialist, the previous high was the six percent collected by Eugene V. Debs in 1912, which until recently was seen as an astoundingly high amount.

Times have changed but not that much. A majority of Americans do not want socialized medicine, oops, make that “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal, and student loan bailouts.

But most Democrats oppose Trump, no, make that they despise Trump. And with the collapse of the not-so-left wing campaign of Joe Biden, some Dems are looking at Mike Bloomberg as their savior.

Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat until he successfully ran as a Republican for mayor of New York in 2001. Then he quit the GOP and ran as an independent for mayor in 2009, winning again. Now he’s a Democrat again.

As mayor Bloomberg kept Rudy Giuiliani’s successful CompStat policing program. New York endured 2,245 murders in 1990.Three years Guiliani was elected, now annual murders in NYC hovers around 300. CompStat floods dangerous neighborhoods with police officers–and until recently stop-and-frisk was part of policing in those crime-ridden areas. Last week leaked audio emerged from 2015 where Bloomberg supports it. “95% of murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 16 to 25,” Bloomberg said. “The way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them … And then they start … ‘Oh, I don’t want to get caught,’ so they don’t bring the gun. They still have a gun, but they leave it at home.”

Remember, the Dems are the party of Black Lives Matter. When former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said at a Netroots even “All lives matter,” he was booed and then he quickly apologized.

Whatever happened to O’Malley?

This morning Politico found a 2013 videotape where Bloomberg, not favorably, compared an NYC teachers union to the National Rifle Association. That’s a problem for Bloomberg, as the Democrats, among other things, is the party of the public-sector unions. The same unions that have destroyed the finances of many states and cities, most of them run by Democrats

New York City hasn’t been hit as hard by the pension bomb as much as Chicago, which is bankrupt-in-all-but name because of unfunded public-sector union pension obligations, and Bloomberg deserves some of the credit for that. As he was leaving the mayor’s office Bloomberg warned of a “fiscal straitjacket” for cities and a “labor-electoral complex that has traditionally stymied reform.”

Bloomberg got rid of, or at least eliminated, the infamous “rubber rooms” for New York public school teachers who were paid to do nothing, while still getting paid by taxpayers, as they awaited their dismissal hearings.

So Bloomberg, in my opinion, did some good as mayor. Now he has apologized for his support of stop-and-frisk. Now Bloomberg has to make peace the public-sector unions. Look for other embarrassing video and audio clips to emerge. Surely staffers from the remaining Democratic campaigns are scouring the internet and public records; hey, they even may be scanning Babylonian tablets looking for dirt on Bloomberg.

Like Trump, Bloomberg has not released his tax returns. He promises them “soon.”

Bloomberg risks looking like an opportunist who will change his views to be elected president. The NeverTrump movement of 2016 within the GOP accused Trump of being a Democrat who was masquerading as a Republican to win the White House, one who would govern as a Democrat. Of course that hasn’t happened, Trump is the most conservative president since Ronald Reagan.

There’s much for woke Democrats, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing, to hate in regards to Mayor Mike.

Just as I am in this post, the far-left wing of the Democrats will be wondering, if they are not already, just who is the real Michael Bloomberg.

Republicans and many independents already know who the real Donald Trump is. Love him or hate him, Trump is genuine.

People don’t like phonies. They don’t like sneaky people, and Hillary Clinton has been a sneak for decades. So it’s pretty funny that according to the Drudge Report, Bloomberg is considering HRC as a running mate, even though one of them will have to declare residency in another state because the Constitution prevents a presidential ticket with two candidates from the same state. 

Back to the beginning of my post: Most Americans don’t want a socialist president.

The Democrats might need a new candidate to rescue them. Biden of course has already failed. Who else do they have? Martin O’Malley?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Andrew Jackson’s censure was expunged, what about Trump’s impeachment?

By John Ruberry

Last week of course President Donald J. Trump was acquitted by the Senate after being impeached by the House. Ironically the acquittal comes in what was arguably the president’s most successful week in his 37 months in office. His not-so-loyal opposition, the Democrats, embarrassed themselves by taking several days to count 170,000 or so votes ending up with results, essentially a tie between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, that leave more questions than answers.

Last week the stock market reached new highs–again. The employment numbers that were released on Friday were great–again. His State of the Union speech, which extolled “the Great American comeback,” given the evening before his acquittal, was enthusiastically received by his base, as was his “victory lap” celebration at the White House on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked petty–wait, make that she was petty–as she ripped up her copy of President Trump’s SOTU speech.

“Trump keeps going,” Greg Gutfeld said on his Fox News show last night. “He doesn’t have the wind at his back. He’s got a Category 5 hurricane.”

In a feeble defense of why the House impeached the president, Pelosi said in December, “He’ll be impeached forever.” On Wednesday, Acquittal Day in the Senate, Trump was forever acquitted.

Trump’s favorite president is Andrew Jackson. Ironically he was the founder of the Democratic Party. In 1834, after Old Hickory removed federal funds from the government-chartered Second Bank of the United States and deposited them in state banks, the Senate censured Jackson. In 1837 the Senate expunged the censure.

There is talk of the House expunging Trump’s impeachment, which, like the expungement of Old Hickory’s censure, will be symbolic. Then again, “impeached forever” is largely symbolic too. Last week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he favors it. “This is the fastest, weakest, most political impeachment in history,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think it should stay on the books.”

Calling it, again, “a total political hoax,” Trump supports McCarthy’s suggestion.

If the Republicans retake the House this year, look for the 117th Congress to expunge Trump’s impeachment.

A lot has been made of Trump’s demeanor, most of it criticism from his opponents. But Jackson, who killed a man in a duel, tops Trump in bellicose talk. As he was leaving office in 1837, he asked by his successor, his second vice president, Martin Van Buren, if he had any regrets. He had two, “[That] I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.”

Clay led the censure battle. Calhoun was Jackson’s first vice president and who was a primary figure opposing Old Hickory during the Nullification Crisis.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois corruption investigation breaks wide open with guilty plea of state senator for bribery over red-light cameras and more

By John Ruberry

Last Sunday in this space I wrote about the need to ban red-light cameras in Illinois–and nationwide. One of the reasons I gave was that the easy cash collected from these “safety devices” fosters corruption. Oh, as far as safety, I mentioned in that post that the record on safety involving red-light cameras is at best mixed. They may even cause automobile accidents.

On Tuesday former Illinois state senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), who has close ties to longtime state House speaker Michael Madigan–who also is the chairman of the state Democratic Party–pleaded guilty to bribery, tax evasion, and extortion charges in federal court. Sandoval is now cooperating with the feds.

Sandoval is the former chairman of the senate Transportation Committee. Using the clout from that post, he promised to “go balls to the walls for anything you ask me” to a representative of the red-light camera firm referred to as “Company A” in the plea agreement.

So far that company has not been officially named but perhaps in a verbal misstep, told a judge, “I accepted money in exchange for the use of my office as a state senator to help SafeSpeed, or Company A.”

SafeSpeed denies wrongdoing and in a statement says it is cooperating with federal authorities. 

Politicians are nervous. This weekend on his Fox Chicago show Flannery Fired Up, host Mike Flannery said, “This red light camera company–suddenly candidates, Republicans and Democrats in Springfield and elsewhere are racing to get rid of this money as if it was infected with the coronavirus. ”

Prosecutors say that Sandoval accepted $250,000 in bribes, including $70,000 in bribes to benefit the red-light camera industry. 

It hardly seems that the industry needs the help. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, Illinois drivers have handed over $1.1 billion to municipalities in fines involving red-light camera infractions. Illinois’ largest city of course is Chicago so it won’t shock you that it has more red-light cameras than any American municipality. Chicago, as I also mentioned in last week’s DTG entry, has already endured its own red-light camera scandal. The central figure in that scandal worked his way up the ranks in Boss Madigan’s Chicago ward organization.

Part of the federal investigation involves lobbying done on the behalf of Commonwealth Edison, the local electrical utility.

As far as public interest, the jaded residents of Illinois will have reasons to keep their attention focused on these scandals. Why?

  • Because people hate utilities.
  • They hate red-light cameras.
  • They hate politicians.

Yes, people keep re-electing the latter, but Boss Michael Madigan, the Michelangelo of gerrymanderers, mocks the electoral system by creating legislative districts that all but ensures Democratic super-majorities in the Illinois General Assembly. 

And increasingly, people hate Illinois. The Prairie State has lost population for six straight years. And no, cold winters aren’t the reason. The states that border Illinois, as well as nearby Michigan, are gaining residents. 

As nauseum pols and media figures are calling–again–for “meaningful reform” in Illinois. Here are my suggestions: Amend the state constitution to ban gerrymandering, and bring term limits to the General Assembly–four terms in the House and two in the Senate. Majority leaders, minority leaders, House speakers and Senate president should be limited to four-year terms. And while we are amending the constitution, the pension guarantee clause needs to dropped, but while protecting those recipients on the lower and of the pension scale. 

Did you know that state legislators can be paid lobbyists? Ban that too.

Also, the state needs a strong inspector general with the power investigate General Assembly members. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois red-light camera probe provides convincing evidence why they should be banned

Chicago’s Northwest Side

By John Ruberry

There is a lot of red-light camera news in Illinois. As part of an overall corruption investigation in the state, federal authorities are into looking into the activities of Chicago firm, SafeSpeed, LLC, which installs red-light cameras in some Chicago suburbs.

Last week the mayor of west suburban Oakbrook Terrace, Tony Ragucci, resigned. He is part of that SafeSpeed probe. Federal agents have also have raided the municipal offices of the villages of McCook, Summit, and Lyons in conjunction with this investigation. A state senator who is part of the red-light camera probe, Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) has since resigned.

Last year federal authorities seized $60,000 from Ragucci’s home, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, and $51,000 from a safe from Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski’s residence. Tobolski is also the mayor of McCook.

SafeSpeed’s CEO denies any wrongdoing and no charges have been filed regarding the firm.

In 2017, the Forest Park Review called SafeSpeed a “clouted company.”

Something stinks in Illinois. Actually, something new stinks in the state.

Red-light cameras are a cruel cash cow. At best their record in preventing accidents, the prima facie for them, is mixed as evidence shows out of fear of a $100 ticket–the charge in Illinois–motorists often abruptly slam on the brakes but then end up getting rear-ended.

As the nation’s most corrupt city, it shouldn’t be surprising that Chicago has more red-light cameras than any other municipality. Nor should it be surprising that it has endured a bribery scandal involving red-light cameras. John Bills, a former precinct captain in Michael Madigan’s political organization, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for accepting $2 million in bribes and gifts from a different red-light camera company, Redflex.

Madigan has been speaker of the Illinois House for thirty-five of the last thirty-seven years and he’s been the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1998.

Three paragraphs ago I called red light cameras a cruel cash cow. How much cash? From 2008 through 2018, drivers forked over $1 billion to municipalities. Not a major reason, but I suspect the proliferation of red-light cameras, most of which are concentrated in the Chicago area, as among the causes of Illinois’ six-years-and-counting population decline.

Here’s a personal take on red-light cameras. Thursday night Mrs. Marathon Pundit, who is a limousine driver, called me. “You have to pick me up at O’Hare Airport.” I replied, “Why?” She answered, “There is a boot on my limo.” Yes, one of those wheel boots. When I picked her up at O’Hare she supplied more details. “The city says there are four unpaid red-light tickets, two of them are from 2018, but the office says they were never told about them.”

Okay, you may answer that one of her co-workers could be covering up inaction at the office. But in order for her employer to receive a city vehicle sticker for the limo she drives, all red-light camera tickets must be paid off. But the limo she drives has the latest Chicago vehicle sticker.

Those four tickets cost her employer $988, which included late charges and sending someone out to the car to remove the boot. Not knowing what was coming next, Mrs. Marathon Pundit parked her limo in a short-term lot, so her fee–which we have to pay–was a staggering $77. As it took all day Friday to sort out this debacle, my wife missed a day of work. She’s not on salary.

I’m certain hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have similar stories.

There is some good news regarding red-light cameras. Last year Texas became the eighth state to abolish them. And in a rare bipartisan push, there is a movement in Illinois to ban them. And Illinois drivers now have a new friend, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza. The Chicago Democrat says she’ll no longer assist municipalities in collecting red-light camera tickets. “As a matter of public policy, this system is clearly broken,” Mendoza said in a statement, “I am exercising the moral authority to prevent state resources from being used to assist a shady process that victimizes taxpayers.”

Good for her. 

Red-light cameras should be banned. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review of the Netflix series Thieves of the Wood

By John Ruberry

Are you missing some Robin Hood in your life? If you are a Netflix subscriber and you can stomach graphic violence, including torture, as well as gratuitous nudity, then you may want to take a look at the ten-episode Belgian series Thieves of the Wood, which began streaming earlier this month.

And you must be patient. Thieves of the Wood moves slowly, and if you don’t know about Jan de Lichte or Flanders of the 18th century, as I didn’t until a few days ago, you might get lost.

After watching the first episode I was indeed lost. So I got on my iPad where I learned that Jan de Lichte was a real person, a highway man, who of course robbed from the rich. After all, stealing from the poor is never very profitable. At the beginning of that first episode, de Lichte (Matteo Simoni) is being dragged on a sandy trail by mounted Austrian troops, he’s accused of murder and desertion. Now is the time to bring some historical perspective. Most of contemporary Flanders, a Dutch speaking region, lies in Belgium. But in the 1740s this region was then part of Austria although it was occupied by France. Historians call this conflict the War of Austrian Succession.

De Lichte escapes. He returns to his hometown of Aalst, which is run by corrupt Flemish aristocrats, led by Mayor Coffijn (Dirk Roofthooft). Just as de Lichte arrives in Aalst, so does the new bailiff, that is the chief of police, Jean-Phillipe Baru (Tom Van Dyck). Both learn that punishment is harsh in Aalst. Baru is horrified when he learns that a man and a woman are about to be flogged for the crime of stealing two rabbits from Coffijn’s estate, then branded–while their children watch. Now paperless, they are exiled from the city to live in a nearby forest.

Those woods are not the Nottingham Forest of Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. The refuge is overrun by abject poverty, disease, prostitution, and opium smoking. De Lichte, aided by his half-brother Tincke (Stef Aerts), organize the downtrodden to fight back against the oppression, although it’s not until the fourth episode–I did say that Thieves of the Wood requires patience–that their plans bear fruit.

The loot is shared. Everyone wins in the forest. While Coffijn seethes

The scriptwriters are clearly hostile to the Catholic church. There is no Friar Tuck in this forest, in the town presides an imperious priest, Picke. He reminded me of the cruel Lutheran bishop in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. 

As the series played out to me I fully expected a Donald Trump reference or two, especially since America comes up in the dialogue a couple of times. Then it hit me. Two of the town council members, including Mayor Coffijn, wear orange, or I should of course say red, periwigs. Perhaps that’s only a coincidence. Perhaps not. 

Some of the good: The costumes of Thieves of the Wood, including those wigs, are first-rate and the cinematography is superb. 

And now some of the bad: There are no subtitles, the Dutch dialogue instead is dubbed by British actors. The American entertainment industry suffers from the false premise that we won’t watch subtitled offerings. But last night I saw the Korean film Parasite, which is subtitled. Not only is Parasite an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture (and Best International Feature Film), but it is also performing very well in the domestic box office. Deservedly so, I’d like to add. 

Thieves of the Wood is rated TV-MA for reasons I listed above. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Hello Iran: When people stop believing government lies they stop believing in the government

Latvian Popular Front Leader Mavricks Vulfsons. Signs read “Freedom” and “1940–Year of Stalinist Occupation Regime”

By John Ruberry

Regular readers of my posts here and at Marathon Pundit know that my wife, Mrs. Marathon Pundit, was born in the Soviet Union–in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. She emigrated to the United States in 1991.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit was lied to regularly–just as citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been fed untruths since 1979.

As with other members of her generation, Mrs. MP believed the lies pumped out by the government, and that includes the schools, whoppers such as Soviet citizens enjoyed an advanced standard of living, even though Mrs. Marathon Pundit grew up in a farmhouse with no running water that was heated by birch logs. And Latvia was considered better off than most other Soviet Republics. She believed the falsehood that Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, asked to join the USSR in 1940. The reality is that as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact the Baltic States were occupied by the Red Army and promptly annexed; the leaders of Latvia and Estonia were exiled to remote corners of the Soviet Union. The fate of Estonian president Konstantin Päts was particularly sad, as he was tortured in psychiatric hospitals because of his “persistent claiming of being the president of Estonia.”

Mrs. Marathon Pundit’s parents knew better of course. They also knew it was best to keep quiet. They knew repercussions awaited those who talked about the wrong things. The silent survive. And while it was impossible to cover up the deportations to Siberia of the Joseph Stalin era, the extent of it was known only to a few.

There were big lies and little lies. Here’s one of the latter. Before swimming in one of the few public pools in Latvia, Mrs. Marathon Pundit and other bathers were warned that if they chose to urinate in the water, or if there was an accidental leak, the urine would be immediately turn red and the pee menace would be promptly identified and of course punished. Eventually–I don’t know how–she discovered the clear truth on urinating in swimming pools.

Then there were the omissions. My wife didn’t learn until I told her that the Red Army–two weeks after the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939–seized eastern Poland. The same goes with the Soviet invasion of Finland later that year.

The “Throne of Lies” in the USSR began to collapse after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Ordinary Soviet citizens eventually learned that the state-controlled media reported on the severity of the catastrophe only after western governments noticed the spike in radioactivity in their lands. “The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month,” Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in 2006, “even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

Those being lied to didn’t believe the lies any more.

A few years earlier the end of the junta era of Argentina came after the government had to admit their rosy reports on the Falklands War with Great Britain were wrong. It was the UK that was winning nearly every battle.

Now protests are breaking out across Iran after the mullahs were forced to admit that the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which took place on Wednesday shortly after Iran fired missiles at US troops in Iraq, was caused by a missile fired by the Iranian military, after first denying it. And there was a lie within the lie as the Iranians claimed that the passenger jet veered over a sensitive military area.

“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” is one the chants heard in Tehran.

The people of Iran–or at least some of them–don’t believe the lies anymore.

Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, defected last week. Yes, she did win a bronze in taekwando, that’s not a lie, but her state-created image was a sham. “Whatever they said, I wore,” Alizadeh wrote. “Every sentence they ordered, I repeated.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Republicans are handed a winning issue as Democrats call for and act on abolishment of cash bail

By John Ruberry

If your sole source of news is leftist media such as Slate, you’ll believe that there are “people who are in jail solely because they can’t afford to pay their way out.”

Nope.

There are people in jail awaiting trial because they are accused of serious crimes and they are deemed by a judge to be a threat to society.

Someone like Tiffany Harris of Brooklyn seemingly fits that bill. Late last month Harris allegedly slapped three Orthodox Jewish women as she said “F-U Jews” and was promptly arrested.

Courtesy of New York State’s new laws that eliminate most cash bails, Harris was back on the street a few days later. The next day Harris allegedly punched a woman and was arrested again–and was released.

A few days later, during a court-mandated meeting with a social worker, Harris was arrested again after allegedly pinching that worker. She went too far even for New York this time. Harris is now being held for psychiatric evaluations.

The Harris case is not an isolated one in the five days the Empire State’s new bail law has been in effect, as the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle tells us:

On Thursday, a man accused of manslaughter for choking and stabbing a woman to death in Albany was set to be released without bail under New York’s new criminal justice laws.

In Harlem, a man who allegedly hit and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk was released without bail because of the new state law that ends cash bail for misdemeanors and many non-violent felonies.

In Rochester, a man convicted a decade ago of shooting a Rochester police officer was released on new drug charges without bail.

And in Poughkeepsie, a man once convicted of manslaughter was set to be freed on new charges of felony aggravated DWI as he awaits trial, the district attorney said.

Law enforcement officials are understandably aghast over the new law, as are Republicans.

New York City’s left-wing mayor, Bill de Blasio, is now calling for a minor scaling back of the law, adding judicial discretion to keep those are the biggest threat to society either locked up or under the burden of a cash bail.

De Blasio is a former Democratic presidential candidate. Of the top tier Dems running for president, all of them, specifically Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders favor ending cash bail. So dropping it is not a fringe issue among the Democrats. Sanders has gone as far as sponsoring a Senate bill to abolish cash bail.

Anti-police rhetoric dominated liberaldom during the 2016 presidential race, which led President Trump to call himself “the law and order candidate.”

In a November Tweet, President Trump decried the New York bail law, “So sad to see what is happening in New York where Governor Cuomo & Mayor DeBlasio are letting out 900 Criminals, some hardened & bad, onto the sidewalks of our rapidly declining, because of them, city. The Radical Left Dems are killing our cities. NYPD Commissioner is resigning!”

Other Blue States are bowing to the criminals. As I noted here at Da Tech Guy, Cook County Illinois’ State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, best known for dropping the hate crime hoax charges against Jussie Smollett, is bringing additional misery to law-abiding citizens such as myself by refusing to prosecute shoplifters who steal merchandise worth less than $1,000. Probably not coincidentally, Chicago is now plagued with shoplifting mobs. Californians will vote later this year on an initiative to eliminate cash bail–a bill enacted in the former Golden State was blocked by a lawsuit. As I also noted in that DTG entry, the headline was “Welcome to the Age of Criminals,” San Francisco’s new prosecutor, Chesa Boudin, the son of two Weather Underground terrorists, who was raised by two others, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, wants to drop cash bail right now. He favors “restorative justice” as an alternative to imprisonment. New Jersey and one Red State, Alaska, has a weaker version of the New York cash bail law.

Abolishing cash bail for the GOP is what former Chicago White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson would call a “get-me-over-fastball.” In other words, it’s a gift basket of a pitch that ends up as a home run.

Trump should pursue maintaining cash bail as a campaign issue. But even more so, because law enforcement is primarily a local issue, down-ballot Republicans should do so too.

After all, as I’ve noted many times, the most important duty of any responsible government is to protect its citizens from invaders and criminals.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Feds have their net out for Illinois’ kraken monster, Boss Michael Madigan

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

By John Ruberry

The new year isn’t here yet but 2020 is shaping up to be the Year of Many Political Indictments in Illinois.

Three months and a day ago I posted this story at Da Tech Guy: Feds setting up a massive corruption net in Chicago area. In that entry I gave a summery of the recent raids on offices of several politicians, all with ties to Boss Michael Madigan, the kraken monster of Illinois. As I’ve explained numerous times in this space, Madigan is the most powerful pol in the Prairie State. He has been speaker of the state House for all but two years since 1983. He’s served as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1998. He’s been committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward since 1969. It was from that perch in 2007 that Madigan nominated Joseph Berrios to be the chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as “the Chicago Machine.” Three years later Madigan greatly assisted Berrios in his election of the seemingly obscure post of Cook County Assessor. That office determines how much your property is worth in Crook County–and therefore how much it will be taxed–and it’s a position that has long been associated with graft.

Like the legendary kraken, Madigan has very long tentacles and of course a large reach.

Among the updates I have for you today is that Berrios, who was–gasp!–ousted by a reformer last year in the Democratic primary for assessor, is now under federal investigation. With his power base gone, Berrios stepped down as party chairman shortly after his well -deserved defeat.

Madigan is the senior party in the tiny law firm Madigan and Getzendanner, which specializes in corporate property tax appeals.

Hmmm.

Also in that September DTG post I reported on the indictment of Ald. Ed Burke of Chicago. He represents a ward that borders Madigan’s. Burke has been an alderman since 1969 and is the longest serving Chicago alderman in history. Burke’s a lawyer too. His specialty? Property tax appeals. 

In May, federal authorities raided the home former Commonwealth Edison lobbyist Michael McClain. ComEd is the electrical utility for northern Illinois and the utility, which is owned by Exelon, seems to be a major focus of the corruption probe. And that’s a big problem for Madigan and other Illinois politicians. Exelon is a public corporation and it’s difficult for it to hide its dirty laundry. And ComEd is subject to local government regulation, which of course is why the utility cozied up to Madigan and other big shots. And customers, such as myself, have to pay a ComEd bill every month. And every ComEd user believes they are paying to much for electricity. Now they have another reason to hate ComEd.

Clearly the feds are in the midst of a far reaching corruption investigation in Illinois, its target appears to be our kraken, Madigan. But Madigan has been under federal investigation before and the tangible results of those probes were as elusive as those efforts by photographers trying to get a clear photograph of Bigfoot, or a real kraken. 

Madigan infrequently speaks to the media and he never uses email.

Let’s take a look at where one of those tentacles reached. The City Club of Chicago is a tweedy, or seemingly so, good government group, dismissed as “goo-goos” by the cynics. It’s known for its weekly luncheons featuring prominent public officials. For years its president was Jay Doherty, a lobbyist for ComEd. He resigned earlier as head of the group after the feds raided the City Club offices and he no longer lobbys for Commonwealth Edison. Among the speakers at the City Club during Doherty’s tenure were ComEd reps–and Lisa Madigan, Michael’s daughter, who spoke to them in 2009. At the time Lisa was the Illinois attorney general and her office was investigating Doherty and the City Club.

The focus of this part of federal probe appears to be handing out of ComEd jobs for the politically connected in exchange for state actions favorable to the utility.

Last year a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago named Illinois the second most corrupt state. Louisiana was tops. 

Man oh man, Louisiana must be horrible. Illinois surely is. 

Here at Da Tech Guy Pat Austin regularly reports on Louisiana.

John Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pundit from Illinois, where is not under federal investigation.

Review: The Two Popes

By John Ruberry

“I’m not familiar with this part of the garden,” Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) tells Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) as they enter an area overrun by brush and deadwood in The Two Popes. Benedict then asks the Argentinian, “Which way?”

That garden, at the Vatican’s Palace of Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome, could rightly be called Benedict’s garden, as he was the Pope. Yet Benedict asks the man who ends up as his successor, Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis in 2013, for direction. Oops, I mean directions.

Clearly the scriptwriters and the director of The Two Popes favor the liberal leadership under Francis–the garden scene neatly ties up that sentiment in a bow.

Later, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio decries inequality, repeated images of ugly walls are shown.

The Two Popes is largely fictionalized story centered on the theological divide between the 265th and the 266th pontiffs. After a limited theatrical release, including a showing at the Chicago International Film Festival, which was sold out, preventing Mrs. Marathon Pundit from seeing it, the film debuted Friday on Netflix. The Two Popes is worth seeing, whether you are a Catholic or not, or a believer or not. The Welshmen in the lead roles, Hopkins and Pryce, provide superb performances. Of course Hopkins’ career has been justifiably rewarded, including gaining four Academy Award nominations, and winning the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Amazingly, despite stellar work in such movies as Something Wicked This Way Comes, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Pryce has never been honored with an Academy Award nomination. He deserves it for his performance as Francis, but my guess is that the Academy will overlook Pryce again.

The interplay–and the arguing–is what keeps The Two Popes going.

As for the fiction, there is plenty of it here. There were no long meetings between Benedict and Bergoglio; the catalyst for their movie summit was an offer of resignation from the cardinal, which is harshly rejected as a challenge to Benedict’s authority. The future Pope Francis turned 75 in 2011, it is customary for archbishops to retire at that age. It can be assumed that the pair never discussed the Beatles or their Abbey Road album. And it’s quite likely that Benedict’s favorite television show is not Kommisar Rex, an Austrian detective program where a German shepherd solves crimes. This sidetrack is probably a sly reference to Cardinal Ratzinger’s long term as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican under John Paul II, where he picked up the nickname “God’s Rottweiler.”

There are numerous flashback scenes involving Francis, including his early romance, his call to the priesthood, his muddled legacy from Argentina’s “Dirty War,” his rise, then fall, and his rise again within the Argentine Catholic Church. 

In the garden walk scene, Bergoglio condemns Benedict’s handling of the pedophile crisis within the priesthood, which included confession of the guilty–he calls it “magic words.” Benedict’s retort is harsh and telling, “Magic words, is that how you describe the sacrament?”

The Two Popes gives viewers plenty to think about. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.