Ruberry Hopkinton
Blogger at Boston
Marathon start, 1996

By John Ruberry

Tomorrow morning the 118th Boston Marathon will begin 26.2 miles from Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood in Hopkinton. It will be the most most closely-watched of the Grandaddy of all Marathons because of last year’s savage bombings by two Islamist terrorists near the finish on Boylston Street that killed three people and injured 264 others.

I’ve finished 33 marathons and three Boston races–those were in 1994, 1996, and 2004. Until this year’s run, the most anticipated race was the 100th Boston in ’96 when there were over 38,000 participants–the most ever–which is a record that is expected to be topped on Monday.

For runners, qualifying for Boston is considered their ultimate goal, in my age group, I need to run 3 hours and 30 minutes in another marathon to be accepted. Yes, many are called but few are chosen. Runners raising money for charity are also accepted.

Boston is a different race in so many ways. Chiefly, the crowd support is unmatched. A half-million fans line the streets from Hopkinton-to-Ashland-to-Framingam-to-Natick-to Wellesley-to-Newton-to-Boston.  Many families have been watching the race for generations from the roadside. They barbecue, they post updates on the Red Sox game on chalkboards, and they cheer.

Mile after mile.

Ruberry at Wellesley
Ruberry at Wellesley

Other than the finish, my favorite spot on the Boston Marathon run is at the halfway point at all-female Wellesley College, dubbed the “scream tunnel” by runners. The women offer by far the most enthusiastic support on the route. In 1996, an older runner–who was about my age now–quipped, “Wow, even I can get lucky on this campus today.”

While not as loud as Wellesley, the encouragement in Newton, home of Heartbreak Hill and three other thigh-and-calf-punishing massive hills, is certainly needed and welcome.

After passing Boston College, it is literally all-downhill from there for the entrants. With less than a mile left, runners turn from Hereford Street onto Boylston–another scream tunnel. Every runner feels like a celebrity on Boston Marathon Day on that street.

But that is where those cruel bombs were detonated last year.

I won’t be there tomorrow, but I am certain the crowd noise will be louder than ever on Boylston as the athletes run to the finish.

The fans are as much of a part of this legendary race as the runners in the Boston Marathon.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit

Northeastern Iowa
Northeastern Iowa

By John Ruberry

Have you heard about the propane shortage? Probably not. Although, despite my headline, it has been reported, albeit by local flyover country media.

Stories such as this one offers more evidence on why we need new media.

Liquid propane (LP) is a commonly used fuel for home heating in rural areas, where natural gas lines don’t often reach. And a colder-than-usual winter has of course increased demand for propane.

“There’s 22 states right now that are having LP problems,” a propane dealer told Minnesota’s KAAL-TV. “That’s just about half the country having problems getting LP.” That dealer told the TV station that two weeks ago his customers could fill up a propane tank for $644, but now it costs $976.

The shortage is particularly severe in the Upper Midwest.

A late and wet harvest–farmers use propane to dry crops–and the closing for maintenance of a Wisconsin propane facility has contributed to the shortage.

Yesterday Ohio Governor John Kasich issued an emergency declaration to speed up delivery of propane; in Michigan, two weeks ago Governor Rick Snyder declared an energy emergency that also covers heating oil. Way back in October, Governor Scott Walker made a similar move regarding propane.

Making matters worse, sub-zero temperatures are returning to the Upper Midwest this week.

So why are national media reporters ignoring the propane shortage? Does covering cold weather issues disrupt their agenda to advance their belief in global warming? Is the rural Midwest not worthy of their attention, unless there is a flood, a tornado, or a mass murder?

Update: This is a historic Instalanche for two reasons:

#1 It’s the first ever Instalanche for one of my Magnificent Seven writing at my blog. If you want to see more of John’s posts on this blog they are here and it goes without saying you should check out his own blog Marathon Pundit.

#2 It you remember this post. You know this brings me even with Chucky. I’m sure Diary of Daedalus will get a charge out of it.


Olimometer 2.52

This post and the one before it all about a reality that’s ignored and right now reality is pretty ugly around here.

We have not made a full paycheck since the beginning of 2014. We are actually at a point where even if we make a full paycheck this week and next week I still won’t have the money cover January’s mortgage payment.

That’s reality and no amount of pretending otherwise changes it.

But It is also reality that if we can make payroll early enough this week we just might be able to make a dent in the monthly goal and close that gap.

It can’t be done without you. 14 of you to be exact kicking in $25.

If you think this site is worth it, I’d appreciate it if you were one of them.

Remember if we can get those 58 1/4 subscribers @ at $20 a month the bills will be paid every week. Help make sure this blog can fight without fear all year long.

Illinois Blago

People who follow politics often argue which state is America’s corrupt, but my state, Illinois, almost always comes up as one of the contenders for that dis-honor.

In this space two months ago I offered my thoughts as to why Illinois is so dominated by mendacious politicians.

Now I’m looking at a potential but cure for this disease.

On Friday former Chicago alderman Ambrosio Medrano was given a 10 1/2 year federal prison sentence for his role in a kickback scandal. Tomorrow he’ll be sentenced again in a separate case–both schemes involve Cook County’s public health care system.

In 1996 Medrano pleaded guilty for accepting a bribe from a city contractor. He was the first of six crooked City Council members reeled in by the feds in the Silver Shovel corruption probe. The Southwest Sider is the only Chicago alderman convicted more than once. That’s a big achievement–since 1972 thirty-one members of the Chicago City Council have been found guilty of crimes.

Medrano wept at his 1996 sentencing and he wept again Friday. But in ’96 Medrano received only a 2 1/2 year sentence. He probably would have wailed for hours if he was handed a 10 1/2 year stay in the house-of-many-doors that first time. But then perhaps he would have learned his lesson–even if out of fear–and pursued an honest living upon his release from prison. And perhaps a stiff sentence would have served as warning to nascent corrupt Illinois pols, such as then-state representative Rod Blagojevich. The hair-brained former Illinois governor is now marking time in a Colorado federal prison–Blago was sentenced to 14 years. It was the second-longest political sentence ever given to a Prairie State elected official–and that record-holder was a judge who fixed murder trials. 

What about that Illinois public corruption cure? I just wrote about it. Ten or fifteen year sentences for crooked elected officials should be the norm. In fact, dishonest public-sector employees should receive similar terms in the pokey.

The fear of God–or of a long stay in a prison–by public workers and elected officials can finally reform Illinois.

So far nothing else has worked.


Olimometer 2.52

It’s Sunday, a new week which is a good thing because the last two weeks have not been very successful.

Well that’s not entirely true, we’ve had fair traffic but not only have we failed to make goal to secure the mortgage and pay DaMagnificent Seven plus our new villager the first two weeks combined didn’t manage to come up to a single week’s goal

But we’re back again, with a $345 goal for the week to try and start to move the ball forward toward getting the mortgage and the writers paid this month.

Olimometer 2.52

Once we manage that then we’ll worry about catching up on the ground we’re behind.

Of course if we can get 58 1/4 more subscribers @ at $20 a month the bills will be paid every week and the problem will be solved on a more permanent basis.

What do you say?

What would Abe think?
What would Abe think?

By John Ruberry

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been representing his Southwest Side Chicago district since 1971.  He’s been speaker since 1983, except for two years in the 1990s when the Republicans held a majority in Springfield.

The district is safely Democratic, especially since he and state Senate President John Cullerton, also a Chicagoan, gerrymandered Illinois’ remap in 2011 in the spirit of Pablo Picasso.

But that’s not enough for Madigan. He still has to run for reelection every two years, but he usually faces Republican opponents that few people have heard of, who don’t campaign, don’t set up political committees, or raise money. That’s because in all likelihood they are front candidates placed on the ballot by the Madigan organization.

Oh, I almost forgot–Madigan is the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.

Madigan’s most recent phony GOP opponent, Terrence Goggin, is a prior candidate. But Mike’s juggernaut may have overreached this time. The Chicago Republican Party–yes, there is one–challenged Goggin’s petitions. Not only does anyone not recall petitioners roaming the streets of the Southwest Side gathering signatures for Goggin, many of the autographs on those documents have similar handwriting.  Just before Christmas, the Chicago Board of Elections granted the Chicago GOP’s motion to subpoena Goggin’s petitioners.

“Terrence Goggin has run four times before, yet we have never met him,” the Chicago Republican Party’s Chris Cleveland told ABC 7 Chicago.  “We have never spoken to him there are no known photos of him.”

On Thursday, and hour before the Goggin petitioners were to testify about the validity of the signatures on those petitions, the ephemeral Goggin withdrew from the race.

This affront to democracy seems like something the Illinois attorney general should investigate. But don’t hold your breath–the holder of that office is Lisa Madigan. Yes, she is the daughter of the speaker.

Illinois is very ill.

Meanwhile, the Chicago GOP is seeking real candidates against Michael Madigan.

Tea Party Express rally,  Mishawaka, IN

By John Ruberry

A week ago my wife was admitted to the hospital because she was experiencing abdominal pains and a high fever. On Tuesday she had her gall bladder removed.

She’s covered on my employer-based health care plan.

December is that last month of the “good old days” for health care, particularly for married couples.

That’s because ObamaCare kicks in on New Year’s Day.

Next month some employers–fortunately not mine–are dropping spousal coverage on their health care plans–and some others will be charging a $125 monthly fee to cover spouses who can get insurance elsewhere. That’s over $1,000 a year.

If you like your plan–you can’t keep it.

We’ve learned that ObamaCare is part-government takeover of healthcare, and part wealth redistribution. As for the latter, in order to qualify O’care subsidies, it actually makes financial sense for some married couples to divorce.

But my wife and I aren’t even rich!

Now we know what then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meant when she said, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” 

I was thinking about what else lurks  in that bill as I sat in the surgery waiting room last week. Unless–or I’m being hopeful–until it’s appealed, our collective ObamaCare journey will resemble the trip upriver in Apocalypse Now.  We have plenty of surprises in store for us–none of them will be pleasant.

“The horror, the horror,” as Colonel Kurtz told Captain Williard in that film.

But I want to end this post on a happy note. My wife is resting and recovering at home.

illinois signBy John Ruberry

On the day before Thanksgiving word trickled out that the bipartisan legislative committee that has been working since June on a fix for Illinois’ worst-funded-in-the-nation public pension system has finally completed their work.

Except only the insiders knew the details of the plan to erase the $100 billion pension deficit.

The outline of the fix became public when member of the General Assembly were briefed on the bill on Black Friday–they have two more days to decide how to vote.  According to AP, the pension system will be fully-funded in 2044.

I said briefed. Where is the bill?

The Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank,  is suspicious of the fix and wants to know more:

From CBS Chicago:

“No legislation has been released. No financial analyses have been released,” CEO John Tillman said. “But of the details that have been shared, it is clear this ‘deal’ will not solve Illinois’ $100 billion pension crisis. In fact, it will make it worse.”

That’s the way things are done in Illinois.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner blasted the pension deal in a statement released yesterday.

In the early 1990’s, Senate President John Cullerton [a Chicago Democrat] was on a committee of 10 legislators who inserted language into a pension bill that allowed 23 government union bosses to collect an extra $56 million from municipal pension funds. According to the Chicago Tribune, “the changes became law with no public debate among state legislators, and, more importantly, no cost analysis.”

Sound familiar?

A few years ago, the legislature approved a workers compensation law that was highly touted for its bipartisan “reforms.” Despite the acclaim it received at the time, in the end it accomplished very little. Illinois’ workers compensation system remains uncompetitive with neighboring states and our economy continues to suffer.

The Democrats enjoy super-majorities in the General Assembly. How did that happen?

This will sound familiar too.

Here  is what NBC 5 Chicago’s Ward Room blog had to say about the decennial remap in 2011:

And as the legislators’ deadline draws near, still others are upset at the brief window for public input. Public hearings were held Saturday and Sunday.

Illinois House Minority leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) called it “disingenuous” for House Democrats to release their plans just two days before a public hearing on the matter.

Prairie State residents suffer under the second-highest unemployment rate in the Midwest. Illinois has a backlog of $8 billion in unpaid bills. The Land of Lincoln’s credit rating is the lowest in the union. 

With more transparency, things could only improve in America’s fifth most-populous state.

Lake County, Illinois
Lake County, Illinois

Mayor Rahm Emanuel favors adding 75 per pack to Chicago’s cigarette taxes. On top of the federal, state, and county fees, this new tax, if enacted, will force Chicagoans to pay $7.42 in taxes–the highest in the nation.

As I am the Marathon Pundit, the only smoke you’ll see me exhale is the kind that came out of my lungs during today’s chilly morning run.

But increasing tobacco taxes effects everyone. Because when smoking taxes go up, a number of things happen. Some quit, which is a good thing, others smoke less, while others seek out their smokes in cheaper jurisdictions, such as Indiana. The southeast side of Chicago borders the Hoosier State.

Even worse, some retailers sell cigarettes without the local tax stamps–not only depriving jurisdictions of revenue, but making it more difficult for honest merchants to compete. For convenience store owners, tobacco sales account for 40 percent of their sales.

Chuck Goudie of ABC 7 Chicago remarked earlier this month about Cook County–where Chicago is and where I live–that black market cigarette profits “are as high as dealing drugs– all at taxpayers’ expense.”

At taxpayers’ expense? Yep. And because smoking tax revenues almost never match bureaucrats’ collection forecasts, eventually funds need to come from elsewhere. So other taxes eventually are hiked. As James Thurber titled one of his stores, “You could look it up.”

The Heartland Foundation quipped that Rahm’s proposed move is “a tax hike Al Capone could have loved.”

Scarface Al, arguably the most famous Chicagoan of the last century, knew a lot about smuggling and illegal markets.

Illinois may be the Land of Lincoln, but it is also the land of the corrupt George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, Tony Rezko, and Jesse Jackson Jr.

In Chicago, thirty-one alderman have been convicted of crimes since 1972.

From “Honest Abe” to a national joke: What went wrong?

The root of the problem is ethnicity and Chicago. While the Irish were never the predominant group of immigrants in what has been the most populous city in the state since the 1840s, unlike the Germans–who were more numerous–the Irish spoke English and quickly inserted themselves into politics and government work. But in the old country they were reluctant subjects of Great Britain–government to them was an alien and often hostile force. So what’s the harm in stealing from it? That attitude crossed the Atlantic. Polish and Italians who came later had similar grievances. Poland was carved up by Russia, Prussia, and Austria in the 18th century–it didn’t regain its independence until 1918. Until sometime around 1980, there were more Poles living in Chicago than any city in the world–including Warsaw. The Italian immigrants who came to Chicago were mostly from the southern part of the peninsula or from Sicily–parts of Italy that didn’t care much for its royal family, the monarchy was abolished in 1946.

Blacks from the Deep South began migrating to Chicago in large numbers during World War I and the flow didn’t end until 1970. Victims of Jim Crow laws and worse, some African-Americans fell to the temptation of Chicago corruption too.

What about the rest of the state? Well, like an honest kid taking a test in a room full of cheaters–who gets a “B” while the cheaters get “A” grades, some downstaters threw up their hands and joined in the thievery. When he died in 1970, Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell, who was from small town just north of the Ohio River, over $800,000 in cash was found in shoe boxes in his hotel suite near the state capitol.

In short, corruption has become a habit in my home state. In a small way, I’ve benefited from it. A great uncle of mine worked for the Cook County Forest Preserve District. He had dinner with my parents at our home–and he had such a wonderful time–he promised my parents a gift. The very next day Forest Preserve workers delivered a picnic table–with county markings on it, to our home. Many times I’ve eaten on that table.