Review: Season Three of Ozark

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

Warning: “F bomb” in the trailer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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

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

By John Ruberry

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

Life is anything but normal here.

There’s not much good to report.

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

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

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

That was through Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

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

Will spouse abuse instances spike? And child abuse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season One of Ragnarok

By John Ruberry

“The whole world groaned beneath them. A storm, the likes of of which had never been seen, scorched the sky. Ragnarök was upon them, the twilight of the gods.” Nicholas Day, in the Netflix series Myths and Monsters.

Many religions have an end-time narrative, including the ancient Norse faith. If you are familiar with the movie Thor: Ragnorok, then you know that Ragnarök encompasses total destruction, only there are no space ships and no Incredible Hulk in those old tales.

A few weeks ago the Norwegian six-episode series Ragnarok began streaming on Netflix. On the surface it’s a teen angst drama. After many years away, teens Magne (David Stakston), Laurits (Jonas Strand Gravli), and their mother, Turid (Henriette Steenstrup), return to the small industrial town, Edda, that is adjacent to a fjord. By the way, “Edda” is the term scholars have given to the medieval collections of Norse mythology, the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda.

As the family arrives in Edda, an old man riding a motorized scooter blocks their car as it stalls. Magne gets out and asks him, “Do you need help?” The old man oddly replies, “Do you know what a strange town this is?” Magne gets the scooter running and then the old man’s wife, who operates the local grocery, smiles at him and then tells Magne, “You’re a good kid” as she touches his forehead. Magne’s hazel eyes then flash with lightning. Magne’s hero journey has started.

Edda is indeed a strange town. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, the economic engine of the town Jutul Industries, owned by Jutuls, the fifth-richest family in Norway. Its factory sits right next to the fjord. If it is ever said what Jutul produces, other than toxins that end up in the drinking water, I missed it. Vidar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) is the patriarch and he runs the factory, his wife, Ran (Synnøve Macody Lund), is the principal of the high school Laurits and Magne attend. Their children are Saxa (Theresa Frostad Eggesbø) and Fjor (Herman Tømmeraas). They are all beautiful. Seemingly perfect. Too perfect because the are really jötunn, giants in Norse mythology, the enemies of the gods. And Saxa and Fjor aren’t really children.

Magne learns after his encounter with the grocer that he can run very fast, he has superhuman strength, he can speak Old Norse, and tellingly, he can throw a sledgehammer–Thor’s weapon was a hammer–an enormous distance. And Magne no longer needs his eyeglasses.

Like the young Clark Kent in Man of Steel, Magne has trouble fitting in with other kids, His only friend is Isolde (Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin), another social misfit who is the school’s biggest green advocate. And there is plenty for Isolde to investigate in Edda.

Laurits, who is a bit of a prankster, has better luck working his way up the high school social ladder, which is of course dominated by the student Jutuls, and Ragnarok contains quite a bit of the distress that you find in most television shows centered on teenagers. Meanwhile Magne’s powers, which he barely comprehends, draw the attention of the entire Jutul family.

And Magne and Fjor fall for the same girl, Gry (Emma Bones).

Ragnarok was filmed in Norwegian, it is dubbed in English for Netflix, although the trailer posted here is in Norwegian with English subtitles.

The coronovirus pandemic will sadly find many people with lots of free time on their hands. Watching Ragnarok is a worthy way to fill that void. Although I’m still working, for now, and I viewed the series last week.

Netflix has already approved a second season.

Ragnarok is rated TV-MA. It contains brief nudity, violence, foul language, teen alcohol consumption, and sexual situations.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

If Biden falters, then what for the Democrats?

By John Ruberry

In their quest to cure themselves of Trump Derangement Syndrome, Democrats have lined up, albeit sometimes briefly, behind several frontrunners for the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders, and now, Joe Biden.

Also, for a bit, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris were seen as top tier candidates.

Biden certainly had a fabulous Super Thursdayyes, the gaffe-prone former vice president said that. It really was Super Tuesday, but his rise was largely brought about by the endorsements of Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who may have slipped yesterday by saying she’ll be on the ticket with Biden this fall. That of course can only mean Biden has already asked her to be his running mate.

I won’t be surprised if Klobuchar dresses up as Princess Leia and utters, “Help me Jobi-wan Biden, you’re my only hope.”

But what if Biden fails? Oh, sure, he’s the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. But the general election is eight months away. A lot can go wrong, especially when you are Joe Biden.

For years Biden has behaved like a Chicago ward boss engaging in influence peddling, benefitting not only he son, Hunter, but his brother, James. Hunter formerly sitting on the board of Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings, despite having no experience in energy and not speaking Ukrainian, is the most egregious instance. And of course Joe bragged that he got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired who was looking into Burisma.

Then there are the Biden gaffes. They are so many of them that they can provide that material for a short book. Or maybe a long one, particularly when we figure in future gaffes.

Because, as Mark Levin phrased it on his show a few days ago–I hope I have the quote right, “Joe Biden’s best days are behind him,” quickly adding. “Then again, I don’t think he had any best days.”

If elected president Biden will be 78 on inauguration day. At age 77 Biden sometimes seems confused in his appearances. In its tepid endorsement of Biden last week, the Chicago Tribune touched on the gaffes and his mental state. “Biden is not the perfect candidate,” later adding, “He has demonstrated a propensity for gaffes and lack of clearheadedness on the campaign trail.”

So far in this campaign Biden has twice forgotten what state he was in. No where in the world, Levin explained in that same broadcast, do people vote on Thursday. Now that Biden is the frontrunner his upcoming gaffes will receive much more attention and yes, scrutiny. What if these upcoming verbal miscues and his, in the Trib’s words, “lack of clearheadedness,” turns Jobi-Wan Biden into Old Man Joe. 

Yesterday in St. Louis a shaky Biden said, “We can only re-elect Donald Trump.”

Yes, Donald Trump is the oldest man to be elected president in his first term. But few people half the president’s age can speak on the fly for over an hour as Trump does in his regular rallies. 

But if Old Man Joe and his twin–Influence Peddler Joe–becomes a liability to the Democrats, as Bernie Sanders’ socialism apparently has, where do the Dems turn for their next only hope? 

Is there anyone left on the Democrats’ bench? 

Maybe Al Gore. Or Hillary Clinton.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Jussie Smollett’s protector Kim Foxx faces Cook County voters in two weeks

By John Ruberry

February was a nasty month in Chicago. Not the weather, as it was pretty good. Just a day or two of sub-zero weather and no major snowstorms.

No, I’m talking about crime. Just as there are contested primaries in Cook County for state’s attorney, which consists of Chicago and its inner suburbs, on both the Democratic and Republican sides. There are three challengers to Kim Foxx in the Democratic side, two GOPers are battling for their party not.

Bill Conway seems to be the leading Dem challenge to the incumbent prosecutor.

Foxx, best known for her still not-fully explained decision to drop charges against alleged hate crime hoax charges against Jussie Smollett. A grand jury empowered by a special prosecutor issued new charges against the former Empire star last month, 

Murders of have been decreasing in Chicago since 2016 when there were 762. But last month there were 34 murders–ten more than in February, 2019, a 41 percent increase.

In 2019 there were 123 shootings in February. This February there were 166.

Carjackings are up too. As with murders in Chicago, the clearance rate is abysmally low, year to year, according to Hey Jackass, hovers around ten percent. But that clearance rate is declining. 

There are no figures on gangs of shoplifters in Chicago, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate there are more of these roving mobs. Twice last month the ritzy North Michigan Avenue was hit. Both times no one was arrested. 

Foxx, a leftist, refuses to charge shoplifters with a felony who are caught steeling less than $1,000 in merchandise. The Illinois threshold is $300. Crime seems to pay in Chicago and suburban Cook County as long as you don’t get caught and especially if you don’t get too greedy.

Northeastern Illinois seems to be part of the wave that I called here the Age of the Criminal.

Election Day is March 17 here. Of course I’ll be taking a Republican ballot. 

UPDATE March 19: Cook County voters proved to me just how dumb they are. Foxx easily was won renomination two days ago. The Republican nominee is Pat O’Brien, who has my support.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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.