Review: The Liberator on Netflix

By John Ruberry

By John Ruberry

Lost among the fallout after the presidential election was the debut of a compelling four-episode on Netflix, The Liberator. It tells of exploits of the leadership of Felix Sparks (Bradley James), who eventually reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, of the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment in the European theater of World War II. Yes, for the most part, this is a true story.

The series which began streaming on Veterans Day, is animated and it uses the new technique of Trioscope, which combines live action and computer and manually created images. The series is based on Alex Kershaw’s book The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau. It’s a huge improvement over rotoscoping, most famously, or notoriously used in the first feature film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, which was directed by Ralph Bakshi. The animation is grainy with a touch of sepia, the latter hue of course is common in films set in first half of the 20th century.

For the most part, The Liberator avoids hackneyed plotlines and characters of many World War II projects, other then sepia. There is no “Guy From Brooklyn” in it. But here is a soldier from Chicago, who of course is a Cubs fan. Fact: real and fictional characters from in television and movies are never White Sox fans, unless, as in Field Of Dreams, the South Siders are central to the plot. Oh well, to be fair it was the Cubs, not the White Sox, who played in the World Series in 1945.

When Lieutenant Sparks arrives at Fort Sill in Oklahoma shortly before America’s entry into World War II, he’s given command of “Company J,” which consists of soldiers locked up in the stockade. These ragtag men are a mix of Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and cowboys. 

It’s a tough command, “The Indians and the Mexicans don’t like each other very much,” a jail guard tells Sparks. “And they hate us more.”

But Sparks is looking for fighters, not divisiveness. He and molds them–even though the Native Americans and Mexicans can’t enter a bar off base in Oklahoma. In Italy a captured member of the Thunderbirds is confronted with this irony by a German officer. 

During its two years in Europe, in addition to the invasion of Sicily and the liberation of Dachau, but also the invasion of southern France, as well as the Battle of the Vosges near the German border, and finally fighting in Bavaria, the 157th Infantry Regiment encountered over 500 days of combat. Sure there are arguments and spats among the soldiers. People never always get along. But the soldiers form an effective fighting unit. 

The German troops are treated relatively sympathetically in The Liberator, but only up to a point as the Thunderbirds later of course liberate Dachau.

The supporting cast is superb, particulary the performance of Martin Sensmeier as Sergeant Samuel Coldfoot and Jose Miguel Vasquez as Corporal Able Gomez, two composite characters.

Originally The Liberator was intended as a live action miniseries for A&E Studios for the History Channel but filming such a project in so many disparate locales, the plains of Oklahoma, Italy, the Mediterranean coast, the Vosges, and Bavaria, proved financially impossible. Not so much with animation. Which is why The Liberator is probably on the cusp of what we’ll see soon on the big and small screens. And the use of animation in war dramas will spare us motion picture embarrasments such as the desert combat scenes in the 1965 box office flop The Battle Of The Bulge.

The Liberator is currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA, although despite depictions of battlefield wounds and the frequent use of profanity–in English and Spanish no less–I’m unsure why. Oh, some people smoke cigarettes in it too. I’m mean c’mon. This is the 1940s!

Tune in and start watching. You’ll be glad for it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Not a bad general election for Illinois conservatives

By John Ruberry

Illinois conservatives have reason to feel pretty good after Election Day. Pretty good but not great. Still that’s a rarity in this state that has been trending blue for decades, much of the reason for that is the tortured gerrymandering practiced by Boss Michael Madigan, the longtime state House speaker and Democratic Party chairman. 

The Land of Lincoln’s feckless GOP, which local radio host Dan Proft calls “Stockholm Syndrome Republicans,” has contributed to the decline, doesn’t deserve much credit for this bit of success. 

The big win for conseratives–really, for all Illinoisans–was the resounding defeat to the so-called Fair Tax Amendment, which would have replaced the state’s flat-rate income tax with graduated rates. Sixty percent of voters neeeded to approve the amendment to the state consitution–of 50 percent of all those voting. Despite big votes for Joe Biden and Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior Democratic US senator, only 45 percent of voters supported the Fair Tax. 

Credit for the victory for keeping the flat tax goes of course to Prairie State voters, but also for the libertarian think tank, the Illinois Policy Institute, as well as Illinois’ richest resident, Ken Griffin, who funded highly-effective television ads against the amendment. Slow down liberals, if you think a billionaire “bought” the win against the Unfair Tax Amendment. Illinois’ billionaire Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, spent $58 million of his own money on the campaign for the amendment. Griffin spent $53 million opposing it. 

Illinois doesn’t tax retirement income–all 32 states with progressive tax rates tax pensions. The anti-Fair Tax ads said that retirement income wouldn’t be untouchable, and an admission, quickly retracted, by state treasurer Michael Frerichs, that the Fair Tax would be a first step to taxing pensions aided the argument of the “antis.”

This summer a federal investigation of rank-and-file Illinois political corruption implicated Boss Madigan. The speaker has not been charged. But the stench from the ongoing investigation served as a potent reminder that Illinois isn’t just mismanaged, it’s crooked. Clearly Illinois kleptocrats don’t need more money to squander and steal, many voters–including some Democrats–reasoned. 

Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget since 2001, when there was a GOP majority in the state Senate and a Republican in the governor’s mansion, despite a constitutional requirment for a balanced budget. The current budget has a $7.4 billion deficit. That GOP governor in ’01, by the way, was George Ryan, who later served time in federal prison for corruption. 

For many good reasons Illinoisans don’t trust state government. 

Illinois is still counting ballots. I can mail a letter from Illinois that is addressed to someone in Los Angeles and it will probably arrive there in three business days. But my state is allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrive at one of Illinois 102 county clerk offices by November 17. So a few races are yet to be called. While it appears the Democrats will pick up a seat in the state Senate, the Republicans will probably gain two seats in the state House of Representatives. The Dems will maintain supermajorites in both chambers of the General Assembly. But there is a budding revolt by Democrats in the House against Madigan because of the election results. Pritzker and Durbin have called for Madigan to resign his chairmanship of the state Democratic Party. A few brave Democrats in the House have called on this term as speaker for Madigan, who has held the gavel since 1983 except for two years, to be his last. Illinois’ other US senator, Tammy Duckworth, also a Democrat, has called for Madigan to resign his speakership as well as the party chairmanship.

A weaker Madigan–and a specially a Democratic Party without him in leadership posts–means a weaker Democratic Party, which is why the Boss still has support. That’s good news for Illinois conservatives. But the state Republican Party still might find a way to squander this gift.

Other pretty good news for Illinois conservatives is that Donald Trump bettered his performance over his 2016 effort by two percentage points. Two Republican candidates nearly ousted two Democratic incumbents. One of those close calls was in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District. Despite being heavily outspent by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Cheri Bustos, GOP challenger Esther Joy King came within three points of upsetting the incumbent, whose role as DCCC chair is to elect more Democrats to Congress. 

On the other hand, Illinois will lose at least one congressional seat in the 2020 reapportionment. A downstate rural district, the 15th, that is currently represented by a Republican, is expected to be sacrificed. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Pritzker vowed to support fair legislative maps rather than a gerrymandered ones. 

Don’t hold your breath for Pritzker to fulfill that campaign promise.

Illinois conservatives need to get firmly and publicly behind two new constitutional amendments, the first one to eliminate the pension guarantee clause, so that reasonable and financially responsible pension reform can occur. The biggest challenge for Illinois is its worst-in-the-nation $230 billion in unfunded pension debt. Illinois cannot tax itself out of this mess, an insight not lost on voters when they voted “No” on the Fair Tax. Pension reform will be painful–but even moreso if state politicians continue the decades-long policy of kicking the can down the road. 

Meanwhile of course the Illinois Exodus continues. The Prairie State has lost population every year since 2015.

Oh, I almost forgot. There was another victory of note for conservatives on Election Day. Voters chose not to retain Illinois Supreme Court justice Thomas Kilbride, a downstate Democrat. One of the reasons for Kilbride’s defeat was his being in the party-line 4-3 majority that prevented a redistricting reform amendment from appearing before voters in 2016. The suit against the Fair Map Amdendment was filed by a long-time Madigan ally. Kilbride is the first Illinois Supreme Court justice to fail to be retained. But the victory was short-lived. Kilbride’s interim replacement, chosen unaminously by the remaining justices, is a Democrat. Ken Griffin also funded much of the anti-Kilbride effot.

The second amendment conservatives need to rally around is another attempt at an Illinois Fair Map Amendment.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Ach-ptooie, Twitter and Facebook hate conservatives–Hello Parler

By John Ruberry

I’ve had my fill of Facebook and Twitter blocking friends of mine from posting there and having their accounts suspended. These two social media giants unapologetically back liberal political figures while using their might to crush conservative leaders–as well as rank-and-file supporters of the right side of the political spectrum.

The most recent victim of Twitter bumptiousness is Da Tech Guy himself, simply because he questioned the veracity of the presidential recounts in swing states. It happened today.

Meanwhile there is another social media site, Parler, where free speech is encouraged. I’m @marathonpundit there. Please follow me. While I haven’t deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts–I’ll be spending much less time there. Besides, I don’t want someone to steal my handles there.

On his show radio show Friday night Mark Levin announced his social media transition. Today on the platform he announced, “Hurry and follow me at Parler. I’m trying to encourage as many of you as possible to immediately join me there as I may not stay at Facebook or Twitter if they continue censoring me. And one day I’ll have left their platforms. Parler is a wonderful alternative and is growing, and we need you there ASAP. It believes in truly open speech. Thank you!”

In his well-deserved grilling by the US Senate last month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey couldn’t come up with a solid answer on why he continually blocks President Trump’s Tweets about controversial COVID-19 treatments and election fraud. Meanwhile, a post from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, questioning whether the Holocaust occurred, remains on the microblogging platform. When asked about if any other world leader, besides Trump, has had Tweets blocked, Dorsey couldn’t come up with any examples. 

Twitter is a Trump-hating and a conservative-hating site. I can’t think of a single incident of a liberal–famous or not–having their posts deleted or their accounts blocked. Just last week, for instance, reputed comedian Kathy Griffin reposted on Twitter her notorious photo where she holds the bloody head of President Trump. Don’t forget, threats of violence against the president violates federal law. What would happen to my Twitter account if I posted a similar shot with Joe Biden?

It’s not just “the guy in his pajamas” Tweeting at home who gets bullied. The New York Post, America’s oldest daily newspaper and its fourth-most read, saw its Twitter account suspended for 13 days because of stories it wrote and Tweeted regarding email revelations alleging graft gleaned from Hunter Biden’s laptop. The Twitter “gods” deemed these reports unsubstantiated–even though the Biden-Harris campaign never denied the Post’s stories. Another reason given by Twitter for the Post’s suspension was its claim that the paper was publishing “hacked” information. But Hunter’s laptop was obtained legally.

Contrast that behavior with Twitter’s non-response to the New York Times’ stories on President Trump’s federal income tax returns. Those returns were possibly retrieved by hacking–and that tax information was almost certainly illegally obtained by somebody.

Facebook isn’t quite as bad as Twitter in regards to censorship but it has a shameful free speech record too. Many of my friends have ended up in “Facebook jail” for pushing the envelope a bit as they challenge the leftist dogma. I’ve never hear about liberals being tossed into “Facebook jail.” And yes, I have liberal friends.

Twitter makes money on ads, mainly thru “Promoted Posts” that appear on its feed. If I am not on Twitter, I don’t see them. Just as when my television is switched off I don’t see commercials there. 

Facebook is downright creepy in its ad strategy. If I click “like” on a story for a sports team, shortly afterwards I’ll see ads on my Facebook page promoting hats and shirts for that team. A few hours after I arrived in Alaska this summer for a vacation this T-shirt ad on my FB page. “I may be in Anchorage but my heart is with the Chicago White Sox.” Does Facebook know when I use the men’s room? It gets worse. A couple of years ago–just five minutes after leaving the wake for a friend of mine–I was requested to write a review on Facebook for the funeral home that hosted the wake.

Facebook takes the predilections and overall activities of its users and essentially sells them to advertisers. In fact they are selling you to advertisers. Yep, you.

But if I’m not there, or not there very much, Facebook and Twitter will suffer. If millions of conservatives follow the same action they’s suffer a lot more.

Let’s think of social media hatred of conservatives this way. Imagine you are a member of an ethnic group that is disliked by the proprietors of the only two restaurants in town. You still eat at these places because sometimes you are hungry and you just don’t have the energy to prepare your down dinner. That is, until you find out that the cooks always spit into your sandwiches. 

Ach-ptooie! 

That’s what Facebook and Twitter is doing to conservatives. Spitting on them. 

Over 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. Let’s see if Facebook and Twitter can endure angering such a large segment of America. 

Patriots, it’s time to spit back.

Ach-ptooie!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. You can follow him on Parler @marathonpundit.

Biden and Harris never gave voters an answer on court packing

By John Ruberry

Election Season is almost over–Election Day of course is on Tuesday.

Amy Coney Barrett is now America’s newest US Supreme Court justice, there is a solid 6-3, or mostly solid, conservative majority on the nation’s highest court.

Here’s something to think about now that November is here: we never got a solid answer on whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris favors packing the Court with liberals.

Harris was particularly shameful in discussing court packing, claiming the Donald Trump has been doing that for the last four years. That’s a lie. Harris is hoping that enough uneducated voters fall for her pack of crap explanation that filling judicial vacancies, one seat for one seat, is court packing.

Court packing as a strategy goes back to Franklin Roosevelt’s second term. Frustrated by Supreme Court rulings against parts of his New Deal, FDR proposed adding seats to the Court. The Supreme Court has been fixed at nine seats since 1869.

Last month Harris and Biden hemmed and hawed over court packing and the subject was brought to them by by local reporters, not the elite media. Finally Biden said we’d get our answer on court packing after the election.

This is leadership?

Last week, in a 60 Minutes interview, Biden said if elected he would for a commission whose focus would be on “how to reform the court system.”

Meanwhile the next day far-left member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in a Tweet phrased her opinion, “Expand the court.”

To my knowledge no one has publicly asked Biden or Harris if they support packing the US Senate with two more states, Puerto Rico and the the District of Columbia.

Both states are heavily Democratic.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

COVID-19 lockdowns must end for the sake of our overall health

Outside a store in Wisconsin earlier this month

By John Ruberry

Who else besides me is fed up wearing a mask when shopping at a supermarket?

Or at work?

Or a restaurant? 

I haven’t eaten inside an Illinois restaurant–or in a tent–since Governor JB Pritzker instituted his first lockdown in March. I’ve picked up take-out meals only.

Who has had enough of lockdowns?

As a person with a strong libertarian bent I don’t like being bossed around, pestered, or nagged. 

But I’ve been coping with all of that for months. 

I know ten people who’ve contracted COVID-19. Only two of them told me they were very ill. Two were asymptomatic. All of them are still with us–in fact, they’ve all returned to their jobs as if nothing happened. 

Last month the Centers for Disease Control released the survival rates for those who have contracted COVID-19.

  • Age 0-19 — 99.997%
  • Age 20-49 — 99.98%
  • Age 50-69 — 99.5%
  • Age 70+ — 94.6%

So if you are over 70, and most people already know that seniors are more prone to death from COVID-19 than everyone else, you have a 94.6 percent of surviving. President Trump is one of those septuagenarians who has recovered. Yes, COVID-19 is serious, because those stats also say those 70 and over have a slightly higher than 5 percent chance of dying from it. 

Here’s another situation where that percentage, 94 percent, comes in to play. Nearly two months ago the CDC said of those deaths from the novel coronavirus, 94 percent had “multiple chronic conditions.” In other words, they were already unhealthy. Every death is tragic. But part of life is getting sick, getting injured, getting old, and yes, passing away. You can fool, perhaps, your neighbors or co-workers about your true age with hair dye and plastic surgery, but never can you hoodwink Father Time. 

Humans are intensely social animals, as are all primates. It’s in our genetic makeup. The most watched television shows and movies are centered on personal interactions. One of the most popular TV programs ever aired is “Friends.” There is not a show entitled “Hermits,” there is no interest in producing such a program because few people would want to watch it. 

The death rate from COVID-19 is very low for the very young. Yet many of our schools are closed except for cold and impersonal Zoom sessions.

Usually our first and most lasting impressions with others of our species is by way of their faces. But the mask requirements in many states, especially blue ones like mine, take those connections away from us.

The lockdowns have led to an increase in drug overdoses and possibly suicides. Among young people, the CDC says, the death rate for young people is higher for overdoses and suicides than for COVID 19.

That wave just might be beginning. For instance, Chicago, which is just south of where I live, just instated another curfew because of an uptick in COVID cases. All businesses deemed non-essential for the next two weeks must close between 10pm and 6am. Bars and restaurants, already reeling from being closed down this spring, will be hit especially hard. Some of these businesses, especially those struck by looting this summer, will never re-open. Which means of course more people will be prone to suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. The workforce in the food and beverage industry is disproportionately young.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit was an early victim of the COVID-19 lockout layoffs. She’s fine–she has a new job in a different field. But her former boss was forced to downsize his business, which I believe his home mortgage was tied into. He sold his home this summer and moved into a much smaller residence.

There are millions of former business owners facing similar situations across America. And not all workers, such as Mrs. Marathon Pundit, will be able to land on their feet. 

One “fix” to the drop in revenue for brick-and-mortar restaurants is to set up plastic tents next to them. Diners instead of eating indoors will be eating, sort of, outdoors in these tents, but still breathing each other’s air. Alongside them in cold weather climates, in the winter, will be space heaters, which are a well-known fire hazard. 

Follow the science. 

Take a deep breath before reading this next paragraph.

Based on my current age, overall health, and family history, I’ll probably live another 25-years. I do not want to spend those years wearing a mask. I don’t want to go running outdoors–and this really happened–as I run 50 yards past a couple who, in horror, hurriedly put their masks over their faces as I move, maskless, down the street that I live on as if I am Typhoid Mary. According to federal government data, there have been 624 positive cases of COVID-19 in the town I live in, Morton Grove, which has a population of 23,000.

Who frightened that Morton Grove couple? Not me, well not initially that is.

Will the mask mandates return–if they ever go away–when a more virulent than usual strain of the flu strikes?

Follow the science. 

This is not a distress from me call but instead a call for action. For the sake of our overall health–while maintaining strict safety controls in places such as senior homes and hospitals–these lockdowns must end. But I suspect many politicians–such as Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago–don’t want the lockdowns to end. They are too in love with power. Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker told us we needed the lockdowns to “flatten the curve” in the spring so hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Now they want to prevent all of us getting sick, which as we know is not possible.

The goalposts keep moving.

Years ago I read in a book about marathon training that stated that distance running, all things being equal, does indeed lead to a longer life expectancy. But more importantly, those extra years on this planet for runners usually mean they are enjoyable years. Who is going to sign up for an additional ten years of life if those years will consist of living in a nursing home in need of 24-hour care?

The quality of life for myself and millions of others is diminished because we are ordered to wear masks and to avoid each other.

End the lockdowns.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Big Media and Big Tech, the left-wing parents who adopted us, believe they know what is best for you

Bea Arthur as “Maude.”

By John Ruberry

I was raised by parents who kept a close eye on what my brothers and sisters and I watched on television. As we only had two TV sets, that was a very easy task for them as my folks didn’t socialize outside our home much. Until the early 1970s it was especially easy for them as television fare for the medium’s first 25 years was mostly G-rated fare. Otis Campbell’s drunkeness on the Andy Griffith Show was as bad as it got in the 1960s, although interestingly, the character was rarely shown consuming alcohol. 

So in 1972 when Bea Arthur’s eponymous character in Maude, in a two-episode storyline became pregnant–she pondered an abortion and then went through with it–my parents made sure that our televisions were tuned to a different station those nights.

Abortion was not only very controversial in 1972, it was illegal in most states, although Arthur’s character lived in New York, where it was not. At that time I didn’t even know what abortion was.

Nearly five decades later, Big Tech and Big Media are trying to control what I see on my computer and portable devices. And because broadcast and cable news often takes its lead from what they view as “elite” media, their decisions effect what I see on my TV.

Our “betters” in the media, working for CNN, MSNBC, as well as onetime somewhat fair but left-leaning print outlets such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, are attempting to limit what information we consume. And in control of the metaphoric off switch is Big Tech, led by Twitter and Facebook. 

Stories that are harmful to the reputation to President Donald Trump blare across the media, such as reports on Trump’s tax returns. The New York Times did not publish those returns, but it reported on them. The Old Gray Lady won’t say how it got them, but assuming reports on the returns are accurate, who ever gained access to them and gave them to the Times broke the law. The stories on Trump’s tax returns, where it was reported that he paid as little as $750 in federal taxes, were reported pretty much everywhere by the media, and posted, reposted, Tweeted, and re-Tweeted on Facebook and Twitter.

“Kids, kids, come to the living room! You need to see this news story on TV!” 

Contrast Trump’s taxes to reports from the New York Post about the emails it accessed from a laptop that once belonged to Joe Biden’s troublesome son, Hunter. Because Hunter dropped of the computer at a repair shop and never bothered to pick it up, that computer became property of the shop’s owner. Emails found on that computer confirm accusations that Hunter used that Biden name to for influence peddling. Illegal? Maybe not. Sleazy? For sure. And the shop owner did not break the law.

And the media, with the exception of Fox News and other conservative news sources such as Breitbart, ignored or minimized coverage of Hunter Biden’s emails. Last week a Democratic Party shill masquerading as an ABC journalist, former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos, didn’t ask Biden about the New York Post revelations. Yeah, I get it, the format was a town hall, but ABC chose the participants and it knew what questions they would ask. Contrast Biden’s friendly treatment to the grilling Trump received from Savannah Guthrie at the NBC town hall the same night. Guthrie is married to Michael Feldman, the traveling chief of staff for Al Gore in the 2000 election. Guthrie brought up Trump’s tax returns, among other things. 

That’s bad but what is worse is that Twitter and Facebook for a while blocked the posting and sharing of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden email revelations. And it wasn’t yokels like me who suffered the indignity. Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, saw her Twitter account briefly suspended for Tweeting the Post’s Hunter story. The twisted explanation from Big Tech is that the Hunter Biden’s emails were hacked–they weren’t–and that the story was unverified. Remember, the NY Times never actually published Trump’s federal tax returns, which may have been hacked. But the Post did show images of some of Hunter’s emails. Even the New York Post’s Twitter account was suspended for a short time on the day it published the Hunter story.

“Kids…turn off that TV and go to your room!” 

Of course these media and tech big shots are our “betters.” Jeffrey Toobin, a CNN analyst and New Yorker writer, a product of Harvard University, is one of them. But yesterday Toobin was suspended by CNN and the New Yorker after exposing himself and more–click here for the X-rated details–during a Zoom call simulating election night scenarios. Toobin is a scumbag. He had an extramarital affair with Casey Greenfield, the daughter of journalist Jeff Greenfield. Okay, I know, Trump has been unfaithful while married too. But Greenfield bore his child, which Toobin only acknowledged after a DNA test, and only then began paying child support. And while pregnant Toobin offered to pay for her abortion.

American media can do much better than Toobin and his fellow “betters.” I will write another entry on the sad state of the media after the election.  

But right now we’re headed to Chinese government-style control of the media by the left.

A free press and free association are two things that French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville saw as two key safeguards in his landmark 19th-century work, Democracy in America

But Big Tech and Big Media, as well as the increasingly far-left Democratic Party, are trying to minimize both. 

We live in a perilous time.

UPDATE 7:30pm EDT: Correction, the New York Post Twitter account was “not suspended for a short time” as I wrote earlier. There are no new Twitter entries from @nypost since October 14. If the account has been suspended it clearly has been locked out. This is censorship.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Jussie Smollett’s protector Kim Foxx, citing “Trump-like name calling and fear mongering,” backs out of debate with GOP opponent

By John Ruberry

The Jussie Smollett outrage has not gone away. But the dropping of charges by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for the alleged hate-crime hoaxter, since reinstated after the appointment of a special prosecutor, are not the biggest campaign issue facing the suburban Chicago Democrat as she faces Republican and retired judge Pat O’Brien in the general election in November. 

Rather it is the revolving door, or if you prefer, catch-and-release philosophy in regards to criminals used by Foxx, who was elected in 2016. 

Disclosure: In the ’16 Democratic primary Foxx defeated incumbent Anita Alvarez. Her husband is a friend of mine.

Last month in a debate at the Daily Herald offices called Foxx a “cheerleader of criminals” and a “social worker.” And Foxx, who has accepted campaign contributions from a PAC supported by left-wing billionaire George Soros, certainly seems to side with criminals in Cook County, which is dominated by Chicago.

Earlier this month Foxx backed out of a televised debate scheduled for later this month, bemoaning “Trump-like name calling and fear mongering” by O’Brien. Such behavior by the GOPer lives only in her head. It’s unclear if Fox will participate in a second debate scheduled in October. 

The state guideline for charging shoplifters in Illinois is $300. In one of her first actions, Foxx raised that to $1,000. Shortly afterwards–and most notably well before the two rounds of looting that struck Chicago this summer–shoplifting flash mobs began popping up in the city. Other criminals are receiving light bonds and overly generous plea deals. Crime, not surprisingly, is skyrocketing in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs. 

You see bits and pieces of the prosecutorial malfeasance by Foxx in the local media but to really get to the truth about her you need to read these two blogs, CWB Chicago and Second City Cop

Here are a few examples of Foxx-trocities from the former.

“They robbed a man together in 2018 — now, they’re accused of pulling off a carjacking together too.” CWB Chicago said last month. The duo “received luxurious plea deals after they robbed a man on the Far North Side in 2018.”

Another criminal got a second chance from the office of Kim Foxx. He was among three men charged with “robbing and battering a pregnant woman and her friend” at an el train station earlier this year that blog tells us. But a month after receiving that second chance prosecutors allege that he robbed a convenience store.

CWB Chicago reported this news last month. “Tobacco and booze targeted as convenience store robberies soar to record high.”

And finally, CWB Chicago tells us that September’s murder total, when finally tabulated, will be the highest for that month in a generation.

After the August outbreak of widespread looting in Chicago even Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a fellow leftist, and her police chief, David Brown, questioned Foxx’s prosecutorial philosophy.

Pat O’Brien is telling the truth.

Republicans face daunting odds in heavily-Democratic Cook County. In 2016 Hillary Clinton captured nearly 75 percent of the vote. But the Daily Herald–man, that must have been a horrible debate for Foxx–has endorsed O’Brien, as has the Chicago area’s most-read newspaper, the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Sun-Times, which is partially owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor, backs Foxx. I feel compelled to mention that the group that owns the Sun-Times purchased the paper three years ago for $1

Not only has the Chicago Federation of Police thrown its support behind O’Brien but it has contributed $58,000 to his campaign.

And sure it’s just one home, but I feel the need to mention that on my way to work I drive past a home in Niles that is dominated by yard signs for Democratic candidates and liberal causes. All but one of them. There’s a Pat O’Brien placard on that lawn.

O’Brien has a chance.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Cook County at Marathon Pundit.

Illinoisans: Vote “No” on the Unfair Tax Amendment

By John Ruberry

I’ve mentioned this profound sentenced from a 2016 Chicago Tribune editorial several times here before at Da Tech Guy. “As a result, Illinois government,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote, “is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.”

It’s actually worse than than that. Illinois is a racket where elected politicians, many of them legislators in gerrymandered districts created by longtime party boss Michael Madigan, rewards pals with unionized jobs. Those unions are public-sector unions such as AFSCME and SEIU, which plow campaign contributions from dues money into the coffers of Democratic politicians who protect unaffordable pension plans from any cuts. Okay, I know, in accordance with the state constitution pension benefits cannot be lowered. An amendment to that document to allow pension reform is vehemently opposed by Illinois Democrats. 

Instead the Dems are pushing what they call the Fair Tax Amendment which will allow for a state income tax with graduated rates, currently only a flat rate is prohibited. Eight states, including Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Tennessee, which coincidentally are popular destinations for escapees for Illinoisans, have no state income tax. Most Illinoisans, we are promised by the pols hawking the Fair Tax Amendment, will see a tax cut, albeit one that is a pittance. If what I call the Unfair Tax Amendment passes, the “rich” will pay more but mark my words. Springfield politicians are liars and the tax rates will reach down in a few years to the middle class and the working poor. That’s because the rich will leave and those left behind will get stuck with the bill. Oh, the others will leave too. Don’t forget, Illinois has lost population every year since 2014.

The Fair Tax Amendment is on the ballot for Illinois voters to decide in November.

As I’ve also mentioned here before, Michael Madigan, the state House speaker for 35 of the last 37 years, has had his fingers on every state budget, and every failed pension fix, for decades. Those “fixes” for the most part kinda-sorta solved the pension crisis for five years or so. Which means they solved nothing.

If you trust Madigan to fix Illinois’ pensions and finances then you are a fool. The Prairie State’s second-most powerful politician, another Chicago Democrat, Governor J.B. Pritzker, was arguably put into office by the Madigan machine. Illinois’ lieutenant governor, Juliana Stratton, first run for public office, a state House seat, was a victorious one. In a very expensive race Stratton defeated another Democrat who dared to cross Boss Madigan. The Boss of Illinois even convinced Barack Obama to go after Stratton’s opponent.

In a conference call on Thursday Stratton threatened Illinois residents with a twenty-percent across the board income tax hike if the Unfair Tax Amendment fails. In 2017 the General Assembly overrode Republican governor Bruce Rauner’s veto to raise income taxes by 32 percent. Still at the end of 2019, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability went up by $3.8 billion to nearly $140 billion. Well, that tax hike didn’t work. Keep in mind Pritzker’s heavy-handed COVID-19 lockdown, which has severely impaired state revenues, promises to provide more financial shocks. 

And I want to be clear, some Republicans, namely governors James Thompson, Jim Edgar, and George Ryan, deserve some of the blame for Illinois’ predicament. Democrat Rod Blagojevich, the recently freed convict who supports Donald Trump for president, was equally irresponsible in fiscal matters during his time as governor. Edgar supports Joe Biden over Trump. Man, oh man, is Illinois a crazy place.

Illinois cannot tax itself out of this human-made disaster. A Fair Pension Amendment, one that protects modest pensioners and Illinois taxpayers, is the best way out. Followed by a Fair Map Amendment. Madigan’s Picasso-like gerrymandering skills in drawing maps puts his lackeys in office in the General Assembly. For the most part the Illinois legislature functions like a private country club, one that allows a few Republican members inside to make it look genuine. Twice in the 2010s hundreds of thousands of Illinois voters signed petitions to put a Fair Map Amendment on the ballot. Twice an attorney with ties to Madigan successfully sued to block it

How adept at gerrymandering is Madigan? In 2014, GOPer Rauner won 101 of Illinois 102 counties and defeated the incumbent Democratic governor. But Madigan didn’t lose a single seat in the state House that year and he kept his supermajority in the lower chamber. Yes, I’m aware that the GOP gerrymandered districts in 1991. That’s wrong too.

Illinois government is a failure.

And one party does not have all the right answers. Yes, that includes Republicans. Which is why we need two parties.

The Fair Tax Amendment is really a public-sector worker pension plan bailout where millions of Illinoisans, who don’t have a fixed-benefit pension plan, will pay for ones who do.

As I wrote in my own blog last week, “If Illinois politicians are ever given an unlimited budget–they will exceed it.”

The cure for a heroin addict isn’t a larger dose of heroin.

Illinoisans: Vote “No” on the so-called Fair Tax Amendment. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Questions the mainstream media needs to be asking Biden

By John Ruberry

Last week CNN hosted a town hall for Joe Biden where he was given softball questions. No, on second thought they were T-ball questions. 

The demands on whoever is president are brutal. If CNN believes that Biden can’t handle challenging queries then that in my opinion disqualifies him to be leader of the most powerful nation on the planet. And if CNN is just shilling for the Democrats, then no one should take them seriously as a news outlet. Based on their poor ratings, most people already do not. 

Here are some questions that responsible reporters should be asking Biden. The wonderful thing about the questions I’ve devised is that most of them can be posed to President Trump. Yes, a few of these queries have been given to Biden, but generally only once and with dismissive answers from the Democratic nominee.

Here we go:

  • Will you be releasing the names of your potential Supreme Court nominees, as President Trump did as a candidate in 2016 and did earlier this month?
  • Do you support “packing the Supreme Court,” that is, nominating additional justices to the court to go beyond nine members?
  • Where’s Hunter?
  • Do you unconditionally oppose Antifa?
  • Will a Biden administration investigate plots by Antifa and other groups to incite riots in cities such as Portland?
  • You favor a nationwide mask mandate to fight COVID-19. What is your legal basis for instituting one?
  • Do you support statehood for the District of Columbia? And for Puerto Rico?
  • Many states, such as Illinois, Kentucky, and New Jersey, have public-sector worker pension plans that are essentially bankrupt. Do you support a federal bailout of these and other state worker pension plans?
  • Numerous cities also have similarly under-funded pension plans. Will you back a bailout of those plans?
  • What is your position on bailing out states whose tax revenues have plummeted because of COVID-19 lockdowns?
  • Do you favor allowing states to declare bankruptcy?
  • Speaking of Illinois, in 2008 the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, was in the midst of a corruption investigation of Rod Blagojevich, the governor of the state, and Tony Rezko, a member of Blago’s inner circle who donated large sums to the campaigns of Barack Obama. Your ticket mate kept Fitzgerald in his post after becoming president. This year John Lausch, the current US Attorney in Chicago, is in the thick of investigating more public corruption. The center of this scandal appears to be longtime Illinois state House speaker Michael Madigan who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. If elected will you keep Lausch in his post?
  • Where’s Hunter?
  • If elected you will be older than Ronald Reagan, the oldest person to serve as president, was when he left office after two terms. Are you physically and mentally up to the office? If you are now what will happen if you one day are not?
  • Do you support the Green New Deal?
  • Do you support fracking?
  • Do you support nuclear power?
  • Do you support coal power?
  • Do you back amnesty for illegal immigrants?
  • Do you utilize teleprompters during interviews and question-and-answer sessions?
  • Where’s Hunter?

I’m sure there are many more questions readers can come up with.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Update on the continuing Illinois Exodus

By John Ruberry

I’ve been writing here about the Illinois Exodus for several years. The COVID-19 outbreak, as it has many other societal trends, is accelerating the people drain. But two rounds of riots and looting, one after the homicide of George Floyd, and the second last month, after false rumors that Chicago Police had killed a man now charged with murder, are gut punches that the city will not quickly recover from. 

In my DTG post-second riot post about the decline and fall of the city, Welcome to Detroit, Chicago, I wrote, “But when Chicago’s downtown area is dominated by boarded up store-fronts with signs declaring ‘Move in now–lease rates reduced again–first month free!’ you’ll know the downtown descent is well under way.” The vacancy rate for luxury units in downtown Chicago are at their highest level ever recorded according to Mike Flannery (more on him in a bit).

I haven’t been downtown since that “Detroit” entry, but on my own blog, Marathon Pundit, an automated Google Ads banner from a downtown Chicago apartment building offered this promo, “First two months rent free.”

Decline and fall.

And keep in mind that over seventy percent of Chicago’s economic activity comes from the downtown area. And Chicago is of course Illinois’ largest and most important city.

Downstate things aren’t much better. AP is reporting on three towns in St. Clair County, which is across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, that are considering merging because of “severe population decline.” St. Clair County, like Chicago and Cook County, are Democratic strongholds where corruption is widespread.

Large swaths of downstate Illinois have been facing population losses for decades, for instance Iroquois County, an agricultural powerhouse that is just 55 miles from Chicago’s city limits, saw its population peak in 1900. Universities have allowed other downstate counties to buck that trend, but enrollment was struggling at many of these colleges before COVID-19 hit. Business Insider last week compiled a list of the “30 college towns that could face economic ruin if schools don’t reopen or have to close again this fall.” Two of them are in Illinois.

The Prairie State has lost population for six straight years. It’s a safe bet that when the counting is over for 2020 it will be seven.

On the usually-worth watching–Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up, three cheerleaders for the city and one moderate skeptic talked about its descent and for the most part, it’s quick bounce back. But this weekend’s episode was an aberration. The show sucked. It was up to the host, Mike Flannery, to bring up the two 800-pound gorillas in Chicago’s otherwise looted basement: rampant corruption and the worst-funded municipal pensions in the nation. 

Since 1973 over thirty members of Chicago City Council have been sentenced to prison. At one time he was the city’s most powerful alderman, but now Ed Burke is under indictment for allegedly shaking down a fast food franchisee. Do you want to bring your business to Chicago? You may have to endure having your pockets picked by a pol. Or by several of them.

Where do I sign up?

Burke has been an alderman since 1969. Chicago needs term limits. And so does Illinois. Boss Michael Madigan, who is from the same part of the city as Burke, has been speaker of the state House since 1983 except for two years in the 1990s when the Republicans had a majority in the lower chamber. Madigan is also a Chicago ward committeeman. He’s been chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1997. Illinois’ most powerful Dem is also currently under investigation as part of an evolving federal corruption probe that has already ended the careers of several Chicago and suburban politicians

There is no way out of Chicago’s pension bomb other than a municipal bankruptcy, one that may also force many city vendors to go under, or a federal bailout. Even if the the Democrats capture the Senate and the White House in November, such a rescue for irresponsible spending, a backhanded reward really, faces tall odds in Washington. But under current Illinois law, government bodies are prevented from declaring bankruptcy.

The “moderate skeptic” on Flannery Fired Up mentioned transportation as a city selling point. While O’Hare is one of the world’s busiest airports–it used to be ranked first in traffic–and Chicago is a rail hub and it has many miles of interstate highways, that “expert” needs to drive on Chicago’s streets. They are falling apart. 

And if you don’t own a car and you use your feet to get around? Watch out, walking on crumbling sidewalks often requires strong ankles and a steady balance. 

Violence in Chicago was declining over the last few years but shootings are way up since the pandemic was declared.

As I’ve mentioned before, like an alcoholic, Chicago’s cure won’t begin until it admits complete and utter defeat. 

That point has not been reached. But it’s probably coming soon.

As it is for the rest of Illinois. The state’s pension programs are almost as poorly funded as Chicago’s.

Decline and fall. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.