Stockpiling gasoline

The gas cans in my garage, well before the Colonial Pipeline hack

When I first heard about the ransomware hack of the Colonial Pipeline, it popped up in my cyber news feed. After a bit of research, in which I realized quickly that my area of the world would run out of gasoline, my wife and I each filled up our vehicles and minimized travel during the week. We watched on the GasBuddy app as station after station ran out of gasoline, with the typical hoarders filling up gas cans like you see above. Luckily, the shortage is essentially over now and life is returning to normal.

My cans were full long before the gas shortage. I have a tractor, wood splitter and wood chipper, all of which required gasoline to run. They will run on regular gasoline, however, I have found that the ethanol in regular gasoline breaks down and damages small engines, particularly the carburetors, so I switched to using ethanol-free fuel. Since the only place that sells ethanol-free fuel near me is out in farm country, I fill up a lot of cans to make the trip worth it.

Probably the largest benefit to ethanol-free fuel is storage. I can easily store fuel for a year without it breaking down. At best with ethanol fuel, you’re looking at 30 days at most. When I saw the gas hoarders filling up, my hope is they realize that gas won’t be good by the end of the month. It’ll sort of still work in your car, but unless you add a stabilizer, it’s going to have water in it.

Which brings up a really good point: why on earth are we still using ethanol? Ethanol has some cleaning benefits for gasoline, in that is dissolves things that gasoline cannot, but with most gasolines having detergents in them anyways, the benefit is pretty minimal. Worse still, ethanol increases deposits on injectors and other components. It gives you plenty of problems, but hasn’t done much to reduce emissions nor wean us off Middle East Oil (only Trump policies do the latter).

Before someone chimes in with “Just use electric!”, let’s point out some flaws. Nobody makes a battery powered wood splitter or wood chipper. While we’re going back to electric garden tractors, they are still pretty pricey. The power in battery tools, while impressive, is not quite there yet. I have an electric and gas chainsaw, and if I’m cutting something over a foot in diameter, the gas chainsaw wins hands down. I have switched over to an electric weed whipper and pole saw, and they are both great. I bet in 5 years that electric outdoor tools will become the norm, but for now, if you need something powerful, you still need a gasoline engine.

If everyone had a 5 gallon gas can with ethanol-free gas, short term disruptions at the pump would cause less hysteria. You can’t do that with E10 gas unless you religiously use that fuel up and refill every month. By continuing to use ethanol, we continue to damage our engines and make us more susceptible to disruptions for little to no environmental gain. Perhaps as we recover from this gasoline shortage, someone will start asking the hard questions about why we’re handicapping ourselves.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

DaTechGuy off DaRadio Livestream Spontaneous Podcast the Civil War you don’t want and Cui Bono

Today I have some free time so it’s time for another spontaneous livestream

You can watch here

Topics will include

  1. The Civil war that you don’t want (or why people don’t understand why this is a bad thing.
  2. The Cold Civil war and what it means
  3. Cui Bono from the Biden Administration
  4. Stalling stalling stalling
  5. Reaping meeting sowing on police protection for Democrat cities

It will all start around 9:40 AM EST hope to see you here

A Few Photos and Videos from the Tender Bar Shoot in my neighborhood earlier this month with Ben Affleck and George Clooney

There are the people in my neighborhood

One of the interesting things about having part of a movie shot in your neighborhood is the number of people who turn up, both your neighbors who you end up talking to and people from around the area. While I went outside a couple of times my wife spent most of the day outside getting up very early and taking photos and videos with the camera I usually use for interviews (which have been few and far between due to work and COVID although I had a pair of Catholic ones this week, more on that tomorrow). She pretty much shot a bunch of one minute clips and a fair amount of photos till she came home tired around 2 and crashed. The biggest take away I got from them was that despite the better pay a lot of acting, at least in movies which aren’t on the same deadline as a weekly TV show, is that like any other job there is a fair amount of tedious repetition.

Because she took so many shots I’m only uploading a few plus three videos. Be aware that the date on the Camera was set wrong. While the shoot had been scheduled for the 7th it was actually done on the 8th.

There are plenty more but I think this gives the gist of what is going on with the police controlling the crowd and traffic and the guys in charge letting people know when to be quiet etc.

I figured the Diner would have done pretty well with these folks but alas for Ed because there were three different days when the shooting might have taken place his regulars stayed away those days and he only got a quick burst of business when they called lunch the day of the shooting which didn’t make up for it.

Anyways here are the three videos here is one with a shot of their car pulling out

My wife shot a lot of those, didn’t upload the others since they were pretty much the same. DaWife says they did it about five times. Each time they pull out, when Clooney calls cut Affleck backs up and they get ready to do it again.

Here is another shot of Clooney joking with the kid and Affleck before another shot. This would be just visible from my front yard.

And finally here is a 3rd shot of him directing the kid before another shot and then the shot itself. The antique cars were parked in the neighborhood for about a week before the shoot but then again I’m old enough that to me they don’t seem like antiques they’re just the cars I remember from the 70’s. In fact my 1st two cars were a 67 Barracuda and a 75 Buick LeSabre both convertables.

My chief interest in all of these is how the work is actually done as I’m not experienced in it. Granted it’s not work in the sense that my dad worked or that I or my sons or my wife do but it’s work and it takes them away from their homes for long periods of time. Granted it would have been cool to get Clooney to sign the season 1 of ER that I bought my wife 20+ years ago and my son had hoped to get a Batman comic signed by both as they each (Clooney meh, Affleck actually very good) played the role but there was none of that.

And frankly in an age of cancel culture where people are looking to bring down folks for saying or doing the wrong thing the last thing you really want to do is mix with a bunch of strangers with cameras any one of whom might hold a grudge and be looking to get their 15 min of fame by giving you grief. That realization precludes Jimmy Stewart’s old advice to Raquel Welch about fans and autographs these days and must be a pain in the neck, particularly if someone happens to be affable by nature who previously enjoyed meeting the fans.

At least the pay is good.

As I said there are a lot more pictures and a lot more video but they seem too repetitive to upload to youtube and given how close to the vest things have been around here I can’t justify the extra bandwidth charges to put them all up. Feel free to hit DaTipJar to offset those costs.

Actually, we should buy lots of Coca-Cola

stock, that is.

Back when Coca-Cola cared about America. From Flickr.

I totally understand the desire to boycott Coca-Cola, Delta and others. And, truth be told, I haven’t bought Coca-Cola in…a long time. The fake high-fructose corn syrup was never good for you, and giving it up helps me maintain a healthy weight. So for me, boycotting Coca-Cola is easy.

Delta might be harder. What if Delta is the only ones to have a flight when I need it? Or, take Amazon and Home Depot. Sure, in many cases I can switch to another company, but at some point, Amazon might be the only place I can find something. Or Home Depot might be the only place I can get lumber at a reasonable price.

Truth be told, at some point boycotting doesn’t work. Unless we want to live isolated on our own 10 acres of land in a bunker with solar power and a well, we’ll have to use the services of places that don’t always line up with our views. Boycotting easily becomes a retreat, because once we stop buying Coca-Cola, why should Coke care about us anymore?

I propose we buy Coca-Cola…stock. Buy up the company. Once you have enough votes, you can kick out board members. When I heard Donald Trump was interested in starting his own social media platform, I thought “Why doesn’t he just buy Gab?” Heck, what if he found a way to buy out Twitter?

Boycotting is too often ceding ground to our enemies. They aren’t really interested in Coca-Cola, they are interested in punishing people they don’t like. Pushing back twice as hard is the only force they understand.

And, an additional note on my cryptocurrency article, based on the good sleuthing of a reader on Coinbase. Yes, Coinbase terms of service do allow for potentially blocking your account. That being said, there are some ways to prevent that from happening:

  1. Sign up with a fake email that you only check while using a VPN. That can keep you from personally having issues.
  2. Get a hardware wallet, like the Ledger X. People can send money to your hardware wallet that you physically own.

I use the Coinbase exchange, but I draw my coins off onto a hardware wallet. That keeps them from getting stolen and keeps my ownership of them secure. I don’t put it past Coinbase to go woke, but right now they have a lot of competition and its REALLY easy to shift to other exchanges, so hopefully that will keep them in check.

Good eye, Sailorcurt! Thanks for doing the digging and asking the hard questions!

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

No inflation? Not buying it

I affectionately call her The Kraken!

During the early part of 2020, when COVID restrictions were in full swing and everything fun had to arrive in an UberEats or Amazon delivery vehicle, I built a pirate ship. A big, frickin’ pirate ship. Like, adult sized, complete with cup holders for your adult beverages. Home Depot had a massive truck drop off all the lumber, and every weekend until the beginning of summer, there I was, building away on the ship. Luckily, as the summer and COVID dragged on, my kids had something to play on while the city shut down all the other playgrounds.

The lumber I purchased was fairly hefty: 4×4 posts, 5/4 decking board, 2×6 framing, and all of it is pressure treated. Recently I went to add a simple enclosure for my garden, and looked at the price for some 4x4s. And man, did they look expensive. Curious, I pulled up my receipts from the pirate ship project. And sure enough….4x4s had nearly doubled in price.

If 4×4 was a stock, it would have beat an awful lot of the market. I also looked at our Walmart receipts, and sure enough, food prices bumped up a bit too. Gas is more expensive as well.

So I’m super skeptical when I get told we have little to no inflation. In real prices, I don’t see it. Everything is more expensive, and a lot more than the 2% you would normally expect. Maybe that makes me dumber than an economist, but I’ll take my actual experience of buying things over some book knowledge that seems to have no place in reality. Given how high these prices really are, I’m worried that inflation is going to skyrocket once people start buying things again in large numbers. If ever there was a time to worry about inflation, now would be that time.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

High inflation will make Illinois’ pension crisis less severe

By John Ruberry

Will high inflation offer benefits? In Illinois and other states burdened by woefully underfunded pension plans, it just might.

Boss Michael Madigan, the man behind Illinois’ financial debacle, is finally gone. Hard work by the Illinois Policy Institute, some Republicans, local radio hosts, and yes, bloggers, made the Madigan name toxic. The tipping point against the longtime chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and the speaker of the state House for all but two years since 1983, was a disappointing 2020 general election. He’s now enjoying a comfortable retirement.

How comfortable? Madigan, 78, contributed just $350,000 to his retirement, an amount he’ll collect as a state pensioner in just three years, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Over the next 17 years, of course if he lives that long, the Chicagoan will collect $2.9 million from his pension. Not that Madigan is poor. Presumably he’s made a lot of money from his law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, which specializes in property tax appeals. How much money? We’ll never know because Madigan has never released his income tax returns. 

In 1989, Governor James Thompson, a Republican, signed into law a bill that gave Illinois retirees a three-percent annual cost-of-living increase raise in their pensions. Which means after twenty years their pensions double. Madigan was the House speaker when the pension COLA bill passed through the General Assembly. 

Over thirty years later Illinois’ pension plans are among the worst-funded among the 50 states.

Short of default–pension benefits are protected by the state constitution–or a federal bailout, there is no way out for Illinois in regards to these obligations. It’s that bad.

But then there is inflation. Joe Biden’s stimulus package, most of which is not related to COVID-19, has many economists, including Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, worrying about higher inflation. A basic explanation of how high inflation occurs is too much cash chasing too few goods. And Biden’s stimulus is more than double that of Barack Obama’s stimulus of 2009.

Here’s what Forbes’ Elizabeth Bauer said two years ago about inflation and pensions:

If the United States were to hit a period of high inflation rates, sustained over a long period of time, these liabilities would shrink considerably — and I’m not even speaking, snarky photo aside [the article contains a photograph of a Zimbabwean $100 trillion bill], of hyperinflation. Based on my calculations (and yes, these are real calculations, using real data for this plan collected for another project, not merely back-of-the-envelope estimates, however unlikely the very even numbers make it appear), an inflation rate of 10%, and assumptions for interest rate/asset return rate and salary increases over time which reflect the same net-of-inflation rates as at present, would halve the pension liabilities of the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System.

Crisis solved? Kinda sorta. Public pension debt in Illinois will be less of a financial burden if 1970s-type inflation returns. And of course it’s easy to chuckle about the over 100,000 retirees who last year were collecting over $100,000 annually in their pensions, unless you are a member of this fortunate caste.

But what about the retirees collecting half of that–after years of seeing large chunks of every paycheck deducted for retirement? They’ll lose too.

When I was in college an economics professor explained to me and my classmates that inflation is a zero-sum game; he used the example of a five-person poker game. When the first cards are dealt there is, let’s say, $500 placed in chips, $100 per-player. When the final hands are played there is still $500. Some leave the table richer, others poorer. 

High inflation–and hyper inflation–will reward some, which is why, for my largely self-funded 401(k) plan, I recently moved some of my funds into real estate. Let’s hope I made the right decision.

Among hypothetical inflationary losers will be Illinois pensioners, and presumably other public-penioners, unless their plans are tied to the annual rate of inflation. 

Of course don’t expect the public-sector union bosses to quietly accept their fate if inflation deals them, excuse me for not letting go of the poker example, a bad hand. Among the lessons learned from the COVID-19 lockown is that teachers unions are very powerful and they have the ears of Democratic politicians, despite what the science says about the virus and how it spreads among younger people.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Most Americans are going to get a small influx of money in the next 60 days, due to two separate events. First, the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 bill that is 90% about bailing out Democrat-supporting regions of the country will include some sort of stimulus checks, likely the $1400 per individual. Also, most people are filing their taxes between now and April, and most Americans will get some sort of refund on their taxes.

The thing is, most of this money gets spent without thinking about future consequences. The local used car dealerships always run “sales” this time of year that mention tax returns, and I’m seeing “stimulus check” sales advertisements popping up now. Yet we’re not going into happy times anytime soon. If you watch the stock market and references by the Fed that indicate inflation is going to come roaring back should give us pause.

If you’re not one to care about the Fed, then look more locally. Wood prices at Lowes and Home Depot are well double what they were a year ago, between the boom in home building due to low interest rates and COVID-19 shutting down the lumber mills for a time. Gas is more expensive now. I’ve had more Amazon packages getting delivered late than ever before. Stores are still running out of basic items, and while this is infrequent now, remember that is essentially never happened in the past.

All this indicates we’re in for a bumpy ride for at least two years, if not four. I’m not going to get caught unprepared for this, and you shouldn’t either. I suggest you prioritize spending this way:

  1. Debt. Get rid of any debt you can. Car almost paid off? Pay it off now. Credit card debts? Pay them off or work a forgiveness plan, an especially good idea now since card companies are also taking advantage of low interest rates.
    I would also refinance your house if you haven’t done so. Most people can’t simply pay off their mortgage, but you can make a principle payment to pay it off earlier, and shifting to bi-weekly payments (if your company allows you to) will cut years off the back end.
  2. Build up supplies. COVID-19 taught us that everything from toilet paper to sweet potatoes will be in short supply. It’s going to happen again. Rather than fight lines at a store, build up a 1-3 month supply of basics that don’t really ever go bad: bottled water, paper products, disposable eating utensils, soap and cleaning supplies. You should also keep about 2 weeks of meals in reserve. I have things like spaghetti and frozen foods that can keep for a long time just hanging out. They occasionally save me when dinner decides to catch on fire, and when the stores were swamped in the initial stages of pandemic, this food let me stretch our groceries further.
  3. Fix what you can. Americans are pretty handy people, but we also can be lazy. Plenty of homes and vehicles have little things that need repair. Get those done now. Don’t wait forever on car maintenance. The pandemic backed our local dealership up by a month for appointments. Same goes for home maintenance, even if you do it yourself, you may not get the supplies when people buy out the stores.
  4. Set your investing on automatic. Unless you’re smart on the stock market, you’re best off making long term investments on mutual funds. Whatever your investing strategy, put it on automatic through automatic funds transfers and investments. Too many people get scared when the market comes down and sell, which is the worst time to do that. Putting it on cruise control helps you take advantage of the down market over time.
  5. Build up your local network. This may not cost much money, but its critical. Do you know your neighbors? Do you know a local electrician, plumber, car mechanic and veterinarian? Remember how even routine house calls for minor issues became a major problem in the pandemic? You avoid this by knowing local people. Now is the time to get to know them and be on good terms, so when you need their help in a pinch, you can get it.

Don’t throw your stimulus to the wind! Set yourself up now to get through the trying times ahead.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Don’t worry, Facebook will cancel you next

Facebook is everywhere. Our kids dance studio uses it to communicate with us. The Submarine Base in Groton uses it to let you know when the base is closed due to snow. The military’s Airlift Command uses it to notify people of upcoming flights. Facebook’s ease of use caused many places to use Facebook in place of email, website and texting notifications and updates.

All that dependency comes with a price, because Facebook is too big to care. Instead of being a neutral platform, Facebook took sides on issues. At first, it was non-controversial, like when Facebook would remove suicide videos or obviously pornographic images. But it became too much of a temptation, and it wasn’t long before Facebook was manipulating news feeds and canceling whomever it willed.

President Trump was an obvious canceling choice. But Law Enforcement Today? That’s a bit weird. Or plenty of other folks like Ron Paul. The latest one is Australia, which tried to cash in on Facebook sharing its content. Instead of sharing, Facebook banned all Australian news sources from being shared on its platform. If your news revenue relied on social media sharing, a move like this is devastating to your business.

BTW, the EU assures us it “can’t happen to them.” Don’t hold your breath.

If your small business or club relies on Facebook for communication, you’re vulnerable. Whenever the military invades an area, the first thing they destroy is enemy communication platforms. If you can’t communicate, you can’t organize, and you certainly can’t get anything useful done.

To illustrate this point, I once spoke with firefighters that rescued people in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack on 9/11. One of the things not discussed is that there are a lot of cell and radio towers on the Twin Towers. When they came down, it crippled cellular communications in the area. Firefighters and police resorted to runners to pass messages while pulling people out of rubble.

You are much better off, and much safer, with a good email system, blog and website, plus a social media platform that respects you, like MeWe. Because if Facebook can cancel Australia, what stops them from canceling you?

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

John Lausch needs to stay as US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois

Blogger with Durbin in Chicago in 2020

By John Ruberry

Last Monday the Justice Department asked 56 U.S. attorneys to resign. There were two exceptions, John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, will stay on as the special counsel for the investigation of the Russian collusion hoax, and David Weiss, the prosecutor for Delaware, who is pursuing the probe into Hunter Biden’s taxes, and presumably, more.

Among the others are John R. Lausch Jr., the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, which of course includes that cesspool of corruption, Chicago and suburban Cook County. Appointed in 2017, Lausch has been methodically hacking away at the blighted forest that is Illinois government ever since. Among those indicted under Lausch’s term are a Chicago alderman, two suburban mayors (one of them was also Cook County commissioner), and two members of the Illinois General Assembly. They have one thing in common–all are Democrats. Lausch has chipped away at the political machine of state Representative Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who until last month had been state House speaker for all but two years since 1983. Lausch uncovered an alleged scam involving Commonwealth Edison, Illinois’ largest electric utility, that has led to the indictment of four senior executives at that company, as well as a longtime lobbyist with decades-long ties to Boss Madigan. 

Madigan is the midwife of the Illinois pension debacle and he is the man who destroyed Illinois. Sadly, those aren’t crimes.

Lausch seems to be closing the ring on Madigan, who remains as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, a post he’s held since 1998. Madigan maintains his innocence and he has not been charged with any crimes. But he’s a tough one to investigate–Madigan doesn’t use email and he doesn’t own a cell phone. There’s a lot of smoke surrounding the 78-year-old legislator–but so far no fire has been discovered. 

It took a lot longer than it should have but Illinois’ insipid Republican Party, the Washington Generals to the Democrats’ Harlem Globetrotters, finally pursued tying other Democratic candidates to Madigan, which led to a pretty good, but not great, general election for conservatives last autumn. The best result was the resounding defeat of the so-called Fair Tax Amendent, which would have replaced Illinois’ flat rate income tax with one with graduated rates. As I’ve quipped a few times before, Illinoisans finally figured out that if the Democrats were given an unlimited budget they would exceed it. 

After the general election Illinois’ two Democratic US Senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, called for Madigan’s resignation as party chairman. No, they didn’t suddenly realize that Madigan is toxic to Illinois; Durbin and Duckworth didn’t like the general election results here. 

The state House took care of the speakership problem, the Democrats ousted Madigan last month but replaced him with a longtime ally of the Boss. 

The day after the Justice Department announced those federal prosecutor resignations, in what the Chicago Tribune called “a lame news release,”  those two party-line hack senators called on Biden to keep Lausch on the job. I am very suspicious of their motives. Duckworth is up for reelection next year and if the federal investigation into Chicago area corruption stalls she might get the blunt of the blame for not convincing Biden to keep Lausch in place. 

Durbin is the new Senate Justice Committee chairman and prefers not to be accused of keeping corrupt Dems in power in his home state. Back to gerrymandering and Madigan: Aftet the 2010 census the state congressional map was redrawn to be much more favorable to Democrats. The 8th congressional district was transformed from a competitive one to a layout favoring Democrats. In 2012 Duckworth ousted the Republican incumbent, future never-Trumper Joe Walsh.

Remember, for many Democrats Madigan has been very good to them. His skills at gerrymandering have produced supermajorities in the General Assembly and have bolstered Democratic numbers among the Illinois US House delegation. There may have never been a Senator Duckworth had she not won that House race in 2012. Through government and compliant corporations like Commonwealth Edison, Madigan has been able to hand out contracts, favors, and jobs to those loyal to him–as well as their relatives.

Lausch needs to be kept on the job in Chicago. 

Biden’s nominee for Attorney General is Merrick Garland, a Chicago area native who was nominated by Barack Obama to the US Supreme Court seat that eventually went to Neil Gorsuch. But he hasn’t lived here in decades. Yet my guess is that Garland has kept his eyes on the fetid muck in Illinois. Perhaps he can put in a good word for Lausch to Biden or whoever is making the calls in the White House on federal prosecutors.

Sorry to be repetitive, but I have to keep mentioning this fact. Illinois has lost population every year since 2014. 

People have wised up. But not me. Not yet.

UPDATE February 23: Last night Michael Madigan resigned his post as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Last week Madigan gave up his House seat after 50 years in the General Assembly. Term limits anyone?

This afternoon, according to multiple media reports, Lausch will keep his job as US attorney until a replacement is found and presumably confirmed.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.

Detroit’s stillborn revival

By John Ruberry

I hit the road last week–to a regular stop for me–Detroit–my fourth visit there. Coincidentally last Monday, when I arrived, was the first day that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lifting of Michigan’s ban on indoor dining, replaced by low-capacity dining, took effect.

Yet central Detroit was still nearly void of people last week.

During my first visit, in 2015, while I noticed a fair amount of bustle on the streets and sidewalks downtown, I also walked past empty skyscrapers. On my next trip, two years later, most of those same buildings were occupied or being rehabbed. And the city’s light rail line, the QLine, an expensive and impressive showpiece, had just opened. As I noted at the time on my own blog, these trolley cars ironically echo Detroit’s monorail, the People Mover, the 1980s Stalinist boondoggle championed by Coleman Young, the five-term mayor of Detroit who may have been a closet communist. Both the QLine and the People Mover serve only the downtown area. They look stunning though.

Also in 2017 Little Caesars Arena opened in the adjacent Midown part of the city. It brought the Detroit’s NBA team, the Pistons, back to the city for the first time in nearly four decades. The NHL team, the Red Wings, made the short jump from downtown’s Joe Louis Arena to Little Caesars too. Since the early 2000s the NFL entry, the Lions, and its MLB team, the Tigers, have been playing downtown. Which made the many gamedays in central Detroit a magnet for hungry and thirsty people with fat wallets. Now the teams play in front of no fans.

Quicken Loans has been based in Detroit since 2009 and is now America’s largest mortgage lender. While Detroit is still the Motor City it is the Mortgage City now too.

But meanwhile in the neighborhoods the decline of Detroit continued. For urban explorers like myself, that is, people who photograph or shoot videos of abandoned homes, factories, offices, churches—am I leaving anything out?–oh yeah, schools, there is no shortage of material to work with.

Things looked even better for Detroit when I spent a day there in 2019.

Then COVID-19 hit. Whitmer’s statewide lockdowns have been among the nation’s most restrictive. As I witnessed in Chicago last year, the streets were also eerily empty in Detroit in 2020 according to media reports, such as this one from AP in October:

Downtown Detroit was returning to its roots as a vibrant city center, motoring away from its past as the model of urban ruin. 

Then the pandemic showed up, emptying once-bustling streets and forcing many office workers to flee to their suburban homes.

And if you work for Quicken and its Rocket Mortgage wing, many of your job responsibilities, perhaps all of them, can be done from a suburban home, as Quicken performs most of its transactions online.

But lets say you need to come downtown for your annual review. What else is there to do? On Day 1 of the partial-lifting of the indoor dining lockdown, it looked to me that about half of the restaurants there were still closed. Most retail outlets were shuttered. And all of the shops and eateries were closed at the Little Caesars Arena, where I hoped to buy a hockey souvenir for Mrs. Marathon Pundit. But of course there is always Amazon to fall back on for that. Oh, Kid Rock’s Made In Detroit restaurant at Little Caesars closed last spring, although that departure had nothing to do with COVID.

So in downtown Detroit last week you still had to struggle to find a place to eat. Yes, there were a few of those ludicrous tents outside some eateries–by the way temperatures were in the 30s all last week during our visit.

Story continues below photograph.

Diners last Monday in downtown Detroit

Part of the allure of big-city centers has been the array of shopping and cultural choices offfered. That’s mostly gone now in Detroit. Sure, New York, Chicago and other large cities are facing similar challenges under COVID lockdowns, but many of their eateries and shops have been operating for decades. And yes, such businesses usually have narrow profit margins but being a going concern for many years means there will be an established customer base that might remember you a few years later. What if you are a Detroit boutique that has been open only for a couple of years?

The QLine and the People Mover haven’t run since last spring. There aren’t a lot of people in downtown Detroit to well, move. Buses are still running, however.

Back to those cultural choices: The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of America’s premier art museums. I wanted to attend Wednesday but the DIA was sold out that day. I was able to purchase tickets, online of course, for myself and my traveling companion the following day for one of the available time slots. And do you know what? Outside of employees there couldn’t have been more than 50 people inside the sprawling museum when we were there. I’m confident that Wednesday’s “sold out” day wasn’t much different. On the positive side I was able to stand and stare in front of the DIA’s four Vincent van Gogh paintings as long as I wished–there was no one to push me aside and tell me, “You’re done, now it’s my turn.” Yes, we were forced to wear masks and we had our temperature taken at the museum’s entrance. Precautions were taken.

My companion visited Dearborn’s Henry Ford museum on Tuesday–a fabulous place that I experiended in 2015–and it was nearly empty too, I was told. 

The Motown Musuem in New Center remains closed, it re-opens February 18. Man, oh man, we really wanted to see that place.

Will COVID-19 and Michigan’s lockdowns kill Detroit’s revival?

Many people have their life savings and their mortages invested in small businesses that have been closed for months in Detroit and other large cities.

The dominos will start falling.  Which is something most Detroiters know a lot about.

Meanwhile in Florida, life and business continues, with masks, but without the lockdowns. The Florida COVID death rate is lower than that of Michigan.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.