Statue wars come to Alaska

By John Ruberry

There was no post from me last week here as I was on vacation in Alaska with Mrs. Marathon Pundit celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and getting away from all of the craziness in what Alaskans call “the lower 48.”

Surely leftists’ obsession with tearing down statues hadn’t come to the Last Frontier?

Wrong. It is there too.

While listening to a Talkeetna, Alaska NPR station–which was apparently the only FM station I could pick up in “Gateway to Denali”–I heard a Native American artist from Sitka say, “Take them all down.” The statues, that is. Well, presumably not all of them, just ones of old dead white guys.

A friend of mine who lives in Anchorage urged me to get a photograph of the Captain James Cook statue in Resolution Park, where the bronze likeness of the English explorer, who led the first expedition of Europeans into what is now known as Cook Inlet in 1778, looks over his eponymous bay.

Why?

“Before Cook is taken away,” he warned me.

I believe the Cook statue is a goner. A Change.org petition to remove Cook from Resolution Park, which is named after his flagship, went online last month and attracted a lot of attention, including that of Anchorage’s Democratic mayor, San Francisco native Ethan Berkowitz. He’s a weasel and he punted the decision to an Anchorage native community of 70 to decide the statue’s fate.

Cook haters and everyone who despises white explorers should be able to take solace in knowing that the captain was killed by native Hawaiians on the Big Island several months after sailing into Cook Inlet. But no.

Anchorage is a sister city of Whitby, England, the town where Cook began his maritime career, and the Resolution Park statue is a replica of the Whitby one. Yes, there is a drive in the UK to topple that Cook statue, although the member of parliament who represents Whitby says it will be removed “over my dead body.”

But like hungry sharks, the first kill is never enough for that haters of white man statues. Even in Alaska. What was then known as Russian America was purchased by the United States in 1867; the driver of that purchase was William H. Seward, the US secretary of state. Seward, a rival of Abraham Lincoln for the 1860 presidential nomination, was seen as more anti-slavery than Lincoln. Along with the Great Emancipator, Seward successfully used diplomacy to keep Great Britain and France from recognizing the Confederacy and intervening in our Civil War. On the night Lincoln was assassinated Seward was seriously wounded as well.

In short, most people agree Seward was one of history’s good guys.

We stayed in the village of Seward for a couple of days last month–there’s bust of him there, which is so far safe. That is not the case with the Seward statue in Juneau, Alaska’s capital. Yes, there is a Change.org petition calling for getting rid of it.

Seward’s Day is a state holiday it Alaska, it commemorates that signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty. There is a Seward Highway–which we traveled on last month–and a Seward Peninsula in our 49th state. Clearly, the usually overlooked Seward is a noticeable presence in Alaska. If Juneau’s Seward statue goes, which Seward remembrance will be next?

In Sitka, there is a Change.org petition to remove the statue of Alexander Baranov, who once headed the Russian-American company.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I journeyed to the Last Frontier, among other things, to get away from the craziness in the continental United States.

But that was not possible.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The far-left wants a Year Zero

Woodrow Wilson Street in Detroit

By John Ruberry

Yesterday, on Messidor Duodi (2), 228, three statues were toppled by a leftist mob at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. One of Junípero Serra, the builder of the first Catholic missions in California, one of Francis Scott Key, the composer of Our National Anthem, and of Ulysses S. Grant.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of which statues of historical figures in this country should stay up and which should go because I believe nearly all of them should. Although I support the decision by the Dearborn Historical Museum to remove the statue of segregationist and virulent racist Orville Hubbard, a long time mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, from their grounds. It formerly stood at the Detroit suburb’s city hall.

Last week I wrote that statues of Abraham Lincoln, even in Illinois may not be safe. As far as I know, no Lincoln statues in the United States have been removed or vandalized. Although two, one in Boston and one in Washington, both with a freed slave, might go. The Great Emancipator’s greatest and best-known general, Grant, of course isn’t so lucky. The 18th president freed the only save he owned, at a time when he was suffering severe financial difficulties, was the commander of all Union forces during the Civil War, which of course saw to the ending of slavery in America. As president he pushed strongly for Reconstruction and he led the successful effort to destroy the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Oh, the date yesterday wasn’t really Messidor Duodi (2) 228, unless you follow the French Republican calendar. Among the dementedness that came out of the French Revolution was dropping the seven-day week Gregorian calendar for a ten-day week calendar, think of the metric system only for time. That calendar began in 1792, but to the French revolutionaries it was Year One. Napoleon returned France to the Gregorian calendar in 1805 and except for 18 days during the Paris Commune of 1871, another leftist insurrection, the French have kept it since.

When the Khmer Rouge conquered Cambodia in 1975, the communists declared it Year Zero.

I’m sure you know where I’m heading in this discussion. The far-leftists who are pulling down and defacing statues–they even placed a burning US flag on a George Washington statue after toppling it–don’t want to reinterpret history, they want to destroy it.

Now that Grant can’t be protected–oh, where were the San Francisco police when his statue was removed from its pedestal?–is anyone safe? Franklin D. Roosevelt is a hero to the left. But Roosevelt ordered the internment of over 100,000 people of Japanese descent, many of them US citizens, during World War II.

What about Woodrow Wilson? To be fair, most white men 100 years ago were racist under contemporary definitions, but that makes Wilson an extreme racist. Wilson, another lion of the left, chose the ultra-racist Birth Of a Nation to be the first motion picture to be screened at the White House.

A quote from Wilson appears on a caption in that movie, “‘The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation … until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.’ — Woodrow Wilson.”

Wilson also re-segregated the federal workforce. As for Birth Of A Nation, that movie brought on the second incarnation of the KKK.

Wilson is already under attack. Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, New Jersey will be renamed. Monmouth College in New Jersey–the Garden State was Wilson’s adopted home state–will remove his name from a building on its campus.

Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower had racist views. What about them?

What about everyone?

What about you?

The far-left wants their Year Zero.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The war on statues may never end

Lincoln and Douglas at Freeport, Illinois

By John Ruberry

While we’re not–yet–at the French Revolution level of destroying then recreating society, the Angry Left is focused on defacing and toppling statues of men deemed racist. Or by having sympathetic politicians remove them, such as what happened last week with Jefferson Davis’ statue at the Kentucky state capitol. So far women in bronze and marble, to my knowledge, have been spared, but one of Illinois’ representatives at National Statuary Hall at the US Capitol just might be inflicted with induced restless legs syndrome. I’ll get to her later.

Monuments of Confederate generals and of course Jefferson Davis have been the hit the hardest by the vandals. But the rage is now world wide. Winston Churchill’s statue at Parliament Square in London had “was a racist” spray painted on its pedestal. There’s an Abraham Lincoln statue there too, Black Lives Matter activists defaced that one. Up in Scotland, a statue of medieval monarch Robert the Bruce, whose views on black people are unknown, had “BLM” and “was a racist king” spray painted on it.

Because I’m from Illinois, I’d like to zoom in on my state. Let’s return to Lincoln. While Honest Abe was always anti-slavery, his views on black people prior to the Civil War would be classified as racist today. Lincoln’s stance on slavery in the 1860 election was to confine it to states where it already existed. By 1863 he was an abolitionist, at least in areas held by Confederate forces. Two years later the Great Emancipator enthusiastically backed the 13th Amendment that finally ended slavery in America. Oh, Lincoln saved the union too. That’s why he is considered the United States’ greatest president by most historians.

Lincoln gained national prominence in 1858 during his campaign for the US Senate against Stephen A. Douglas. Other than his connection to Lincoln, Douglas, “the Little Giant,” is largely forgotten now. His Kansas-Nebraska Act, which eliminated the Missouri Compromise in determining which states would be slave or free, ignited Bleeding Kansas, a brutal warmup to the Civil War. But Douglas was a political dynamo in the 1850s and he was the nominee for president for the northern Democrats in 1860.

Douglas and Lincoln agreed to a series of seven debates throughout Illinois during the 1858 campaign, the famous, or make that formerly famous, Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Late in the 20th century bronze statues of both men were placed at each of those sites.

Hmmm.

Douglas’ views on slavery were purposely murky, he believed in “popular sovereignty,” that is the voters, who comprised only of white males in the 19th century, should decide where slavery should exist. The Little Giant owned a plantation in Mississippi with slaves. Well, not exactly, but it was in his wife’s name.

How long will it be before those Douglas statues in Illinois will be vandalized? When will the call for their removal begin? And those seven plazas with Lincoln and Douglas will look unbalanced with just one man. Will Lincoln, who at one time of course was a racist, albeit most whites were bigots in the 1800s, get yanked too from those spots too?

Nancy Pelosi is calling for the removal of eleven statues honoring Confederates at Statuary Hall. Each state gets two statues, some of these honorees are well-known, Andrew Jackson represents Tennessee, George Washington is one of Virginia’s statues. Both men of course owned slaves. Some of the honorees are virtually unknown. Frances Willard, the longtime president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a group that assisted in establishing Prohibition in America, represents Illinois in the hall. Like Douglas, she was a big deal in her day. But Willard held racist views and she feuded with African American civil rights leader Ida B. Wells.

When you remove the Confederates, the slave holders, and the racists, how many statues will be left in Statuary Hall?

How many statues in front of libraries, village squares, or county courthouses will be removed?

Where does is it all end?

And if all of the statues are gone, then what?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My suggestions for Illinois’ bankruptcy auction

Blogger at the Damen Silos

By John Ruberry

Last week I suggested that Illinois, arguably the most broke state in America, put itself under receivership to fix its dire financial problems, which include nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills and an astounding $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

I chose receivership as bankruptcy is not a legal option for the fifty states. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered bankruptcy as a possibility, so it appears he’s open to changing the law so financially reckless blue states, Illinois, as well as New York and California, can call into one of those 800 lines that advertise on television late at night offering Chapter 11 as a salvation. (Okay, I’m kidding on the 800 line.)

Oh, Mitch, your home state of Kentucky also has a financially anemic public worker pension fund.

So state bankruptcy is no longer a pipe dream, although Illinois and New York’s Democratic governors, J.B. Pritzker and Andrew Cuomo respectively, immediately dismissed McConnell’s sound idea. But right now these blue states are acting like old-money aristocrats who believe bankruptcy is beneath them even though their income stream has dried up and their trust funds are depleted.

When there is a bankruptcy there is often a liquidation sale. Illinois has many valuable assets. Not enough to cover the $7 billion in unpaid bills–let alone the $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations–but the Land of Lincoln has to begin somewhere to dig itself out of the hole created by irresponsible politicians from both parties. So here are my suggested on what needs to go.

The Damen Silos: Illinois has owned the abandoned grain silos at Damen on the Sanitary and Ship Canal on Chicago’s South Side since the 1970s. It’s a popular spot for urban explorers–I’ve been there–and for graffiti-taggers. An explosion scene for Transformers: Age of Extinction was filmed at the silos. But the state has owned it four over four decades. Get rid of it. The location is also near Interstate 55. While demolishing the site will be pricey for the new owner which will drive down the selling price, every dollar counts during Illinois’ financial emergency. As it stands now, the Damen Silos are a towering monument to Illinois incompetence.

Illinois’ governor mansion: The last Illinois governor to live full-time in America’s third-oldest governor’s mansion was Republican Jim Edgar, he of the failed “Edgar ramp” pension rescue. He left office in 1999. Another Republican gov, one-termer Bruce Rauner, led the recent private efforts to restore the residence, which was in poor shape. The renovation cost $15 million. The project was completed last July. Four months later Pritzker trounced Rauner in his reelection effort.

Sell the mansion. It can be central Illinois premier luxury B&B. In fact it can be America’s premier luxury B&B.

When Illinois’ governor needs to be in Springfield there are plenty of hotel rooms to choose from there. Or the state can buy a humble bungalow for the governor.

A whole bunch of state parks: Illinois has 142 state parks. Many are tiny and little-visited. Illini, William G. Stratton (named for a governor who was indicted for tax evasion), Jubilee College, and Gebhard Woods state parks immediately come to mind as expendable. At least of half of Illinois’ state parks need to go on the auction block. Illinois has a very popular state park that I’m thinking of that I’ll talk about later.

The former Tinley Park mental health facility: Governor Pat Quinn shuttered the sprawling 250-acre site in 2012. There are toxic wastes that need to be cleaned up. But in real estate, of course, the most important concern is location, location, location. And the old asylum has a great one, at Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street in southern Cook County a few blocks away from an Interstate 80 exit.

Illinois Department of Transportation snow plows: Snow removal and the spreading of salt on roads where IDOT bears maintenance responsibility should be privatized.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield: The Disney-esque ALPLM was the brain-child of Julie Cellini, the wife of longtime state contractor and power-broker William Cellini. A Republican, William got caught up in the Rod Blagojevich scandals which earned him a short stay in federal prison. Julie envisioned the state-owned library and museum as a way to upgrade Springfield as a tourist destination as opposed to merely being a two-hour detour and bathroom stop for travelers on I-55 who visited the Damen Silos in Chicago earlier in the day. It hasn’t worked. And it appears that the ALPLM was conned when it purchased $25 million worth of Honest Abe artifacts, the centerpiece of that swag was a stovepipe hat that was said to be worn by our 16th president. Except that there is no evidence that Lincoln ever wore that hat. At onetime the ALPLM owned a dress once worn by Marilyn Monroe. Who knows what other unrelated treasures that are gathering dust in closets there? Well here is one: There are five copies in Lincoln’s handwriting of his Gettysburg Address. All of them are considered priceless but a since-fired ALPLM director lent the one the library owns to a tiny museum owned by Glenn Beck for a paltry $50,000.

Illinois is incapable of running the ALPLM.

Lincoln’s New Salem: A twenty-minute drive north of Springfield near Petersburg is Lincoln’s New Salem. This was Lincoln’s first home away from his parents. The town lasted only ten years but it is central to Lincoln lore. This spot, consisting mostly of rebuilt log cabins, has many visitors, primarily kids on school field trips, but its value to buyers grows if it is packaged with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Young Americans for Freedom owns the former Ronald Reagan Ranch in California. Perhaps they might be interested in the above sites tied to our first Republican president too. Hey, Disney might want to grab them for a Lincoln Land attraction. Is that a dumb idea? Well it is not as dopey as buying a Marilyn Monroe dress for a Lincoln museum.

The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago: Colloquially known as by its original name, the State of Illinois Center, it was designed by renowned German-American architect Helmut Jahn. Great artists are capable of colossal flops, after all Prince released several unlistenable albums, and Jahn’s Thompson Center is the turd in his career punch bowl. The heating and cooling systems have never worked well and they are expensive to operate. Its marble floors are slippery when visitors bring in snow from their shoes and it snows a lot in Chicago Ironically its atrium is supposed to be a monument to openness in government. But under the decades-long tenure of Boss Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the speaker of the Illinois House, government in Illinois has not been transparent at all. The building is named for James R. Thompson, the Republican governor who signed the three-percent annual compounded pension raise into law. Governors back to Blago have suggested selling the white elephant, which sits on prime real estate in downtown Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park: Illinois’ crown jewel in its state park system is Starved Rock in LaSalle County. Desperate times call for drastic action and that is why the Prairie State needs to sell its most-visited state park, which includes an NPS-style lodge with cabins. Private industry can do a much better job running the park, which has crumbling roads, and perhaps new owners build a couple of more lodges. What did I say about location earlier? As with the former Tinley Park mental home, Starved Rock is a short drive from I-80.

What are your suggestions for things and places for divestment by Illinois?

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.