Chicago aldermen making a wrong turn on proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive is between the skyscrapers and the lake

By John Ruberry

“And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive.”
Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah, “Lake Shore Drive.”

As I’ve stated many times before Chicago is a city in decline. Decades of rampant corruption and fiscal malfeasance, particularly with woefully unfunded public worker pension plans in regards to the latter, have placed Chicago in a bankrupty-in-name only status. The bleak future is now. Chicago can’t keep kicking the can down the road, whether that road is Michigan Avenue or Lake Shore Drive. 

Chicago’s woke mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is halfway into her first term, has made Chicago’s situation worse with her overreaching lockdown response to COVID-19 and her feeble response to two rounds of summer rioting in 2020. The city’s murder rate is high. The quality of education provided by Chicago Public Schools is low and has gotten worse because the Chicago Teachers Union keeps pushing more convenient, for the teachers of course, remote learning lessons.

Politicians, particularly liberals, are adept at adopting symbols, as author Tom Clancy pointed out to Bill O’Reilly in an interview shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “The general difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals like pretty pictures and conservatives like to build bridges that people can drive across,” Clancy said to O’Reilly. “And conservatives are indeed conservative because if the bridge falls down then people die, whereas the liberals figure, we can always build a nice memorial and make people forget it ever happened and was our fault. They’re very good at making people forget it was their fault.”

Okay, no bridges have collapsed in decline-and-fall Chicago. But some City Council members are lining up behind a proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive for Chicago’s first non-indigenous resident, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. He opened a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan around 1790.

About the Chicago City Council: Since 1973 over thirty-five of its members have been sentenced to federal prison.

Little is known about DuSable although it’s believed he was born in Haiti around 1750. In 1800 he sold his home and the land around it; the property ended up in the hands of John Kinzie, the first recorded European-American to live in what is now America’s third-largest city. One of Chicago’s first streets was named for him, but DuSable was forgotten, wrongly in my opinion, for many years. But his legacy caught up and surpassed Kinzie’s. There is the DuSable Museum of African American History on the city’s South Side, DuSable High School, a DuSable Park near the site of his former home, and a bust of DuSable on Michigan Avenue, even though because there are no known contemporary renderings of DuSable–no one knows what he looked like. Oh yeah, we were talking about bridges. The Michigan Avenue Bridge downtown was renamed for DuSable in 2010.

There are some urban streets that are iconic. Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, Fifth Avenue in New York, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. 

Lake Shore Drive–it has had that name since 1946–is a fantastic driving road. Fifth Avenue, for instance, is a better walking street. Chicago’s early leaders, post-Kinzie, made the wise decision to keep the Lake Michigan waterfront open, and most of it is park land–with Lake Shore Drive. When I have out-of-town guests I always make a point of taking them on a trip up and down Lake Shore Drive. The response I usually receive is from them, “I had no idea Chicago was so beautiful!”

Of course if the road is renamed for DuSable, the views will be just as pretty and Lake Michigan will be equally blue. But Lake Shore Drive is in essence a brand name. An iconic one. Why mess with that?

The Chicago Tribune editorial board has suggested a sound alternative–renaming Millennium Park, which abuts Lake Shore Drive, for DuSable and merging it with DuSable Park. Mayor Lightfoot has a good idea too, renaming the Chicago Riverwalk, which arguably has no name, for DuSable. But Lightfoot has gained, many say earned, a lot of enemies in her short time as mayor. They oppose the Lightfoot’s proposal because of their dislike for her. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the only reason in my opinion to subscribe to that paper, offers a superb knockdown of the Lake Shore Drive renaming proposal, which brings up many of the same points I have mentioned. Also, Kass, as I have done, has excoriated Lightfoot’s woke Chicago Monuments Project, which has placed, among other items, five Abraham Lincoln statues “under review.” Yep, right here in the Land of Lincoln.

Destroying symbols is important to liberals too.

Those against the renaming Lake Shore Drive find themselves in a trap. In this cancel culture environment opponents of DuSable Drive will be called racist by the virtue signalers–even though they are not. Sears Tower, when it opened four decades ago, was the tallest building in the world. The naming rights of it were purchased by a British firm and it’s official name is now the Willis Tower

No one I know–and I have a large circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances–calls this iconic structure anything but the Sears Tower. No one. A DuSable Drive faces the same fate. Except nobody has ever called a Willis Tower-denier a racist. 

I’m with the Tribune and Lightfoot on this controversy. Rename Millennium Park, which has only been open since 2004–because of delays and cost overruns it opened well after the millennium began–for DuSable. And rename the Riverwalk too for DuSable. It’s another relatively new city attraction, it opened in stages beginning in 2001.

And I have my own idea. The former Meigs Field, a small lakefront airport abruptly closed by the midwife of Chicago’s pension crisis, Richard M. Daley, is now known as Northerly Island Park. I suspect that Daley wanted that space named for him. If Millenium Park keeps its moniker–then rename Northerly Island Park for DuSable. Call it DuSable South–a twin of the other park.

Don’t mess with success Chicago. But the city, like the state of Illinois, has a habit of making bad decisions. Call it tradition.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Obama and Pritzker exposed as frauds on gerrymandering in Illinois

By John Ruberry

Last year former president Barack Obama called partisan gerrymandering “a sneaky way for politicians to consolidate as much power as they can. In the end, gerrymandering means that citizens’ voices are being diminished.” 

A year earlier the governor of Obama’s home state of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, had this to say after the US Supreme Court decided not to get involved in partistan remaps. “As I’ve said since I was a candidate, I will veto any map that is unfair,” Pritzker said. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re going to have to make sure that here in Illinois we’re not gerrymandering, that we’re drawing maps that are fair and competitive. That’s what’s best for the voters of the state, that they have choices when they go to the ballot.” 

Obama and Pritzker are of course both Democrats. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, state Senate minority leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), pointed out that Obama, while at Illinois’ state capital late in his presidential term, denounced gerrymandering and called for reform. “And this needs to be done across the nation,” the 44th president said, “not just in a select few states. It should be done everywhere.”

Apparently not in Illinois becauses Obama has been silent about stacking the decks in favor of Democrats. The 2010 remap of Illinois congressional and state legislative districts was a travesty of democracy, as was the one after the 2000 Census, both of which were the work of longtime Illinois House speaker and Democratic party chairman Boss Michael Madigan, who was forced into retirement this year as scandals engulfed his inner circle. The state legislature, as mandated by the Illinois constitution, draws new General Assembly and US congressional district maps.

Late last month Pritzker appeared to be backtracking from his stance against gerrymandering.

The most blatant gerrymandering from the most recent remap is Illinois’ 4th congressional district, nicknamed “the earmuffs,” which is pictured above. 

But a quick look at maps won’t tell the whole story. Illinois three largest cities outside of Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, and Springfield, the aforementioned state capital, are each split between two congressional districts. This is not a case of these cities being too large for one district, the average size of a US congressional district is over 700,000, the largest of these municipalities is Rockford, with just under 150,000 residents. 

The current Illinois congressional delegation consists of thirteen Democrats and five Republicans. Mission accomplished, Democrats. That number will change because Illinois, again, will lose a congressional seat. As I’ve remarked before, Illinoisans are voting with their feet by moving out. They are fed up with rampant corruption, high taxes, and an unfunded public worker pension debt crisis that can be solved only by default or hyperinflation. Between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts Illinois lost population–the first time that has ever happened to the Prairie State.

The electoral results are predictable when politicians choose their constituents. Last year 52 of the 118 races for seats in the Illinois House had only one candidate. In the state Senate it was worse–10 of the 20 races had only one person running. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. 

Twice in the prior decade Republicans led efforts to allow voters to decide to amend the state constitution by having a non-partisan committee draw maps instead of the legislature. Both times what was called the Fair Map Amendment was ruled unconstitutional in a party-line state Supreme Court decision. The lead attorney in the lawsuit to block the amendment had ties to Boss Madigan.

Back to the US Congress. Illinois’ Democratic delegation is lockstep behind House Bill 1, which if made into law, in the process of nationalizing local elections, will mandate independent committees, not state legislators, to take charge of the decennial remaps in all 50 states. But why aren’t Illinois 13 Democratic members of Congress decrying the current remap process here? Because they are phonies, that’s why. Just like Pritzker and Obama. 

The current remapping in Illinois is being performed behind closed doors by Democratic members of the General Assembly using preliminary Census data. Hey Pritzker! Are you aware of this news?

Yeah, I know, in 1990 Republicans drew gerrymandered districts. It was wrong then too.

On Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up this weekend, state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) told the host, “We should draw fair, straightforward maps that use official [Census] data and give the people of Illinois a real choice in their elections so people are picking their elected officials and not the other way around.”

Tellingly, because Flannery strives to be fair, he had two Republicans on the gerrymandering segment of his program, but no Dems. I’m very confident that Flannery invited a Democrat to appear but they are either too ashamed to defend their non-transparent remapping–or they know it’s indefensible.

One more time for emphasis.

Six days before his election as governor a St. Louis NPR reporter, Jason Rosenbaum, asked Pritzker, “If you’re governor and they send you a map that is obvioulsy gerrymandered against Republicans would you veto it and why?”

Candidate Pritzker’s response? “I will not sign a bill that is gerrymandered,” adding, “I have been for independent maps for a long time.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Information on the Adam Toledo killing that the mainstream media is overlooking

By John Ruberry

If you receive your news only from mainstream media outlets then you probably don’t know that Adam Toledo, a thirteen-year-old Chicago seventh-grader, was likely a member of the Latin Kings gang, a criminial organization whose reach is worldwide.

Toledo was killed in a police shooting at 2:30am on March 29, It was a Monday, which is what my parents called “a school night.” That night the young teen was with a 21-year-old, Ruben Roman, who was on probation for gun crimes

Chicago’s former police superintendant, Garry McCarthy, places the blame on Toledo’s death on street gangs, not the cop shot who shot him. “They have the ‘shorties’ who they give the gun to,” McCarthy told WBBM-AM. Toledo apparently was one of those “shorties.” Youngsters such as Toledo, if caught, usually end up in the more lenient juvenile court system, although with Kim Foxx as Cook County’s prosector, the adult courts are quite lenient too.

Police officers were responding to a reports of gunfire in the Southwest Side Little Village neighborhood when they found Roman, who was quickly taken into custody, and Toledo, who ran. In a just-released police bodycam video, which is difficult to watch and contains profanity, it appears that about a second before he was fatally wounded, Toledo dropped his gun. 

There have been scattered local media reports about Toledo’s reputed membership in the Latin Kings. A British newspaper, News Corp’s The Sun, has been quite direct. Of the national media that has spoken up, left-leaning “fact-checking” site Snopes classifies such speculation as “Research in progress.”  But for the most part the big-time national media hasn’t reported about Toledo and his apparent Latin Kings ties.

To be fair the Chicago Sun-Times reported a few days after the shooting, “Chicago police leaders warned their cops that factions of the Latin Kings planned to retaliate following the fatal police shooting of a 13-year-old. Gang members were instructed to ‘shoot at unmarked Chicago police vehicles,’ CPD warned.”

The national mainstream media clearly has another of their narratives to protect, in regards to this one, it’s that racist police officers are indiscrimanetly shooting members of the minority community, particularly young ones. Meanwhile, the Hey Jackass! site says as of today, 165 people have been shot to death in Chicago so far this year–and 759 others have been wounded. Of those killed in 2021, again according to Hey Jackass, over 90 percent of the victims were minorites. And finally, yet again according to the same source, there have been only eight police shootings in Chicago so far this year–three of them fatal. 

Some people are unfairly blaming Toledo’s parents for his death. Good people sometimes raise kids who end up bad. Toledo was reporting missing by his mother on March 26, three days before his death, but he returned home the next day.

At 13 there was plenty of time for Toledo to turn his life around. 

The Chicago Teachers Union, which for months has stubbornyl blocked school re-openings despite the fact that children are the least harmed age group by COVID-19, said in a statement, “Adam Toledo was loved. He was one of ours.” While students have been truant since the first schools took in kids, remote learning leads to even more of it. Chicago’s elementary schools only opened, part time, for in-class learning a few weeks before Toledo’s killing. The high schools re-open in a similar fashion only tomorrow.  In February, the Centers for Disease Control, declared with safeguards, it was safe to re-open schools, even without vaccination.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

School lockdowns lead to urban carjacking spike

By John Ruberry

The COVID-19 school lockdown continues in America’s biggest cities, despite clear evidence that children are unlikely to become seriously ill from that virus.

One unintended consquence of the closing of public schools to all but remote learning is more crime–and especially more carjackings. 

It is no longer just conservative media calling attention to the link to the school lockdowns and carjackings in big cities. Although CBS was artful in its report in a story last week. “Investigators say the trend is driven by 12 to 15 year olds with time on their hands during the pandemic,” CBS News said. These kids have more time on their hands because their schooling consists of Zoom instruction something CBS omitted in its story.

Last month a 66-year-old UberEats driver, Mohammad Anwar, a Pakistani immigrant, died while clinging to his vehicle in Washington DC after being tased in a carjacking by two girls, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old. A bystander took video of the crime–which has gone viral. 

“You know, idle minds are the devil’s playground. And a lot of these kids, they’ve been idle for a year and a half now without going to school. And that’s been a big problem,” Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo told Fox News last week.

In that CBS story referenced earlier it was also reported, “The number of carjackings has exploded during the pandemic. Carjackings have increased by more than 100% in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. They are up more than 343% in Washington, D.C.”

Let’s look at Chicago. The pusillanimous nature of the local media creates an opening for straightforward sources. One of those news sites is Hey Jackass! and it reports the raw numbers of carjackings. Well sort of. Stick with me on this one. In 2019 there were 603 reported carjackings and 1,396 last year. So far in 2021 there have been 404. But here’s the kicker. “Carjacking data comes directly from the CPD’s own data set,” Hey Jackass! warns, “so add 20% to obtain the true number.” 

There’s a lot of speculation about why carjackers commit their crimes. Thrill is probably one of them, but also often vehicles are carjacked to aid other crimes. Perhaps it’s a mix of the two. Just last night, another great local crime site, CWB Chicago, told us of a 55-year-old woman who was pushed to the ground inside a Target parking lot as her Audi was carjacked. The criminals drove away with her car and the one they arrived in, a Kia, which was likely carjacked near the University of Chicago a couple of hours prior. Percentage-wise since 2017 the arrest rate for Chicago carjackings has been in the single digits, according to Hey Jackass!

On April 19 Chicago’s public high schools are scheduled to re-open, although how that occurs varies from school to school. Of course the recalcitrant Chicago Teachers Union, citing new COVID-19 numbers, is opposed.

Mental health among students has suffered during the lockdown

Once the school lockdowns end–and I believe they will one day–don’t expect the carjackers to give up their horrible hobby. 

Businesses in Chicago, already suffering from 13 months of lockdowns, rioting, and looting, are receiving another hit. Suburbanites, for good reason, are afraid to travel to the city. And the carjackings occur in all neighborhoods, rich, poor, and in between.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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.

Well-deserved pushback against Chicago Monuments Project underway

Abraham Lincoln: The Head of State, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It is one of Chicago monuments “under review.”

By John Ruberry 

Last week in my DTG post I wrote about the Chicago Monuments Project, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s response to last summer’s riot surrounding the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park south of downtown.

The committee for the project earlier this month identified 41 monuments, mostly statues but also plaques, reliefs, and one painting. Five of the monuments are statues of Abraham Lincoln. Yes, that guy, the one who led the Union during the Civil War, which led to ending slavery in America. Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, that slogan has been emblazoned on every Illinois license plate for decades. His face is on all standard Illinois license plates. On every Illinois driver’s license and state ID card is Lincoln’s countenance–and automobile titles too.

Other monuments “under review” by the project include statues of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Leif Erikson, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, several pieces honoring Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, and works featuring anonymous Native Americans. 

But don’t worry! Really! In a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed published last week–on Washington’s birthday–three of the project’s members assured us:

Various accounts, especially on social media, have inaccurately described this project as an effort to tear it all down. This could not be further from the truth. It is a discussion.

I don’t believe them. The “discussion,” in my opinion, is a first step to, yes, “tear it all down.” Liberals work by way of incrementalism. Many left-wing politicians, probably most, want to ban private ownership of guns. They can’t express that sentiment because of the predictable outrage–and it could mean that they’ll be voted out of office. So they start with the easier targets, such as bans on semi-automatic rifles. If they succeed they’ll move on to other firearms, ending with the banning the type of handgun Mrs. Marathon Pundit purchased this year.

So the Chicago Monuments Project is beginning with “a discussion.” Without pushback that discussion very well may devolve into moving statues in the wee hours, which is what happened to two Christopher Columbus statues, including the one at the center of the riot, into storage. Both of those statues of the Italian Navigator are on the project’s “under review” status. 

It’s not just social media users and conservative news sources that have objected to the Chicago Monuments Project. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, Lincoln biographers Sidney Blumenthal and Harold Holzer wrote, “The Orwellian idea of removing Lincoln from Chicago would be as vain as an attempt to erase the history of Chicago itself.”

The editoral board of the Chicago Tribune–paid subscription required–favors keeping the Lincoln stautes.

Lori Lightfoot even weighed in, “But let’s be clear, we’re in the Land of Lincoln, and that’s not going to change.”

But I’d like to explain to you that the other monuments are also worth keeping. Benjamin Franklin owned two slaves but he freed them and he later became an abolititionist. Ulysses S. Grant, when he was under tremendous financial hardship, freed the only slave he owned. Grant of course was the commander of all Union armies in the Civil War. George Washington’s slaves were freed after the death of Martha Washington. Yes, Washington is the Father of our Nation.

Other than being white, I can’t astertain why Marquette and Jolliet, or Leif Erikson, are “under review” in Chicago.

The source of the rage against Lincoln likely comes from his approving the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors in 1862. But Abe commuted 264 Dakota War executions. There were atrocities in that conflict committed by both sides. Here’s what a Norwegian immigrant described in a letter at that time, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society:

The Indians have begun attacking the farmers. They have already killed a great many people, and many are mutilated in the cruelest manner. Tomahawks and knives have already claimed many victims. Children, less able to defend themselves, are usually burned alive or hanged in the trees, and destruction moves from house to house.

If the Chicago Monuments Project is about education, then it probably means that Lightfoot sorely needs one. “In time, our team will determine there are no monuments to African Americans in this city,” Lightfoot said last summer while announcing what has become the Chicago Monuments Project. “There are no monuments to women. There are no monuments that reflect the contributions of people in the city of Chicago who contributed to the greatness of this city.”

But in her namesake park on the South Side stands a Gwendolyn Brooks statue. Brooks was the first African-American to serve as Illinois’ Poet Laureate. A couple miles north of that statue is the beautiful Victory Monument, which honors a World War I African American regiment, and a bit north of that one is the Monument to the Great Northern Migration. I believe each of these are on city of Chicago or Chicago Park District property.

Does Chicago need more monuments featuring women and minorities? Absolutely. It can also benefit with a Ronald Reagan statue. The Gipper is the only president who was born in Illinois and the first to live in Chicago, although the apartment where he lived as a child was razed by the University of Chicago in 2013.

Click here to view the monuments in question. To express your comments about the Chicago Monuments Project please click here. Please be courteous. And if you Tweet this blog post–please do!–use the #ChicagoMonuments hashtag.

Make your voice heard. They’ve begun to listen.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.


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.

Republicans might need 53 percent of the vote to win elections

By John Ruberry

A post by Da Tech Guy himself last week got me thinking about Chicago’s legendary newspaper columnist Mike Rokyo. Yes, he was another of the greats in journalism who didn’t have a college degree. For most of his life Royko was a steadfast liberal, but his blue collar roots made him suspicious, for good reason I’d like to add, of left-wingers. Yet Royko was a harsh critic of the Boss of Chicago, the first Mayor Richard Daley, as well as the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as the Chicago Machine. Still, Rokyo understood why rank-and-file Chicagoans kept the Machine in power.

I’ll return to Royko in a bit.

The January 6 protest in Washington will forever be remembered as the Capitol Riot because of the 1,000 or so hooligans and loons who stormed the Capitol building. But the great majority of the protesters didn’t riot and they had valid reasons to question the vote count, and yes, to also be angry about those results.

News reports of the fraud allegations regarding the November election are typically partisan. The mainstream media calls claims of vote fraud “baseless,” conservative media, Newsmax for instance, is more forceful

President Joe Biden, before he went on his unprecedented flurry of executive orders pushing far-left causes such as cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline and banning new oil and gas leases on federal lands, was calling for healing. 

A good start for healing would be a bipartisan congressional committee investigating 2020 vote fraud allegations, such as dead people voting, abuse of mail-in voting, and the like. Here’s are few more: Were ballots in Georgia tallied after party observers left? Why were votes counted at Detroit’s TCF Center after people were told to depart and the windows of the building covered? Were election integrity standards sacrificed every place else to protect voters from COVID-19?

There may be plausible reasons for what occured in Georgia and Detroit and other places, such as Arizona, where some are crying foul. 

Maybe the 2020 vote count was quite accurate.

Or perhaps not. 

What’s the harm in finding out? After all the Democrats and a special prosecutor spent three years investigating Donald Trump’s “collusion” with Russia. They might have been better off tracking down post-death Elvis Presley sightings. It’d be worth a laugh at least to see crazy California Democratic congressman Adam Schiff analyzing the lyrics of Mojo Nixon’s novelty tune “Elvis Is Everywhere.” He’d wonder, “Did Elvis really build Stonehenge?”

Because there are only a few weeks for investigators to look into vote fraud charges before a winner is sworn in after an election, having an honest and secure ballot count is crucial. Scandals take a long time to be exposed. It took ten months for Watergate to break wide open and Richard M. Nixon, no relation to Mojo Nixon by the way, didn’t resign the presidency until two years after the Watergate break-in.

We’re not off to a good start with the 117th Congress. HR 1, which means that it is the first bill proposed the the new Congress, will broaden the use of mail-in voting and the vile practice of ballot harvesting if made law.

The latest snowstorm here in the Chicago area is winding down as I write this post which gets me thinking of Royko and the devastating winter of 1979. After Daley’s death in 1976 the Chicago City Council chose Michael Bilandic, the alderman in Daley’s ward, as his successor. It’s generally believed Bilandic was selected to be a placeholder for Richard M. Daley, the Boss’s son, who would then run in 1983. It’s a long story worth telling but not now, but Richie Daley would finally become mayor in 1989, serving until 2011, while destroying Chicago’s finances.

Bilandic, on Chicago standards, was a decent and hardworking man, whose character flaw was that he assumed everyone else was too. Snow removal after a major January snowstorm that came after a couple of smaller ones was not handled well by Bilandic, who was lied to and misled by other city officials when they told him everything was fine. Meanwhile Jane Byrne, a minor player at City Hall who was fired by Bilandic, challenged the incumbent in what was seen as a longshot bid in that year’s Democratic primary. Her initial core support was the Democrats’ progressive wing, then known as the Lakefront Liberals. Rage over the botched response in digging the city out of the snow gave Byrne her opportunity to pull off an upset and she ran with it.

I remember a Chicago Sun-Times Royko column from that year where he wrote somthing along the lines that Byrne wouldn’t beat Bilandic if she captured 50 percent of the vote plus one. Or if she collected 51 or 52 percent. Her magic percentage, Royko reasoned, was 53 percent. 

Really?

That’s because of vote thefts by the Machine, Royko surmised, amounted to three percent of the total each election. Four decades ago crooked Democratic tactics were different. Non-existent people were registered in vacant lots, roving bands of homeless people, which in mock Latin Rokyo labeled hobo floto voto, voted multiple times, and the seeds of ballot harvesting could be found, particularly in nursing homes, even then. Oh, dead people voted. An effective yet dishonest Chicago precinct captain kept a close eye on who passed away in the neighborhood. And when Election Day came–there wasn’t an “Election Season” like now–thousands of Lazurus voters exercised their franchise.

In short, Chicagoans, even those who supported the Machine, didn’t see election results as fair. Ironically back then it was the liberals who were calling for election integrity in Chcago.

Imagine a football game where the NFL commissioner is a Chicago Bears fan. And at kickoff Da Bears have a 7-0 lead. And the referees are Bears backers too.

Byrne won that primary and prevailed in the general election over a hapless Republican, but the Machine, with some new faces in power, had the last laugh over the Lakefront Liberals as she set herself up as a new Boss. Royko eventually called her “Mayor Bossy.” 

Back to the present. 

Has America reached the point where the Democrats, because of mail-in voting, ballot dropboxes, and ballot harveting, possess that three-percent advantage in elections? Let’s throw in non-citizens and illegal aliens voting. Will Republicans need 53 percent of the vote to win? 55 percent?

If HR 1 becomes law will we ever have another Republican president? Will the system perpetuate the permanent Democratic majority that the leftists dream of?

And if tens of millions of Americans don’t trust the results of elections our republic is in peril. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The end of Boss Madigan, the man who destroyed Illinois

Madigan graphic courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute

By John Ruberry

Had this event not occurred on the same day President Donald J. Trump was impeached a second time, the failure of Michael Madigan to win a 19th term as speaker of the Illinois House would have made national news. The luck of the Irish was somehow with him on his worst day in his 52 years in politics.

There is much to criticize with Madigan. While the one sentence summary of the Chicago Democrat’s career might be “Longest statehouse speaker tenure in American history,” it instead needs to be, “The man who destroyed Illinois.”

Here’s a graph created by the Illinois Policy Institute–which has been on the forefront of exposing Madigan to the masses for a decade–that shows the decline of Illinois’ credit rating. And the rating began its descent early in Madigan’s tenure as speaker. To be fair, it was Gov. Jim Thompson, a Republican, who in 1989 signed into law the annual compounded three-percent cost-of-living public pension raise for retired state employees, but that bill emerged from Madigan’s House. Nearly all state workers are members of public-sector unions, those unions have been an important cog for the Madigan Machine. Other GOP governors share some of the blame for the Illinois pension bomb. But for all but two years since 1983, Madigan was speaker and he had his hands on every budget since then. 

Illlinois’ credit rating now hovers slightly over junk status.

The Prairie State has lost population for seven straight years. People have wised up. After the 2020 reapportionment Illinois will once again lose a congressional district. Perhaps two.

Madigan’s political mentor was the first Mayor Daley, Richard J, the legendary boss of Chicago. Madigan was America’s last machine boss. As mayor Daley was also chairman of Cook County Democratic Party, since 1998 Madigan has been chairman of state party, a post that he, at least for now, retains. Like Daley, Madigan would reward his political supporters and their relatives with jobs, usually public-sector jobs. But recent scandals involving private-sector entities, including the Chicago area’s electrical utility, Commonwealth Edison, betrayed the burden of the pension bomb that is eating away at Illinois government. Allegedly ComEd was handing out jobs, as lowly as meter readers, to Madigan loyalists. The ComEd scandal has produced several indictments, including the company’s former CEO and some Madigan loyalists. A separate scandal centered around red-light cameras has bagged other Madigan cronies. These political brushfires, on top of allegations of sexual harrassment against a member of Madigan’s inner circle, finally made the Madigan name toxic. 

The result in 2020 was better-than expected results for the anemic Illinois Republican Party. Best of all, the so-called Fair Tax Amendment, would have replaced Illinois’ flat income tax with a graduated one, was resoundingly defeated. A majority of Illinoisans finally ascertained, as I quipped at the time, that if Illinois was given an unlimited budget, politicians here would still exceed it. 

Another sin against democracy committed by Madigan is gerrymandered legislative districts, unintended artwork that would make Jackson Pollock or Pablo Picasso proud. “The state’s legislative map looks like a Rorschach test on steroids,” Robert Reed wrote in 2019 for Chicago Magazine, “with districts of all squiggly sizes and shapes.” With a few exceptions, such as university towns, Republicans dominate downstate Illinois in gubernatorial and presidential races, but there are still plenty of central and Illinois Democratic members of the General Assembly. That is the power of Madigan’s gerrymandering. It also discourages challengers to the status quo; according to the Center Square, last year 44 percent of Illinois legislative races were uncontested. Why run? Because in most districts in Illinois the politicians choose their voters, not the other way around.

Illinoisans would have been better served if there was not a Madigan monoculture in power for years in Springfield.

Groups such as the Better Government Association of Illinois and the League of Women Voters have long called for a Fair Map Amendement, taking away the power of decennial legislative remapping away from the General Assembly and putting a non-partisan panel in charge of the task instead. Twice in the prior decade hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected to put such an amendment on the ballot for voters to decide the issue, twice a lawyer with ties to Madigan successfully sued to keep it off. Last year, for the first time ever, a state Supreme Court justice, Democrat Thomas Kilbride, who represented a downstate district, failed to win retention. His vote against the Fair Map Amendment was one of the issues that galvanized opposition from voters.

Illinois’ Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, finally the state’s most powerful politician now that Madigan is no longer speaker, has vowed only to sign only a fair map into law. 

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Madigan’s successor is Chris Welch, a suburban Chicagoan who was once a member of the Madigan Machine. He’ll be the Land of Lincoln’s first black speaker. But there is already a cloud over him. In 2002 he allegedly slammed the head of his girfriend repeatedly on to a kitchen countertop. Eight years later another woman claimed that she lost her job at a high school because Welch, then a school board president, broke up with her. 

Still there is reason to have at least a glimmer for hope in Illinois. But barring a change in federal law that would allow states to declare bankruptcy, Illinois will remain in its financial sewer for many years. A different amendment to the Illinois constitution, one that will allow pension reform and remove the pension guarantee clause, is desperetely needed. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs in Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

My idea for subscribers to save some newspapers and magazines and protect conservative voices

By John Ruberry

More than once President Donald Trump–and as most recently as this morning in a telephone interview with Maria Bartiromo–President Donald J. Trump has called with media “the enemy of the people.”

And for the most part he is correct. On the national side most writers are propagandists for the left. Things are slightly better on the local level, which the president noted in that discussion with Bartiromo. After all only local TV stations were pressing Joe Biden during the presidential campaign about whether he’d pack the court with liberal justices. This is a very serious issue as it would upend and transform one of the three branches of the federal government. Eventually Biden, like a typical liberal, punted the decision by announcing he’d form a committee to explore issues of injustices in the legal system. And the elite media once again practiced the sin of omission in their reporting.

Last year Warren Buffett–although excluding the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal–said of newspapers, “They’re going to disappear.” And this year Buffett disappeared from the newspaper business

Old line magazines such as New Yorkthe Atlantic, and the New Yorker are dominated by left-wing journalists. You know, the smug-elitists who got their jobs by way of nepotism and their attendance at an elite university, which probably admitted them because of one of their parents also attended that college. Actually these publications might not have any conservative writers. The last one, the New Yorker, offers a newstand price of $8.99. In my opinion it’s not worth 99 cents. All are behind an internet paywall. All of these publications are intellectually irredeemable and likely doomed to insolvency. 

Let’s get back to newspapers. I cancelled my print subscription to the Chicago Tribune years ago and although I toyed with the idea of subscribing online,being the enterprising sort I learned that the only thing, outside of an occasional sports story, that I cared to read in the Tribune was John Kass’ column, which I discovered I could find on other newspapers sites or Real Clear Politics for free. 

Buffett is right. Newspapers are dead men walking. And magazines. Mostly. Oh, Chicago’s other major daily newspaper, which was purchased by a consortium a few years ago that included the Chicago Federal of Labor for $1, isn’t going to make it. You can bet on it. 

The Tribune, once a strong conservative voice in heavily Democratic Chicago, has been drifting lefward for years. Now it’s “woke.” Except for columnist John Kass. And the Trib is a shell of its former self. Like Warren Buffett–and here the similarities between us end–I’m a former newspaper delivery boy. I hated Thanksgiving Day editions because the papers were jammed with Christmas shopping ads–making the delivery of those bulky papers take three times as long. I have this year’s Thanksgiving Day Tribune lying right next to me. It’s thinner than the Saturday editions–a low readership and therefore a low-advertising day–that I used to deliver. 

Here’s my idea for saving and perhaps transforming daily newspapers and magazines out of the liberal echo chamber that they are now. For instance, the cost of a Tribune subscription, once the promos end, is $3.99 a month. For a dollar more you can have the print edition delivered to your door too. Now, and union rules may have to be changed for this to happen, but I propose for subscribers to have one-quarter of their subscription fee to go directly to the columnist of their choice. If there’s a sports writer or a movie reviewer who you really like, then of course choose that person. And of course I have all newspapers, magazines, and online-only publications in mind. 

My selection at the Tribune would of course be John Kass, a strong conservative voice who suffered a demotion of sorts by seeing his column moved from the coveted page 2 location to the innards of opinion section. The impetus for that move was a rebellion by his leftist co-workers about a column explaining how George Soros funded the campaigns of far-left prosecutors such as Kim Foxx in Cook County, Illinois. Those propagandists called Kass’ column anti-Semitic, even though Kass never mentioned the faith of Soros in that article. Soros is a secular Jew, not a religous one, by the way. Kass was attacked by his colleagues not because he was wrong about Soros–but because he was right.

Kass on a personal level is the antithesis of the media elites of you find elsewhere on the Tribune or at the New York Times and the Atlantic and their ilk. He attended–but did not graduate from–Columbia. That is Columbia College in Chicago, which my daughter once also attended, not the “other” Columbia in New York. The mainstream media of of course is always calling for more diversity within its ranks. But never for more intellectual diversity. Or class diversity. 

So my proposal has two obvious merits. It can save newspapers and it can up the conservative presence at the legacy media. Before it becomes the extinct media. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit and is available for hire by a legacy media publication.