Update on the continuing Illinois Exodus

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

Decline and fall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do I sign up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decline and fall. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Governor Baker’s continued business lockdown is destroying the Massachusetts economy

I knew the economic conditions in Massachusetts have been steadily deteriorating since Governor Charlie Baker single handedly began our state’s Coronavirus lockdown. I had no idea just how bad things have gotten here until the June unemployment numbers were released. Howie Carr very colorfully breaks down the numbers in this Boston Herald editorial Charlie Baker is leading … us right down the drain

It took a while, but thanks to Gov. Charlie Parker, Maskachusetts now has the worst unemployment rate in the United States — 17.4%.

Very impressive, because while recording the state’s highest unemployment numbers since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began tracking statistics in 1976, the commonwealth also has the third-highest virus death toll among the 50 states.

Massachusetts is not alone when it comes to economic carnage caused by Coronavirus lockdowns.  According to the Howie Carr editorial several other states are nearly as bad.

For the record, the runner-up to Maskachusetts in the June BLS stats is New Jersey, with 16.6% unemployment. The benighted Garden State’s governor, Phil Murphy, just happens to be a Needham High School classmate of … Charlie Parker’s. Not to mention Harvard College. Coincidence?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York finished third with a dismal 15.7% unemployment rate. Thanks to Cuomo’s decision to infect nursing homes with COVID-19 patients early on, the Empire State still has by far the highest number of deaths, followed by NJ and MA.

Do you begin to detect a pattern here? The more draconian the state shutdowns, the more impervious the governors are to the actual facts on the ground, the higher both the states’ death tolls and the unemployment numbers.

Before the Coronavirus panic began the economy of Massachusetts was in good shape,

A year ago, the MA unemployment rate was 2.9%. So was Maine’s. Yet even with Janet Mills, a governor almost as unhinged as Baker, Maine’s unemployment rate has only risen to 6.6%.

None of the lockdowns were necessary.  They were brought about because of junk science, deeply flawed models, and an over reliance on scientific experts that are just as flawed as the models.  This is chronicled in the Federalist article How Have Our Scientific Experts Gotten So Much Wrong?

There have been a lot of mistakes made by our betters with fancy letters after their name, but perhaps none so consequential as the wildly inflated mortality rate back in February and March. To put it in perspective, at a 3.4 percent death rate if 50 million Americans contracted Covid, 1.7 million would die. At the mortality rate of .4 percent that number shrinks to 200,000. All loss of life is tragic, but scientists were having us destroy the economy and people’s lives based on a woefully faulty number.

The lockdowns and business shutdowns were sold to in this state as necessary to bend the curve.  As you can see from this chart that I copied from the WCVB channel 5 news station daily Coronavirus tracker web page, the curve was bent way back months ago.  The daily case numbers are way down yet unemployment is way up because so many businesses remain closed thanks to our governor.  Deaths are also way down from the peak, along with hospitalizations.

Covid-19: What the media and the Democrats don’t want you to realize

By Christopher Harper

After the media and the Democrats trashed the response of the Trump administration’s actions toward the pandemic, few analysts have circled back to assess the success of the federal government.

Overall, the administration did quite well in facing the most horrific disease outbreak in a century.

The only way to accurately assess the overall effectiveness is to compare apples to apples, or death rates to 100,000 people. To wit, the United States did better than Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and about the same as the Netherlands and Ireland. Germany and South Korea did better.

The cancellation of flights from China held down the infection rate; the cancellation of flights from Europe could have come earlier.

The patchwork of shutdowns and social distancing across almost every U.S. state has succeeded in stopping the exponential spread of the virus; the subsequent government subsidies have helped the economy.

Remember the ventilator shortage? It never materialized. Now the United States has a considerable surplus after mobilizing production by the likes of General Motors.

Remember the hospital bed shortage? On March 18, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a dire warning. Within 45 days, New York City would need 110,000 hospital beds to treat those suffering from Covid-19, and it only had 53,000 available. In the end, New York hit a peak for hospitalizations on April 12 at 18,825–well below the worst-case scenario.

Across the nation, the healthcare system became strained in some states, such as New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts, but it held up to the increased demand.

The problem is New York and other states was the inadequate oversight of nursing homes and long-health facilities, where about 40 percent of the 120,000 victims died.

Although the federal government sets standards for these facilities that receive Medicare, state and local governments are responsible for overseeing the quality of care. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and others failed miserably, while Florida and a few others did not.

Multiple vaccines for the coronavirus have begun clinical trials on humans. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 100 possible vaccines in various stages of development around the world.

Earlier predictions argued it could be more than a year and a half before a vaccine was proven effective and ready to use. Now one is expected some time in the beginning of next year.

“From a vaccine development, we are doing incredibly well in that we’ve got a large number of entities trying to develop the vaccine,” says Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Meanwhile, the antiviral drug Remdesivir has been found to shorten the average hospital stays of coronavirus patients.

Remember that study that argued hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, was dangerous? It turns out the data were false, and the study was withdrawn from a prominent medical journal.

Some shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPEs, occurred during the initial outbreak. That shortage was caused, in part, by virus-related disruptions in the supply chain from manufacturers in China, Anderson says.

Again, the United States now has a vast surplus. As of June 12, the government and industry had delivered more than 140 million N95 masks, 600 million surgical and procedural masks, 20 million eye and face shields, 265 million gowns and coveralls, and 14 billion gloves.

The Centers for Disease Control bungled test kits after the initial outbreak—part of the reason why Trump bypassed the organization. Again, the country now has a vast stockpile of testing kits and is performing roughly 500,000 examinations a day, with more than 20 million done in total.

But the media and the Democrats have shifted away from the positive steps the Trump administration made during the pandemic to the issue of racism. It’s the whack-a-mole strategy they’ve played from Russiagate to Racegate.

COVID-19 Wealth Transfer

COVID-19 is exacerbating many things, but one that is flying under the radar right now is a pending, unprecedented wealth transfer from old to young. The transfer of wealth from the Boomer generation to Millenials was already being discussed in 2014 due to its shear size (somewhere between 30 and 60 trillion dollars). While some people predicted it wouldn’t be as large because of rising health care and long-term care costs, those will be cut short by the disease.

This is important for a few reasons. First, COVID-19 wiped out any senior care center it touched. These centers all too often make their money by sucking the benefits from their members, to the point they have no wealth left to transfer to heirs. Now that many of the members have died, there will be a transfer of funds surviving family members, likely to spur a bit of the economy. Because COVID-19 hit the older population much more so than younger, it’s not a surprise that the economy can bounce back faster than expected.

Given the poor performance of senior centers, I would expect many people to be hesitant to trust them with aging boomer parents in the future. Once the full truth comes out, especially about how places like Michigan and New York knowingly put COVID-positive seniors back in homes, it will become the scandal of 2020. I’d expect to see a rise in senior centers that boast a better cleaning and isolation regiment, as well as people adding mother-in-law suites to provide for parents in the future.

Lastly, COVID-19 is likely to spur quick changes on Medicare. Medicare as a program has never been setup for long-term success. Taxing the working people to pay for seniors only works if you have a large, growing population and a relatively short lifespan. Given that people live longer and have less children, those economic don’t work when health care costs rise. But COVID-19 exposed medical treatment costs as perhaps more driven by red tape than anything else. Regardless, the lack of taxpayer funds due to unemployment will likely bring in some much needed change to the system.

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.

Government officials are picking and choosing which individuals get to exercise which rights

I’m living in midsized town called Webster Massachusetts.  Because of the Coronavirus lockdowns the Memorial Day parade was canceled in my town along with fireworks on July 4th.  The local high school canceled graduation.  Businesses were forced to close.  There are three Catholic Churches here, along with a Baptist Church, and several other denominations; all of which have not held services for months. While all of this was not going on a Black Lives Matter protest was held. 

I have no problem with the Black Lives Matter protest being held in my town even though I have many issues with the sponsoring organization, mainly their connection with many attacks on police officers, their anti police officer message, and their Marxist message.  I completely support their right to hold protests and to spread their message.  It bothers me greatly that all of us locals are denied so many of our most fundamental rights while an outside group was able to exercise their rights.

This type of injustice is going on all across this great nation.  Yes free speech and freedom to assemble are such fundamental rights that they are listed in the First Amendment.  The right of all of us to attend which ever church service we wish to as often as we wish is also listed in the First Amendment. 

The right of all of us to do as we please, to come and go as we please, to work where we please, and to run what type of business we want to are all covered under liberty. This most fundamental right is being denied to tens of millions across this nation.   Some individuals are allowed to come and go because they are deemed essential workers, and some businesses are allowed to open because they are classified as essential.  Far too often these classifications do not make sense.  They are made for political reasons.  Governments should never pick and choose winners and losers.  Liberty is a fundamental right that can only be denied to individuals who have been found guilty in a court of law

The Black Lives protests are welcomed by local and state officials.  Conservative groups in many states held protests against the unjust lockdowns.   Were these anti lockdown protests welcomed as warmly?  Were any conservative protests denied or harassed?  I haven’t heard of any instances of conservative permits being denied or harassment but I’m guessing they happened.  If you are aware of any please let me know in the comments.

These lockdowns are unjust along with the business closings.  It is wall past time to restore the liberty and rights of everyone in the United States by opening every state back fully.

The creation of media bias

By Christopher Harper

While taking an online course created by the University of Texas and the Knight Foundation, I hoped to learn more about reporting on the Covid-19 crisis.

Instead, I got an informative look at the creation and propagation of media bias throughout the world.

Had the class involved only a few students, the result would have been a small group of individuals subjected to an anti-Trump bias. Instead, nearly 10,000 people from countries throughout the world received examples of how NOT to report.

The instructor, science reporter Maryn McKenna, barely cloaked her bias throughout the four-week class.

In the first week, the class got the bias of writer Sonia Shah.

“[W]hat really surprised me about the way this pandemic is unfolding is the huge political failure in the United States. I think that really was not expected. You know, I think we’ve all been kind of confused about the U.S. response and, you know, the political moment we’re in where we have all of these right-wing populist leaders around the world,” she opined.

That would run counter to recent studies that found the U.S. lockdown may have saved 60 million Americans from contracting the disease.

In the second week, the class read one of the instructor’s articles in The New Republic, an avowedly leftist publication, entitled “The Plague Years: How the rise of right-wing nationalism is jeopardizing the world’s health.” 

“Nationalism, xenophobia, the new right-wing populism in Europe and the United States, are raising our risk,” said Ronald Klain, who was the White House Ebola response coordinator for President Barack Obama, told her. 

The article is a classic example of confirmation bias, where she sought out sources to confirm her beliefs.

In the third week, the instructor blamed President Trump and Fox News for saying hydroxychloroquine might help people to recover from Covid-19. Her criticism was based on a study that has been subsequently found to have had numerous errors. See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/health/coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine.html

McKenna also highlighted an obvious piece of propaganda from a student from China:

“China’s President Xi Jinping…pledged to make any potential vaccine developed by China a ‘global public good’ once it was put into use. This move would be China’s contribution to achieving accessibility and affordability of a vaccine in developing countries as well.”

Moreover, the instructor makes a particular point to forecast that it would take 10 to 15 years to discover a vaccine.

Then the coup de grace in the final week. In rapid succession, the instructor interviewed the head of the CDC under Obama, who criticized the current U.S. policies. But, ahem, she failed to ask him about Obama’s and his failures during the H1N1 pandemic.

Then, you can’t make this stuff up, came fiction writer Annalee Newitz.

“We’re seeing our political institutions become more unstable. We’re seeing environmental problems exacerbated as regulations over environmental waste. We’re seeing more problems around climate change because environmental regulations are being relaxed during these difficult times. … We’re facing starvation in California, even though we have plenty of food, but lots of people are now undernourished and malnourished and aren’t able to eat,” Newitz told the instructor, who didn’t question this nonsense.

Famine?

I repeatedly tried to contact the instructor, who apparently ignored my emails.

One of the organizers, University of Texas professor Rosental Alves, responded to my complaints.  

Alves said: “This is the only complaint I have received from anyone among the nearly 9,000 people registered in this MOOC. It’s also the first time I’ve received a political bias complaint since I started our distance learning program for journalists 17 years ago. I will look into it.” 

I’ve heard nothing more.

I declined my certificate of completion of the class on reporting about Covid-19. Instead, I might ask for a certificate in watching media bias unfold to nearly 10,000 people, who, unlike me, may have limited backgrounds in assessing how the media can suborn the truth and propagate the false. 

The desecration of the Cook County Forest Preserves

By John Ruberry

One respite from the hectic way of life in Chicago and its suburbs are the 70,000 acres that comprise the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. I run on trails there that are near my home. I take nature photos there. Others walk, ride bicycles, or just sit and collect their thoughts. Some picnic in the preserves, whether it’s a family or a group of hundreds.

On there is a seamy side too. Some parking lots at the preserves are popular spots for romantic hookups, once in a while some of those large picnics turn violent, occasionally the bodies of murder victims are dumped there, and the Forest Preserve District has a reputation of hiring otherwise unemployable Democratic Party patronage workers. Charles “Cap” Sauer ran the preserves for years. He once confided to Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko about some of his workers, “They know that if they are going to receive a day’s pay, they must give me at least a half a day’s work.”

Despite little or no evidence that outdoor activities pose COVID-19 risks, the FPDCC is making using the preserves more difficult and less enjoyable for the owners of them, that is taxpayers, even though exercise is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. 

Many forest preserve parking lots, which are often strewn with potholes, are closed on weekends and even daily in some cases because of alleged overcrowding. Oh, if a parking lot is full, drivers do what? They leave. Public washrooms are closed. Where are people supposed to relieve themselves? As a runner, I know how to, let’s say, improvise a short distance from a trail. Let’s say you’d like to sit down during a long walk and you don’t care to plop down on the grass. There’s a rare bench here and there but during normal times people find a picnic table. At most of the preserves near me the tables are now stacked. wrapped in police tape, and barricaded by snow fences. There are “snitch signs” placed all through the preserves asking those full-bladdered visitors to rat-out large groups. Even though for most people their forest preserve experience is a solitary one, as it is with me, or it’s done in twos-or-threes.

Story continues below the photograph.

Barricaded picnic shelter with stacked tables at St. Paul Woods Forest Preserve

Water fountains have not been turned back on after being shut off last year for the winter. Yes, today is the last day of May. Oh, there is no shortage of FPDCC workers–none have been laid off.

Those most revealing sign is one outside St. Paul Woods here in Morton Grove. “Keep it moving. No picnicking. No congregating.” Or as Dean Wormer famously phrased it in Animal House, “No more fun of any kind.”

How did it come to this situation? Yeah, I know, the coronavirus outbreak. Cook County has over 5 million residents. There have been 45,000 confirmed cases of it in Cook with about 2,100 confirmed deaths. And of course most of those fatalities consist of people who were already quite ill.

But we got here because Cook County voters elected a hardened leftist,  Chicago Democrat Toni Preckwinkle, as president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Part of that job is overseeing the Forest Preserve District. Leftists remind me of the smug titular character in the underrated Coen Brothers movie Barton Fink. He loves “the people” but Fink doesn’t like people. The same goes with Preckwinkle and other leftists in government. And their idea of government is that we are a government with a people, not the other way around. 

These are their woods, not ours.

Stay out of my parking lot! 

Stay away from other people! 

No water fountains for you!

Hold your bladders!

No more fun of any kind!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

COVID-19 and a baby boom?

Yes, someone actually used this as a pick-up line

The COVID-19 shutdown has had many changes, with a notable one being more time spent at home. For couples, this had lead to more…alone time, if you know what I mean. More alone time means that 40 weeks from the start of pandemic in the United States (so around Christmas time) means we might be seeing a surge in births.

While definitely under-reported in America, other countries are reporting signs that we might see a large increase in babies. Indonesia saw a 10% decrease in birth control use, and in countries like Nepal, which already don’t have good transportation, family planning is out the window. India, already set to overtake China by 2050 in population, is likely seeing a surge too. Even in Ireland, pregnancy test purchases are spiking in some cities. It seems everyone is using COVID-19 as a bad pickup line to get it on.

What does this mean long term? First, a surge should help stave off economic downturn. World War II saw a decline in population of almost 2.5% worldwide, but a surge in the birth rate after contributed to the regrowth of the population and economy to boot. With better health care and schooling, a jump in birth rate means more workers to produce more , which long term should raise GDP.

From Reddit

Second, the population will change dramatically where it is located at. China, already on decline, will likely decline more, falling behind India faster than 2050. That may put pressure on China to consolidate gains made by the One-Belt-One-Road Initiative and territoriality in places like the South China Sea. Russia faces a significant loss in manpower and may struggle to maintain control over its vast territory, which could lead to civil war. African nations like Nigeria and Ethiopia, with relatively democratic governments, could become huge markets for goods and the new source of manufacturing for companies escaping China.

Lastly, COVID-19 exposed that how we manage the elderly, especially in America, is a borderline death trap. Nursing homes, already struggling to keep workers, are the single largest source of COVID deaths in America. But longer life spans and the tendency of nursing homes to suck every penny out of retirement funds means that people will be likely outraged and desire to move aging parents into safer facilities. Expect to see a focus on cleanliness at nursing homes plus a boom in new homes being built with mother-in-law suites for aging parents.

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.