My wife and daughter escaped the Illinois lockdown and traveled to Wisconsin

By John Ruberry

As I wrote a couple of posts back the unemployment rate is 67 percent in the Marathon Pundit home here in suburban Chicago. Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, they were furloughed from their jobs.

Obviously in possession of free time Mrs. Marathon Pundit and Little Marathon Pundit decided to travel on this holiday weekend–they headed to Wisconsin. I stayed here to work.

Illinois, run by a Democrat from Chicago, J.B. Pritzker, remains under lockdown. You cannot enter supermarkets or any store with out a mask. Up in Wisconsin, its state Supreme Court struck down its shelter-in-place order made by its Democratic governor, Tony Evers. And its mask requirements.

Wisconsin is a free state. Illinois is a lockdown state. It’s that simple. My wife and daughter’s money is being spent not her3 but north of the Cheese Curtain. In a way they remind me of Poles in the last years of the Cold War visiting West Germany.

Illinois, according to WalletHub, has the most restrictive COVID-19 restrictions in the nation.

I just got off the phone with Mrs. MP. She enthusiastically told me about her first dine-in restaurant experience in two months. The restaurants in Illinois that are open are open for take-out only. On Friday outdoor dining will be allowed in the Prairie State. What if it rains? What if these diners aren’t equipped for al fresco serving? What if they don’t have the necessary permits? What if the restaurant owners can’t apply for an outdoor dining permit because their village hall is closed because of the coronavirus lockdown? Thanks for next-to-nothing, Pritzker.

Then my wife told me about their arrival yesterday in the small town of Mineral Point in the southwestern part America’s Dairyland. There was–wait for it–a parade! One for recent high school graduates. While the graduation ceremony was cancelled, grads in Mineral Point received their moment of glory on the streets. As far as I can gather all parades scheduled in Illinois in spring or early summer were cancelled. “A few people wore masks,” she told me of the people participating or viewing the parade, “but most didn’t.” Some stores are open–mostly the locally-owned ones as opposed to the big chains. “When you go in those places, you don’t have to wear masks,” she enthused.

My wife and daughter went inside, yes inside, a coffee shop, and drank coffee, although a sign outside of that establishment said, “Masks are recommended.” But masks weren’t even recommended when they entered an ice cream parlor.

Many other Illinoisans have escaped to Wisconsin too. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel spoke to one refugee from the Pritzker Lockdown who journeyed to Lake Geneva. “‘All for it,” said Dave Gragnani of McHenry, Illinois, who said he planned to visit a coffee shop and skatepark without any mask or hand sanitizer. “People should have a choice. I’m having a wonderful time.'”

Good for you, Dave!

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

Not as much as Wisconsin, but Indiana is opening up too. And of course the welcome mat is open there for Illinoisans fed up with the lockdown. I’m sure Iowa, where my family traveled last month, as well as Missouri and Kentucky, the other states that border Illinois, are enjoying an influx of cash-flush Illinoisans.

Yes, I’m aware that nearly 100,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, although nearly every one of them already had serious health problems. Nursing homes, hospitals, and senior centers need extra protection. 

It’s time to open up the rest of America. And the world. 

Dennis Prager earlier this month wrote that the worldwide COVD-19 lockdown might be biggest mistake in history

John Ruberry regularly writes at Marathon Pundit.

Jackson’s Party Trumps His Faith

Old News

by baldilocks

24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

— Hebrews 10:24-25

The Reverend [sic] Jesse Jackson has other ideas.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is calling on people, especially religious leaders, not to follow through on President Donald Trump’s demand [sic] for churches and houses of worship to start reopening over Memorial Day weekend.

“To go to church or Sunday mass is an act of defiance, not an act of worship,” Jackson told WTOP’s Ken Duffy.

Trump on Friday asked governors to allow the reopening of places of worship, calling them “essential” and to “open them right now.”

The president also threatened state leaders that if they don’t follow through on his demand, he will “override the governors.”

Jackson, founder of the civil rights nonprofit Rainbow/PUSH coalition, believes that attendees who want to go out and worship should stay home until the threat of COVID-19 is over.

Jackson called on religious leaders and worshippers to “lead the way” and continue to obey coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures.

“The virus does not have religion,” Jackson said. “It has no regard for your situation.”

First of all, the president isn’t giving orders to houses of worship. He is demanding that governors cease from standing in the way of corporate worship and that they come into alignment with the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

And, as mentioned in the Book of Hebrews, part of the free exercise of Christianity involves the assembling together of the faithful. This is simple.

Some questions I would ask Jackson if I thought he had a brain cell in his head that wasn’t devoted to enriching himself.

Do you believe that the God of the Bible is all powerful?
Do you believe that He is a healer and a protector if we ask it of him?
Do you believe the God rewards obedience to His Word?
Do you believe that God is more powerful than viruses?
What makes defiance and worship mutually exclusive?
If your governor outlawed Christianity, would you stop being a Christian?

I could go on, but my point is that Jackson is not a man of the Christian cloth and hasn’t been for a very long time – if he ever was one.

He’s just following orders dispensed from his Organized Left Puppet Masters.

Me in 2015:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was the prototype for the Black Leader concept, though not an epitome of it; other actual black leaders like Harriet Tubman or Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X were leaders organic to black populations/communities.

MLK certainly had rhetorical and financial support from outside of his community, but he didn’t start out that way.

(snip)

[T]he two nationally most well-known Black LeadersTM in this country are the Reverends [sic] Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and I contend that both are created personae, totally supported and publicized by the Organized Left.

A better label for the two? Community Organizers. You’ve heard of those before, have you not?

Also me a year earlier:

Sharpton has been a hilariously awful commentator for MSNBC for a bit. But even before that, MSNBC, CNN and even Fox News had been sticking microphones under him and other “civil rights leaders” as the go-to guys–and sometimes girls–as if they were the go-betweens for “the black community” and the rest of America.

“Civil rights leaders” almost never just spontaneously come to the fore anymore; they are created. The rise in the fortunes — literally and figuratively — of Sharpton should be proof of this. (And, as it turns out, Sharpton has always hidden backers.)

Even the concept of a civil rights leader is a created one. But, ‘agitator’ is better because it is more descriptive. The word makes me think of that part inside your washing machine — the constant spinning and the noise-making. And that’s where the comparison ends.

No one will be made clean by these men.

There have always been fake pastors, but Jackson is the modern American forerunner — and Sharpton is his “son” — selling fear instead of faith. But he’s old now and irrelevant.

Beware of the fear-pastors who are not so old.

Go to church/synagogue/mosque. Or don’t. But it is not your governor’s place to keep you from it. Don’t forget that.

Get some free exercise.

(Thanks to “Carlos Osweda.”)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Open Skies, Game Theory, and what’s next for treaties

The OC-135, the (very old) airplane the US uses for OPEN SKIES flights, from Wikipedia

Recently President Trump pulled the United States out of the Open Skies Treaties, continuing his push of leaving treaties he feels aren’t useful. Given that we’ve pulled out of the INF Treaty, redone NAFTA, and scrapped a few other treaties (like the JCPOA), are we closer to war, and what treaty is next on the chopping block?

Trump renegotiating deals, and in some cases leaving them altogether, isn’t a surprise. A quick read of his book The Art of the Deal, or a study of his real estate deals, or just watching a few episodes of The Apprentice, would tell you that Trump is all about big deals. He doesn’t nibble at the edges of a small deal. He goes in for the big deal, or nothing at all.

A big reason for that is waiting for the big deal typically maximizes the leverage he has. If you give something away first, and the other side doesn’t reciprocate, you lost a portion of your negotiating power. It’s like giving your kids dessert before dinner on the promise they’ll eat both. Sure, it could happen, but if the dinner isn’t finished, you can’t threaten to withhold dessert.

President Trump always looks to maximize leverage, which means pressing on points that do something while ignoring those that don’t mean anything. For example, very early on he called out a number of NATO countries and threatened to withhold US defense money. A critical media made it out to look like he was threatening to leave NATO. Ironically, this worked completely in his favor. The chances of Trump leaving NATO were pretty slim, because it wouldn’t gain much (by the way, the only country to have done so was France when it left the military portion of NATO). But with the media making it look like he would, and a re-surging Russia acting like it wants to re-establish the Soviet Union, many NATO nations upped their funding. Trump won pretty “bigly” in that case.

If you think the whole “negotiating” piece is a sham, you shouldn’t. In fact, Trump has said on many occasions exactly what he’s doing. Here’s a NYT piece from 2016, where Trump was being interviewed by David Sanger and discussing missile defense and Japan:

TRUMP: Or, if we cannot make the right deal, to take on the burden themselves. You said it wrong because you said or — or if we cannot make the right deal for proper reimbursement to take on the burden themselves. Yes. Now, Hillary Clinton said: “I will never leave Japan. I will never leave Japan. Will never leave any of our ——” Well now, once you say that, guess what happens? What happens?

HABERMAN: You’re stuck.

TRUMP: You can’t negotiate.

HABERMAN: Right.

TRUMP: In a deal, you always have to be prepared to walk. Hillary Clinton has said, “We will never, ever walk.” That’s a wonderful phrase, but unfortunately, if I were on Saudi Arabia’s side, Germany, Japan, South Korea and others, I would say, “Oh, they’re never leaving, so what do we have to pay them for?” Does that make sense to you, David?

It’s crystal clear: President Trump will threaten to leave, and then ACTUALLY leave a deal, if it’s not to his liking. That gives him the most leverage to get the other side to comply.

Open Skies is no different. The deal was first brought up in 1955, but was only recently ratified in 2002. It’s supposed to allow unfettered access to anywhere in the signatories countries. The US upholds that end, and as a military member, I’ve been notified before when the Russians plan to fly over an installation I’m working at. Russia began denying access to key areas, including exercise areas and parts of Georgia.

From President Trumps point of view, Russia gets a good deal and the US is slowly losing any advantage for the deal, so he pulled out. Both sides can pull other intelligence assets to make up the loss, but Russia will take a harder economic hit to do that than the US. This gives the US an advantage, and makes a subsequent deal easier. But the next Open Skies deal, if it was to happen, wouldn’t look like the old one. Trump will drive a hard bargain. I wouldn’t be surprised if he demands something completely absurd, like a drawdown of Russian forces from Kaliningrad and the Arctic, with verification flights to ensure compliance.

Now the Open Skies is going away, what’s next? My first thought was Nuclear Test Ban, since the US never ratified it, but the President already beat me to it. Expect the media to really blow this one up, which again plays right into the President’s hand. I would expect him to use this as leverage over China, because he could:

  • Threaten to arm Japan and/or Taiwan with nuclear weapons
  • Threaten nuclear weapons on hypersonic missiles
  • Change US policy and bring back tactical nuclear weapons
  • Negotiate a better nuclear deal with India, to include selling them nuclear submarine technology. Not only would that make China angry, but it would strip Russia of arms sales!

Another deal on the chopping block is the Outer Space Treaty. Trump already announced moon mining. I’d expect him to be looking for partner nations to mine the moon and asteroids. It’s a good chance to bring in non-traditional partners like Brazil, India and Japan that have this technology, but also places like Indonesia and parts of Africa where geography makes launching satellites easier.

The last one I’d expect to see go away is our treaties on drugs. This goes beyond legalizing marijuana. The drug enforcement cost in America is massive and yet is not particularly effective. Legalizing and taxing the drug trade could not only take money away from cartels, but also increase the safety for drug users. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t come up yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump proposed big changes to drug control.

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.

The golden age of journalism wasn’t so golden

By Christopher Harper

As it has become increasingly apparent that the media have become political partisans, I started to wonder how neutral the press was during the more than two decades I worked as a reporter.

The more I thought about it, the more I discovered that the media back in the good old days might not have been as overtly political as today, but slanted stories and opinions often made it into the news.

From 1974 to 1995, I worked at the Associated Press, Newsweek, and ABC News in Chicago, Washington, Beirut, Cairo, Rome, and New York. I worked with Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings, Hugh Downs, and many other well-known journalists. I competed against others, including Thomas Friedman, E.J. Dionne, David Ignatius, and many others.

Here’s what I recall about politics in the news back then. During my time in Washington, I watched as the nation’s press eviscerated Jimmy Carter and his team. Carter came from outside the swamp and didn’t fit into Washington culture. Neither did his top aides.

I don’t think Carter was a particularly good president, but the media took him to task on almost everything he tried. I can count on one hand, however, the number of former colleagues who voted for a Republican in the past 40 years.

Almost every reporter during the Iran hostage crisis thought Ayatollah Khomeini had to be better than the shah. How wrong we were!

In Beirut, almost every journalist backed the Palestinians, including me. Jennings had spent much of his early years in the Middle East and had a distinctly Arab tilt. Ignatius did some good work in the Middle East but has since gone off the rails with his analyses.

In Cairo, many journalists supported the peace efforts of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. I wasn’t one of them, but Sadat had an incredibly positive press in the United States. The opposite was true in many Arab states and Europe. Friedman had no understanding of the assassination of Sadat when he covered the story in 1981.

In Rome, I saw Dionne completely botch the story behind the plot to kill Pope John Paul II.

Just as I arrived in the United States in 1986 to work with ABC’s 20/20, Roone Arledge, a legend in television circles, had killed for the program on the sexual exploits of JFK when he was in the White House. Arledge didn’t want to upset the Kennedy clan and one of his top aides who worked with the family.

At 20/20, it was clear that Walters had a distinctly liberal bent, but she didn’t stand in the way of opposing viewpoints. Downs was just an incredibly decent human being.

Not too long after I arrived at the program, I included an interview with Pat Buchanan. I was accosted by a fellow producer who threatened that she would make sure people wouldn’t work with me if I ever had another conservative on the program.

Although the recollections here are merely anecdotal, they underline the powerful, albeit subtle, ways in which the media set an agenda back in the golden years. The political bias may not have been so apparent and so constant, but it was there. I am the first to admit that my biases probably made their way into my stories.

After I left the mainstream media, I wrote a column for The Washington Times for nearly three years until 2015. My former colleagues berated the conservative tone of the columns, including one who described me as “dumb as a boulder.” I was prevented from sharing my columns on a Facebook page for former ABC employees.

Today, I find that nearly all of my former colleagues have a decidedly liberal or leftist viewpoint.

In fact, a large group of ABC News retirees publicly criticized Trump over his attacks on the press. An Obama organizer and former ABC News producer started the petition. See  https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/10/25/trump-inciting-violence-nearly-retired-journalists-condemn-presidents-un-american-attacks-press/

I wonder if these points of view crept into their news coverage back in the day. I think they probably did.

Masks dehumanize us

Discarded medical mask, Miami Woods, Morton Grove, Illinois

By John Ruberry

On my way to work here in Illinois–where Democratic governor JB Pritzker says I have to wear a mask–I was listening to Dennis Prager’s show when he said something along the lines that people connect to each other by way of seeing their faces. Very true. The most obvious example is by way of dating sites, nearly all of the profiles include face pics. Whether you are old or young, thin or heavy, bald or hairy, every expert on creating profiles for LinkedIn recommends using a quality head shot on that employment networking site. 

Faces are how we remember people. When you think of Angelina Jolie her lips come to mind. With Jay Leno it’s his prominent chin. With John Bolton his bushy mustache is his visual trademark. If they are wearing masks you won’t see their distinctive facial features. 

A masked face doesn’t allow you to see smiles.

It’s unclear how effective masks are in preventing the spread of COVID-19, with the exception of the N95 mask, which gets its name because it’s supposed to block 95 percent of small particles.  

What is clear is that the projections of the death total from the novel coronavirus have been alarmist. The most dire one predicted 2.2 million COVID-19 deaths in America–and that prediction likely led to many shelter-in-place orders being put in place, including the one that was extended by Pritzker, most likely illegally, until the end of May. The latter order opened a few more places, such as golf courses, but added a mask requirement for businesses open to the public, such as big box stores. Dine-in restaurants, hair salons, and health clubs remain shuttered. Churches too. 

Humans are primates and primates are social beings. We’re not cats. While there are a few among us who choose the life a hermit, even existences commonly connected with solitude, such as that of a monk or a nun, involve a community where people see each other. Monks typically live in monasteries with other monks. Nuns dwell in convents with other nuns. 

So far COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as the 1918 Flu Pandemic which killed anywhere from 50-100 million people worldwide–and many of those who died of it were in their twenties and thirties who were otherwise healthy. It is not the Asian Flu of the late 1950s which killed roughly two million. While every death of course is a tragedy, so far 300,000 people have died of COVID-19. In 1918 the world population was about 1.6 billion, in 1958 it was a bit short of 3 billion. Today’s world population is 8 billion. 

A few weeks ago I questioned whether the draconian methods to shut down our economy were worth it, bankruptcies and unemployment are common triggers for substance abuse, depression, spousal and child abuse, and suicide. Since that post we’ve learned nearly all of the coronavirus fatalities suffered from pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. 

Now because of masks we are becoming the faceless, like the disturbing images in the “Life of Julia” Obama-Biden campaign video from 2012 that preached to the masses–not to individuals–the inherent power of a government that does everything for you. But remember Barry Goldwater’s warning, “Any government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”

Like Prager, I’m not a conspiracy nut. But a couple of weeks ago he wrote that the coronavirus overreaction is a dress rehearsal for a police state. Chicago’s vast expanse of lakefront parks–which is 18 miles long–have been closed for six weeks and counting. Churches and dine-in restaurants are closed statewide, as I mentioned earlier. In regards to the latter, for health reasons will the state or local governments in Illinois retain the power to shutter restaurants that serve, let’s say, too much high-fat food? That possibility is no longer far-fetched. 

The lakefront parks won’t be closed forever. But I can easily see Lori Lightfoot or a future Chicago mayor limiting Lincoln Park or Jackson Park to a few hundred visitors each day–with government workers with internal passports first in line of course–in the name of nature preservation or fighting global warming. It will of course all be done in the name of the faceless masses. 

I’m running low on orange juice. I may need run to the supermarket. Where is my mask?

I’ll be less of a human wearing that mask. Is that the plan?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My Wuhan Virus Regimen

by baldilocks

So, this is how I’m maintaining my physical health during the LA lockdown.

My daily intake:

  • Calcium 1000 mg
  • Vitamin D 3000 units
  • Zinc 15 mg
  • Aspirin 325 mg
  • Old person multivitamin (age 50+); two things of special value in this: vitamins B6 and B12

Home juicer squeezed fruit juice consisting of:

  • Strawberries or beets
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomato
  • Apple
  • Ginger
  • Lime (sometimes)
  • Kiwifruit

Home juicer squeezed juice consisting of:

  • Carrot
  • Tomato
  • Garlic

I drink that last concoction when I’m not going to be near anyone for a bit. A friend told me that it knocks down cold/flu symptoms, but I haven’t had either one since I started drinking it … that may or may not be proof of its effectiveness.

(Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian and have no plans to become one.)

Nighttime: big glass of water with a spoonful of food-grade diatomaceous earth. Allegedly this stuff does a lot of things, but it does one very important thing: it makes everything come out right in the morning, if you get my drift.

Daily output:

Recently I was diagnosed with a condition called spondylolisthesis. It is literally a pain in my butt on the right side, but that wasn’t what caused me to have it checked out. It was this: if I lay on my back for more than about a minute, my right foot starts to tingle.

It stems from an injury I received many years ago while helping someone move a heavy object. So, that diagnosis has resulted in three things.

The first is physical therapy, during which I learn how to strengthen my core, how to properly stretch and where a cute young guy gives me a back(side) massage twice a week. And, yes, they are open during the lockdown.

The second is power walking; 45-60 minutes, roughly 3 miles, 5-6 times a week. When I reach a speed that puts me under 45 minutes, I increase the distance the next day. It’s a good time to listen to audiobooks, but I don’t do it that often. I get out and walk very early and I like the sound of silence.

I’ve been doing this for about a month and I had thought about doing some jogging, but because of the spondy-blah-blah, that’s out. Good thing, too. In spite of my Kenyan heritage, I hate running.

Walking while wearing a N95 mask: I keep it on the tip of my nose unless I’m near someone. It’s more for their peace of mind than mine.

The third thing: planking. This practice has greatly increased the length of time that I’m able to lie my back before my foot starts to tingle. And it has noticeably decreased my computer hunch.

I feel really great after I finish, both physically and emotionally.

No claims on whether this regimen cures or prevents anything, but it can’t hurt.

I was taking almost all the vitamins and the home-juice long before the onset of COVID-19, so I’m not making any claims on effectiveness against that or any other virus. Mostly I began taking these things to ward off pain, anxiety and lethargy. I have only one prescription – the vitamin D – and I plan on keeping it that way for as long as possible.

And I top all this off with a big dollop of prayers for success. God rewards action.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Fear, loathing, and Hunter Thompson

By Christopher Harper

Fifty years ago, Hunter S. Thompson became the father of Gonzo journalism, an irreverent brand of reporting that influenced many young writers, including me. 

Thompson and artist Ralph Steadman “covered” the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s, a small, progressive magazine.

Thompson, who grew up in Louisville and hated it, described the focus of the story as “the vicious-drunk Southern bourbon horse-shit mentality that surrounds the Derby than in the Derby itself.”

In an excellent article in Quillette, author David Wills described Thompson’s approach of Gonzo, a reference to a song he played regularly on the 1968 campaign trail:

“He tended to insert himself into the prose as observer and participant, embark on weird and irrelevant digressions, recount conversations and events that probably never happened, discard any pretense of objectivity, lurch erratically in and out of hyperbole and paranoia, and dust his prose with a litany of stylistic quirks and a peculiar lexis that included words like ‘atavistic,’ ‘swine,’ ‘savage,’ and ‘doomed.’ It was a subjective, chaotic, and messy approach to journalism.”

Wills captured the essence of the Derby article:

“The first half recounts Thompson’s arrival in Kentucky, a prank played on a gullible racist at the airport, and then his meeting with Steadman. The second half is a disjointed but somehow intensely personal account of a day spent staggering around the Derby in an inebriated state, terrifying attendees, and spraying a restaurant full of patrons with mace. Thompson and Steadman didn’t bother to actually watch the race they had been sent to cover…. It was a highly unusual piece of writing that trashed the conventions of traditional reporting in favor of a freewheeling rock ‘n’ roll antagonism. It was funny but aggressive, satirical and cruel, and only loosely factual. It was neither exactly journalism nor exactly fiction.” See https://quillette.com/2020/05/02/decadence-and-depravity-in-louisville-kentucky/

As a young journalist, I loved that Thompson did everything I was told NOT to do. His articles were like the Playboy and pack of Old Gold cigarettes you kept hidden from your parents as a teenager. I first read Thompson in Rolling Stone, where he offered some of his most famous prose, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1971 and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in 1972. 

In Las Vegas, Thompson was investigating the killing of journalist Ruben Salazar, who died covering an antiwar protest in Los Angeles. On a side trip, Thompson and attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta arrived in Sin City, where they indulged in psychedelics, an activity they repeated when they returned a month later to cover a conference on the nation’s drug problem. Eventually, Thompson wrote about drugs in the United States, which became an epitaph for the 1960s. 

Heavily inspired by J.P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, it offers a wild and funny story of sports journalist Raoul Duke, Thompson alter-ego, and his attorney running amok in Las Vegas.

Although many people think the 1972 campaign book is his best—and it was quite good at the time—Vegas was Thompson’s masterpiece. 

From the mid-seventies onward, however, his output became progressively weaker as Thompson turned to cocaine. As Wills put it: “The one-man literary genre was soon washed up, sold out, and left to reflect upon chances missed. Thompson had earned his place in the literary canon with staggering innovations in form, but he burned out and stopped pushing…. [W]hen a great writer can no longer write, and when even the possibility of turning out another great book no longer exists, there is little else to do.”

Thompson committed suicide in 2005. He was 67, a year younger than I am now. Per his wishes, Thompson’s ashes were fired out of a cannon in a ceremony funded by his friend Johnny Depp and attended by friends, including then-Senator John Kerry and Jack Nicholson. 

The Pritzker disaster in Illinois

Apple River Fort State Historic Site last month in Elizabeth, Illinois, located in a county that has 18 reported cases of COVID-19 as of May 10, 2020.

By John Ruberry

Illinois has the wrong governor at the wrong time. 

Oh, I’m not talking about the political positions of Chicago Democrat J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire who was elected governor in 2018. 

Let’s first discuss how he was elected. Largely because of support of unions, who probably fell in love with his wallet, as well as the tacit support of the most powerful politician in Illinois, longtime state House speaker Michael Madigan, Pritzker won the Democratic gubernatorial primary. That’s quite ironic as the Pritzker family has had a troubled relationship with organized labor, starting with the Pritzker-owned Hyatt hotel chain

Pritzker largely self-funded his campaign. So did his hapless general election opponent, multi-millionaire Bruce Rauner. The one-term Republican achieved nothing as governor, other than get bested by Boss Madigan, the mother hen of Illinois’ pension bomb

Illinois’ shelter-in-place order in response to the coronavirus was eased a bit earlier this month. Golf courses, those germ cesspools, are now open. Dine-in restaurants, health clubs, hair salons and the like are closed. Nearly one million Illinoisans, including my wife and daughter, are newly out of work. 

When things get back to what we might call normal, many of businesses won’t be here anymore. Pritzker is a trust fund baby who has never had to worry about economic survival. I’m sure he’s had a few setbacks, but he could always reach into that perpetually-full cookie jar of a trust fund or his accounts in the Grand Cayman Islands. Contrast that situation to the husband and wife who met while working as servers at a restaurant twenty years ago, then saved their money and took out a second mortgage on their home to open their own restaurant. They’ve laid off their servers and bussers, and only half of their cooks kept their jobs. Revenue has plummeted. Taking a third mortgage out on their home to bail out their restaurant isn’t an option. So their dream business, their livelihood that supported children may have only one destiny. Closing down. And then they’ll have no choice but to declare bankruptcy. 

Pritzker doesn’t get it. 

Since the governor issued his shelter-in-place order nearly two months ago most state offices were shuttered. Yet every state employee is being paid. Let’s zoom in on Illinois’ secretary of state office, which is mainly what other places call the DMV. Driver’s licenses aren’t being issued or renewed, the same goes with license plates, unless, with the latter, you are buying a car as most car dealers in Illinois have the ability to provide at the very least temporary state tags. 

Why haven’t state employees like these been laid off? Union rules just might prohibit that but we are told by Pritzker that Illinois is facing an emergency. I’m sure if he wanted to he’d find a state law to justify layoffs. But Pritzker couldn’t simply buy the governor’s office two years ago, he needed votes to win and unions supply lots of voters. And Pritzker, who is not the most dynamic campaigner–he comes across as an arrogant jerk because he is one–will need labor support again if he chooses to run for reelection. 

Sales tax revenue is of course way down in Illinois. Because of that and the state’s mountain of unpaid bills and its appallingly-underfunded public worker pension plans, last month Fitch lowered Illinois’ bond to one level above junk

Unlike its governor, Illinois has no trust fund to bail it out nor does it have bank accounts in the Grand Caymans. Courtesy of Boss Madigan Illinois hasn’t had a rainy day fund for years. 

Pritzker is facing several lawsuits challenging his shelter-in-place order. But his wife violated that order by leaving the state for the refuge of their Florida equestrian estate, in the manner of a medieval royal escaping a plague. 

It’s good to be king. It’s better to be a billionaire living off a trust fund who can use that cash to be elected governor and then lecture people like me as to how I should live my life. He’s been doing so in his daily press briefings on live television that pre-empt talk shows and soap operas. What fun! The Great Oz has spoken!

Rural Illinois has been particularly devastated by Pritzker’s shutdown. Many Illinois counties have fewer than ten reported cases of COVID-19. Three of them have none. 

With great fanfare and expense–$65 million–Pritzker transformed Chicago’s cavernous McCormick Place Convention Center into a hospital because he told us our existing hospitals would be overwhelmed by the coronavirus and there’d be no more hospital beds. After treating 37 patients the McCormick Place hospital closed down. Pritzker took bad advice from so-called experts.

Whether the shelter-in-place order in Illinois and other states worked–or perhaps it was never needed–the lockdowns need to end, with exceptions such as preventing visitors at places with vulnerable people, such as nursing homes. Densely populated cities such as New York and Boston–but not Chicago–probably need to keep up additional protections against COVID-19.

As I wrote a few weeks ago here, a new epidemic is coming. Perhaps it’s here already. One consisting of addiction, spouse and child abuse, and suicide. Economic hardship often brings out the worst in people. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

OG Fascist

No, The Other One

by baldilocks

I’ve been trying to read this very long piece on Mussolini by Angelo Codevilla for a few days now — mostly because I need a primer on fascism as do, apparently, some of my friends who are quick to wield the Cudgel of Fascism against actions they frown on and against actors of whom they disapprove. And, yes, I’m talking about conservatives this time.

I’m just going to leave a slice of it here.

Today, the adjective “fascist” is an epithet—often mixed promiscuously with “white supremacist,” “sexist,” etc.—that the ruling class uses to besmirch whoever challenges them, and to provide emotional fuel for cowering, marginalizing, and disempowering conservatives.

This maneuver consists of defining fascism in terms of unpopular ideas, political practices, and personality traits observable in many times and places; then, having cited Hitler’s Nazi movement as fascism’s quintessence, of pinning those deplorable characteristics on the intended targets. This reductio ad Hitlerum aims at no less than to outlaw conservatives. As the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin exclaimed: “these people are not fit for polite society…. I think it’s absolutely abhorrent that any institution of higher learning, any news organization, or any entertainment organization that has a news outlet would hire these people.” And the New Republic explains “why fascist rhetoric needs to be excluded from public discourse.” The establishment doesn’t seem to realize that they are preaching some of fascism’s practices.

This essay looks behind fighting words to fascism’s reality. Although Benito Mussolini, fascism’s artificer and personifier, died discredited in 1945, fascism’s socio-political paradigm, the administrative state, is well-nigh universal in our time. And as the European and American ruling class adopted Communism’s intellectual categories and political language, the adjective “fascist” became a weapon in its arsenal.

We begin with how fascism developed in Mussolini’s mind and praxis from 1915 to 1935, how it was hardly out of tune with what was happening in the rest of the Western world, as well as how it then changed and died. After considering how fascism fit in the 20th century’s political warfare doctrines, we explore its place in contemporary political struggles.

If it does nothing else, it will help heal that attention span of yours that has been splintered by social media.

Okay maybe I’m projecting. Anyway, enjoy.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Trump and the ivory tower

Nearly two dozen of my former and current colleagues have endorsed a call to eliminate live coverage of President Trump because he “uses [it] as a platform for misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, [and] they have become a serious public health hazard–a matter of life and death for viewers who cannot easily identify his falsehoods, lies, and exaggerations.”

The call continues: “We ask that no speech, rally, or press conference involving the president be covered live anymore. The risk of passing along bad information and harmful advice is too great. 

“News organizations need to attend carefully to what he says and only share information that they can independently verify. By asking themselves ‘is what he said something we should be amplifying?’ news organizations can offset the damage these briefings are producing.” 

The open letter, which was sent to a variety of news organizations, underlines how out of touch the ivory tower is. 

First, the letter assumes that people are so stupid they can’t possibly understand errors or sarcasm. 

That’s one of the reasons the media and their academic companions have become so distrusted. When Gallup measures the most respected professions, journalists rank near the bottom, way below auto mechanics, lawyers, policemen, and military officers. 

Second, I know two of the leading lights of the anti-Trump movement: Todd Gitlin of Columbia University and Jay Rosen of New York University.

Gitlin, who was called “Todd the God” at NYU when I taught there, is the former head of the Students for a Democratic Society and has been a political organizer much of his life. He opposed the Gulf War of 1991 and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of the 2000s. He’s called for Harvard to divest from companies that develop fossil fuels or support Israel.

Rosen created a website called Press Think, which has become a darling of academics and press folks and has been a frequent critic of the Trump administration. One of his main collaborations is with billionaire Pierre Omidyar, one of the most significant contributors to the Democrat Party. 

My favorite memory of Rosen occurred one winter break when he opened his office window to hide the smell of his cigarette. He forgot to close the window, which led to the pipes freezing throughout the building and left a colossal repair bill for NYU. If the shoe of absent-minded professor fits, then Rosen definitely should wear it.  

Third, the list of signatories supposedly includes professors of communications, journalism, and media studies. But after a quick look through the online letter, I found partial names, health workers, and members of the public. So much for being an “exclusive” group of knowledgable educators.

I don’t think objectivity, fairness, and balance exist in the media anymore, but I think transparency should play a significant role in the press. 

That’s why I suggest that all of the signatories who teach journalism should make their anti-Trump sentiments publicly available to their students—as I have made my conservative views known. 

More important, I hope my former and current colleagues keep their politics out of the classroom—as I have done for more than two decades.