A sad day

By Christopher Harper

It’s a sad day.

It’s a sad day because more than 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump will no longer have a voice in the U.S. government.

Most of us voted for Trump because the Republican and Democrat parties had disregarded our views and ignored us for far too long.

Like many who voted for Trump, I don’t trust politicians, and I hold the Washington autocracy and bureaucracy in contempt.

Like many, Trump wasn’t my first choice. But I came around to like his blunt, sometimes disrespectful view of the Washington crowd.

More important, I look back at what Trump, despite overwhelming opposition from Democrats and the press, was able to accomplish in four years.

I just checked my retirement investments over the past four years, and they grew at the fastest rate of any time in my nearly 50 years of working. During the Covid-19 years, my investments soared at a clip of 13 percent.
Until this past year, I was not alone in this economic prosperity as nearly everyone saw huge economic increases throughout the country at almost all income levels.

For the first time in my life, including many years reporting about the Middle East, Trump came as close as any president to bringing peace to the region.

He virtually destroyed ISIS and helped achieve remarkable peace agreements that lead to diplomatic relations between four Muslim nations and Israel.
T
rump abandoned the flawed nuclear agreement in Iran and the flawed Paris climate change strategy. Unfortunately, President Biden will reestablish both.

Trump stood up to China, resetting the terms of the relationship between our countries. He understood that China had become a growing threat to America. Biden and his son’s suspect relationship with China is likely to embolden Beijing.

Trump’s appointments to federal courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, will have an impact for more years, particularly if the five conservatives on the bench don’t wilt in the Washington political heat.

Ironically, Trump did a lot better than Obama when it came to politics.
Democrats lost 13 seats in the Senate under Obama, while Republicans lost just one under Trump since 2017.

Under Obama, Democrats lost 69 seats in the House. Under Trump, the GOP lost 29 House seats.

Furthermore, the GOP still has control of most governorships and statehouses.

Despite the handwringing within the GOP, the Republican Party in 2021 is in a much better position than it was in 2009.

Unfortunately, the GOP will rid itself of Trump. As a result, my fellow Trump supporters and I won’t be voting for Republicans or Democrats. We’ll find somewhere else to go or sit on our hands while we remember how much Donald Trump got right.

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.

Where did the Capitol protest anger come from? What to do about it?

Kenosha, Wisconsin, after what CNN deemed “a fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”

By John Ruberry

Wednesday was a dark day in American history. Most of the blame for the riot at the US Capitol deservedly goes to the hooligans, about 1,500 of them, who broke through blockades and defied law enforcement and entered the Capitol building–the first such mass hostile group to do so since British forces marched in during the War of 1812 before setting it ablaze.

Many of the thugs who illegally entered the Capitol have been arrested and they deserve, if found guilty, to face the full brunt of the law.

This was not, as the media deemed last year’s many instances of “unrest” in American cities, “a mostly peaceful protest.”

President Donald J. Trump is by no means blameless. He should have conceded his loss to Joe Biden weeks ago. I support Trump’s fight for free and fair elections. But even in states where the vote count was the most questionable, Pennsylvania and Georgia, had their electoral votes magically gone to the president, Trump still would have lost. And while I disagree with the mainstream media blowhards and Democratic politicians who said Trump incited the crowd to riot, he gave some of the protesters hope. Normally hope is a good thing to spread but he gave some people the belief that their protest might have compelled Congress to ignore the Electoral College and keep Trump in the White House. That was never going to happen.

On Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show Thursday night he asked that we look at why the protesters–not just the rioters–attended the rally. They were angry.

Why?

In November a Rasmussen poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters believed the presidential election was stolen. Even many Democrats agreed. As for myself I don’t believe the election was stolen. My view is that the weak standards with mail-in voting, put in place on a widespread basis for the first time in many states because of the COVID-19 epidemic, has something to do with that. Mail-in voting, without safeguards, makes such crimes as voting twice or more, dead people voting, and voting in a jurisdiction when you live someplace else more likely. 

While elections need to continue to be run at the state level Congress should, if such a thing is possible, have an open mind in regards to exploring new nationwide election standards, such as what was done after the Florida recount debacle of 2000. Banning ballot harvesting is a good place to start, as well as replacing early voting, that is “election season,” with–and this is an idea that comes from the liberals–making the day of a general election a work holiday. And photo ID should be required for voting too.

If millions of Americans don’t have faith in the election process then democracy rests on a flimsy leaf.

Now let’s look at the mainstream media and Big Tech. I’ll be brief only for the sake of not overwhelming you. I could bring up dozens of examples of media bias but I won’t for now.

For over four years most of the media flogged a dead horse of a story in Russian collusion. There was no Trump-Russia collusion. Zero. Robert Mueller’s exhaustive investigation found none. That didn’t stop the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC from hawking it, not so subtly, as the way to oust Trump from power for nearly four years nearly every day.

Meanwhile the Hunter Biden laptop story was minimized by that same mainstream media during the 2020 campaign. The younger Biden’s alleged influence peddling activities are not a nothing-burger. And Facebook and Twitter for a while blocked the posting the New York Post story about the deeply troubling news that the former vice president’s son might be compromised by foreign governments, including our greatest rival, China. Twitter, in a preview of 2021’s ongoing purge of conservatives that includes Trump, from the microblogging platform, locked the Post out of its account for nearly two weeks. Free press anyone? The suppression worked. Many people I spoke with, folks who only get their news from Facebook, never heard about the Hunter laptop scandal until I told them about it. 

Mission accomplished. 

After the election Hunter Biden revealed that he has been under federal investigation for two years. He says its for tax reasons but Hunter does not come across to me as a man who can be trusted.

Not a nothing-burger.

Trump’s core base of supporters are voracious consumers of news–and yes, to be fair of course some of their news stories come from Facebook and Twitter, unless of course they’ve been purged from those sites. And the double-standard of most of the media on those two stories seethes the Trump base.

After the riot the media continued its dismissive attitude of Trump supporters. 

Anderson Cooper of CNN, a scion of the Vanderbilt family that got filthy rich during the Gilded Age, said of the protesters after the riot. “And they’re going to go back to the Olive Garden and to the Holiday Inn they’re staying at, or the Garden Marriott, and they’re going to have some drinks and talk about the great day they had in Washington … They stood up for nothing other than mayhem.”

Clearly Cooper dines at what he deems are better restaurants than the Olive Garden. And he can afford to stay at the finest hotels, places that are beyond my financial reach. And yes, I’ve stayed at those hotels Cooper denigrated. I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden a few times.

Another cruel irony of the mainstream media coverage of the Capitol riot is that they deemed it one, while they went to great pains to call the many urban riots of 2020–which occurred almost exclusively in Democrat-run cities–anything but that. While storming the Capitol is clearly a much different dimension than looting and arson, and yes, a very disturbing one, the hypocrisy of the media is apparent to a 10-year-old. 

More than ever we need new media. If you agree with my post, especially if you dine at the Olive Garden, stop seething. Start your own blog. WordPress and Blogger.com are good places to start. Even if you have just ten readers a day–my own blog has many more than that in case you are wondering–you will be making a difference. Besides, much of the mainstream media, particularly daily newspapers, are endangered species. Warren Buffett, no conservative, expects only a few of them to survive and he made that prediction before the COVID-19 outbreak that has devastated their ad revenue. Those papers, for the most part, take their lead in reporting news from the aforementioned Washington Post and the New York Times. It’s where they learn not to use words like “riot” unless it involves conservatives. They invent terms like “mostly peaceful” or sugarcoat the carnage by saying it is “unrest.” Those last two newspapers aren’t going anyhere but we can fight back with reality. An army of mosquitoes can make a difference.

There’s a void coming. Fill it. Bite back.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Update (DTG) I put something like this in as a comment but figured it belonged as a post update as this has gotten instalanched. (Thanks Ed)

John is one one my original magnificent seven bloggers/ He produces quality work and I’m proud to have him here.

I believe he is completely wrong about the election not being stolen, both math, the actions of the left and common sense in my opinion scream it to be the case, but he has the right to his opinion and I respect that he comes by it honestly and have no problem with him expressing it here.

If anyone has problem with him expressing that opinion on my site and want him off for having & expressing it, well that’s too bad.

This isn’t twitter and my name’s not Jack

Conservatives need to defend others in free speech battle

By John Ruberry

Free speech is under harsh attack in America courtesy of wokeism. Such warnings about free speech are nothing new–but in the past much of the danger has been imagined. For instance I was in college when The Clash released Combat Rock. On the opening track, “Know Your Rights,” Joe Strummer sings of those rights, “all three of them.” The third right is “free speech,” with a caveat. That right could be used if “you’re not dumb enough to actually try it.” Assuming that Strummer was addressing his core audience, American and British youths of the early 1980s, what he said was at best a gross exaggeration.

Not so in 2021.

I received the inspiration for this post by listenening to Ben Shapiro’s December 24 podcast, Goodbye, 2020.

Shapiro is among the many commentators who predict a purge–my word, not his–of dissident voices, meaning conservative ones, on social media such as Twitter, beginning with Donald Trump as soon as he’s not president.

Absurdly, people like Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, still claim that social media is a neutral conduit of information. Twitter for a while prevented the posting and distribution of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story on the microblogging platform claiming that the laptop details were hacked and illegally obtained. Wrong on both counts. Twitter had no problem with Tweets linking to the New York Times story about Trump’s income tax returns–those returns may have been obtained by hacking. Regardless how those returns were accessed the person who did so broke the law.

What to do?

Forge alliances.

“Well first of all we’re going to have to rely on people, believe or not, who are moderate liberals,” Shapiro said in that podcast, “who are sick of watching the Overton window shut.”

And that means conservative have to defend those liberals who cross the cancel culture.

An incident on Twitter comes to mind. Three years ago in this space I reviewed the documentary XTC-This Is Pop, which was about the spectacular rock back that emerged in England in the late 1970s. That post got a lot of retweets, including one from the XTC Fans Twitter page, run by the now-dissolved group’s former leader, Andy Partridge. A committed liberal, Partridge’s Tweets, although often sarcastic, were entertaining and usually well-thought out, whether it was about music, religion, or politics.

In 2019 some people with too much time on their hands accused Partridge of anti-Semitism after a series of Tweets–not well-thought out this time–about American Middle East policy that devolved into an online shouting match about Israel and religion. Partridge, a strident atheist, went a little too far, I admit, but taken into context with his overall sardonic attitude, those Tweets weren’t a big deal to me. I planned to write a blog post on Marathon Pundit defending him, but then Partridge cancelled himself on Twitter by deleting the XTC Fans account and I moved on to other things.

One of those Twitter accounts Partridge engaged with was “Jon Devin Nunes’ Prostate.”

You know, some people take Twitter too seriously.

Back to Partridge. No one knows why he deleted his account–perhaps he decided that he was spending too much time on social media. He certainly broke a Twitter rule of mine: Never feed online trolls.

I believe if Partridge wasn’t an older white male a Twitter mob would not have bothered to object to those controversial Tweets. For instance the media, with a few exceptions, have not called to task Georgia US Senate candidate Raphael Warnock for his anti-Israel comments.

There will be other efforts to silence dissidents on social media. Mostly against conservatives. But against liberals too.

Conservatism must embrace free speech. And that means relying on for allies, not just the moderate liberals that Shapiro spoke of, but also center-line liberals too in order to fight this crucial battle. And keep in mind no political ideology is always correct.

As for the fundamentalist far-left, the tiny tail wagging the cultural dog these days, I believe they’ve already isolated themselves, as Isaac Asimov said of the 1960s radicals, into a “no-man’s land of the spirit.” Think of the bleating sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

But right now in the culture wars the far-left is winning.

Fight back.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chicago mayor Lightfoot’s status as a fraud solidified in her response to police raid on wrong home

By John Ruberry

The competition for worst big city mayor is fierce, New York’s Bill de Blasio and Eric Garcetti typically lead the pack but don’t overlook Lori Lightfoot of Chicago.

How did America’s third-largest city get there?

Lightfoot’s victory in last year’s election was a fluke. She and Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board emerged as the top two candidates after a 14-candidate first round of balloting–she collected only 17-percent of the vote. Lightfoot, used her endorsement by the Chicago Sun-Times and her time as chair of the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards to fashion herself as the reform candidate. Her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, decided not to run for a third term; it’s widely believed his blocking the release of a video until after his 2015 reelection of the shameful deadly police shooting of Laquan McDonald led to his bowing out.

Now there is a another video. Late in Emanuel’s second term Chicago police officers raided the apartment of social worker Anjanette Young. But they busted into the wrong home. Guns were drawn and Young was handuffed naked while she screamed. “You’ve got the wrong place.”  She said that 43 times. Lightfoot’s campaign slogan was “Let There Be Light” and this was her opportunity to be transparent in a time of crisis. 

She wasn’t.

City lawyers sued to block CBS Chicago from airing the video of the botched raid. Lightfoot later called that a mistake. 

Let There Be Light.

Then the woman often derisively called “Mayor Beetlejuice” claimed that she wasn’t aware of the raid on Young’s home. But emails show that Lightfoot learned about the raid in November of 2019, around the time CBS Chicago began reporting on it. She says she “focused on budget issues” at that time and the could explain why she has no recall of the emails.

Lightfoot also admitted that she was wrong when she said that Young hadn’t filed a Freedom of Information Request for the video of the raid. The victim had in fact done so. 

At best, Lightfoot’s Chicago is circling the drain. Yes, she inherited a mess. Even before the COVID-19 epidemic Chicago was losing residents. Chicago’s public-worker pension worker plans are the worst-funded of any big city. But Lightfoot’s lockdown orders are best draconian, she hasn’t been taken to task as much as she deserves for that only because her fellow Democrat, blowhard governor JB Pritzker, has been all over local media almost daily trying to frighten Illinoisans into compliance with his own lockdown orders. 

Shootings, murders, and especially carjackings in Chicago are up dramatically over last year.

What are Lightfoot’s priorities? 

The day before the second round of widespread looting and rioting, deemed “unrest” of course by the mainstream media, Lightfoot followed through on her threat to close the vast Montrose Beach to visitors because she thought too many people gathered there on a gorgeous late summer afternoon. 

In the spring Lighfoot scolded Chicagoan by declaring “getting your roots done is not essential.” During that first lockdown, which closed all hair salons, the mayor got her stylist, maskless, to do her hair. 

When confronted with a predictable uproar for her hypocrisy, Beetlejuice doubled down, “I’m the public face of this city, I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.”

Last month a few days before imposing a second COVID-19 lockdown, Lightfoot appeared, maskless, outdoors at a spontaneous rally at an unsafe distance with many others as she celebrated the media calling the presidential election for Joe Biden.

Chicago, a failed city, has the perfect person to represent it in the public eye.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

An appreciation of The Divine Comedy band

By John Ruberry

Listening to music is a serendipitous adventure. And it was on one of those journeys I uncovered another great band that you’ve probably never heard of, The Divine Comedy. Last year before the post was swallowed up by a memory hole at Da Tech Guy, I profiled another undeservedly unknown band, the Rainmakers. Only I first encountered the Rainmakers on a local radio station years ago.

I discovered The Divine Comedy when I downloaded the “Inspired by the Kinks” compilation on Apple iTunes. A great collection, yes, and easily the standout cut for me was “The National Express,” a satirical look at a ride on the eponymous company’s bus line.

Unknown? As this is an American blog with, I believe, a predominately American readership, that’s true. But The Divine Comedy has scored hits in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland, which is understandable as the band’s only constant member is Neil Hannon, who is from Northern Ireland.

As great as “The National Express” is, there’s just one small issue in my opinion. I’m a huge Kinks fan, but unless you count that British band’s last big hit, “Come Dancing,” it doesn’t sound like any other Kinks tune.

Listen for yourself!

The Divine Comedy’s first album, since cancelled by Hannon, was the R.E.M. inspired Fanfare for the Comic Muse, which was released in 1990. The only place it seems to be available is on YouTube. If you somehow find a copy of it at a rummage sale or used record store, grab it if it’s priced cheap, as it is probably a collector’s item.

The band then “regenerated” three years later into a chamber pop, or if you prefer Britpop band, for Liberation. Actually I prefer the moniker baroque pop. Regardless of the name, what kind of music am I talking about? Think along the lines of “Penny Lane” by the Beatles, “Senses Working Overtime” or “Easter Theatre” by XTC, or “Never My Love” by The Association, the glimmering song that was used with such beautiful yet chilling effect in the final episode of the most recent season of Outlander. Oh, throw in a bit of Cole Porter too. Back to Liberation: My favorite song from that collection is “The Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count,” which is cleary inspired by the Beach Boys. Yes, I suffer from allergies too so I can commiserate.

Hannon, who writes nearly all of the band’s songs, is a clever lyricist who brings wit and even snarkiness to many of his songs. The Divine Comedy’s melodies are striking and the musicianship is superb.

Here’s a snippet from “Catherine the Great.”

With her military might
She could defeat anyone that she liked
And she looked so bloody good on a horse
They couldn’t wait
For her to invade
Catherine the Great.

Yes, there is a sly reference here to the historical gossip that the Empress of Russia died from a mishap during carnal relations with a stallion.

“The Frog Princess” incorporates strains of “La Marseillaise” into it.

One more Divine Comedy favorite of mine is “Gin Soaked Boy” from the 1999 compilation A Secret History…The Best of the Divine Comedy, which might be good place for you to see if The Divine Comedy is for you. Or you can begin as I did on Apple Music with their “Essentials” and “Next Steps” collections.

Of the band’s dozen studio albums Fin de Siècle, which contains “The National Express,” is my favorite. If you prefer to see what the Divine Comedy is up to now, its latest album is Office Politics. The track I enjoy the most on this collection is “Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company.” It’s about a proposed sitcom and its theme song, both devised by Hannon, in which minimalist classical composers, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, operate a furniture removal business in the 1960s in New York.

Silly? Of course. Brilliant? Definitely.

Oh yes, I said “regenerated” earlier. Regeneration is the title of the Divine Comedy’s 2001 album. Perhaps not coincidentally Hannon contributed a couple of solo tracks, “Song for Ten” and “Love Don’t Roam” to Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack from 2006.

In addition to Apple Music works by The Divine Comedy are also available on Amazon.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois Democrats may finally eject Boss Madigan

By John Ruberry

I can’t track down the exact quote from Hunter S. Thompson about the end of Richard M. Nixon’s presidency, but the self-described gonzo journalist viewed it something along the lines of a football cheap-shot artist got felled by his own weapon, the dirty hit. Not that Thompson, a huge football fan like Nixon, favored dirty hits, but he delighted in his mental image of Nixon helplessly departing public life, like an NFL goon being wheeled off the playing field in a stretcher, never to return. 

We may be nearing that ignominious point with Boss Michael Madigan of Chicago. 

Good.

A refresher for those of you who are not from Illinois. For all but two years Madigan, 78, has been speaker of the Illinois state house since 1983, a national record for state legislative leadership. He’s been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998. Madigan has been a Chicago Democrat ward committeman since 1969. He’s been a member of the Illinois General Assembly since 1971. Hey, Madigan even managed, at great effort, to get his daughter, Lisa, elected Illinois attorney general in 2002. She was reelected three times.

Fox Chicago’s longtime political reporter, Mike Flannery, gained the scorn of other reporters when he half-jokingly asked Madigan, in one of his rare press conferences, if Illinois politicans should be limited to half a century in public office. The Boss abruptly ended the presser.

Madigan is America’s last political machine boss. And Madigan is, as I’ve noted before, the Pablo Picasso of gerrymanderers. Madigan’s maps aren’t pretty, but they achieve his goal, electing as many Democrats to Congress and the General Assembly who are beholden to the Boss as possible. Yep, beholden to Madigan–not the Democrat Party. Unloyal Democrats, in the manner of that classic Twilight Zone episode, find themselves drawn by Madigan into the empty political cornfield if they cross the Boss.

Federal investigators, led by US District Attorney John R. Lausch, have been chipping away at the Madigan machine for the last three years. I wrote about that here, here, and here. Last month the feds indicted lobbyist, former state representative, and close Madigan confidante Michael McClain on bribery and other charges. One of McClain’s biggest clients was Commonwealth Edison, the Exelon-owned electrical utility. It’s alleged that Madigan, who has not been charged and vows he is not involved in any criminal acttivity, used the utility, in exchange for legislation favorable to ComEd, to hand out jobs to members of his political organization. Also indicted for were some former top ComEd officers, including its onetime CEO. 

The cheap shot, in Madigan’s opinion, that leads to criminal charges, may still come, if someone rats the Boss of Illinois out. But Madigan, who reportedly doesn’t use a cell phone or email, will be a tough old tree to fell. Besides, he has a lot of money in his political warchest and his still has many friends, particularly among minority politicians, who of course enjoy being funnels for jobs for their cronies and constituents.

Still, according to multiple media reports there currently are enough votes in the state House to deny Madigan another term as speaker. The Blue Wave predicted by political prognostictors also was non-existant in Illinois, the weak state GOP managed to pick up a seat in the House. Worse for Democrats, the so-called Fair Tax Amendment, that would replace Illinois’ flat-rate income tax with graduated ones, was resoundingly defeated by voters. Corruption reports surrounding Madigan’s inner circle have been seen by political scribes as among the reasons the Fair Tax Amendment failed. Madigan has been a very poor steward of public monies–more on that in a bit. 

If Madigan loses the speakership he won’t be able to hold on to his party chairmanship for long. He needs both offices to remain on the balance bar. Madigan’s political idol, the first Richard Daley, who was mayor of Chicago and chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. His yin needed the yang. Sadly, Madigan doesn’t have the public-finance chops of Boss Daley.

To use a football analogy again, the score in the game is 7-0 with Madigan trailing, but we’re early in the first quarter. Illinois has never, at least in my opinion, fully recovered from the Great Recession. The lockdowns of the state’s second-most powerful politician, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have caused great damage to the Illinois ecomony. So have the two rounds of riots and looting in Chicago this year. Jobs are hard to come by here–and my guess is that Madigan still has some to hand out to the right friends. Don’t count him out.

Oh yeah, what about the money? Madigan has been at the table that drafted every Illinois budget since 1983, and probably earlier. And it was during that time that the fuse of Illinois’ public-pension bomb was lit. The phony Madigan budgets keep kicking the can down the round as Illinois’ severely underfunded public worker public pension plans continue to eat away at state prosperity. Illinois has had a backlog of billions in unpaid bills for more than a decade. The state hasn’t had a balanced budget–despite our constitution requiring one–since 2002. Coincidentally that was the last year there was a Republican majority in the state Senate. 

If only because of his fiscal malfeasance, Madigan needs to go. 

Speaking of going, many Illinoisans are doing just that. The Prairie State, as I’ve noted here at Da Tech Guy many times, has been losing residents since 2014.

Eject Madigan now.

John Ruberry, a Commonwealth Edison customer, reguarly blogs from the Chicago area 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.

Review: The Liberator on Netflix

By John Ruberry

By John Ruberry

Lost among the fallout after the presidential election was the debut of a compelling four-episode on Netflix, The Liberator. It tells of exploits of the leadership of Felix Sparks (Bradley James), who eventually reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, of the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment in the European theater of World War II. Yes, for the most part, this is a true story.

The series which began streaming on Veterans Day, is animated and it uses the new technique of Trioscope, which combines live action and computer and manually created images. The series is based on Alex Kershaw’s book The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau. It’s a huge improvement over rotoscoping, most famously, or notoriously used in the first feature film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, which was directed by Ralph Bakshi. The animation is grainy with a touch of sepia, the latter hue of course is common in films set in first half of the 20th century.

For the most part, The Liberator avoids hackneyed plotlines and characters of many World War II projects, other then sepia. There is no “Guy From Brooklyn” in it. But here is a soldier from Chicago, who of course is a Cubs fan. Fact: real and fictional characters from in television and movies are never White Sox fans, unless, as in Field Of Dreams, the South Siders are central to the plot. Oh well, to be fair it was the Cubs, not the White Sox, who played in the World Series in 1945.

When Lieutenant Sparks arrives at Fort Sill in Oklahoma shortly before America’s entry into World War II, he’s given command of “Company J,” which consists of soldiers locked up in the stockade. These ragtag men are a mix of Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and cowboys. 

It’s a tough command, “The Indians and the Mexicans don’t like each other very much,” a jail guard tells Sparks. “And they hate us more.”

But Sparks is looking for fighters, not divisiveness. He and molds them–even though the Native Americans and Mexicans can’t enter a bar off base in Oklahoma. In Italy a captured member of the Thunderbirds is confronted with this irony by a German officer. 

During its two years in Europe, in addition to the invasion of Sicily and the liberation of Dachau, but also the invasion of southern France, as well as the Battle of the Vosges near the German border, and finally fighting in Bavaria, the 157th Infantry Regiment encountered over 500 days of combat. Sure there are arguments and spats among the soldiers. People never always get along. But the soldiers form an effective fighting unit. 

The German troops are treated relatively sympathetically in The Liberator, but only up to a point as the Thunderbirds later of course liberate Dachau.

The supporting cast is superb, particulary the performance of Martin Sensmeier as Sergeant Samuel Coldfoot and Jose Miguel Vasquez as Corporal Able Gomez, two composite characters.

Originally The Liberator was intended as a live action miniseries for A&E Studios for the History Channel but filming such a project in so many disparate locales, the plains of Oklahoma, Italy, the Mediterranean coast, the Vosges, and Bavaria, proved financially impossible. Not so much with animation. Which is why The Liberator is probably on the cusp of what we’ll see soon on the big and small screens. And the use of animation in war dramas will spare us motion picture embarrasments such as the desert combat scenes in the 1965 box office flop The Battle Of The Bulge.

The Liberator is currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA, although despite depictions of battlefield wounds and the frequent use of profanity–in English and Spanish no less–I’m unsure why. Oh, some people smoke cigarettes in it too. I’m mean c’mon. This is the 1940s!

Tune in and start watching. You’ll be glad for it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Not a bad general election for Illinois conservatives

By John Ruberry

Illinois conservatives have reason to feel pretty good after Election Day. Pretty good but not great. Still that’s a rarity in this state that has been trending blue for decades, much of the reason for that is the tortured gerrymandering practiced by Boss Michael Madigan, the longtime state House speaker and Democratic Party chairman. 

The Land of Lincoln’s feckless GOP, which local radio host Dan Proft calls “Stockholm Syndrome Republicans,” has contributed to the decline, doesn’t deserve much credit for this bit of success. 

The big win for conseratives–really, for all Illinoisans–was the resounding defeat to the so-called Fair Tax Amendment, which would have replaced the state’s flat-rate income tax with graduated rates. Sixty percent of voters neeeded to approve the amendment to the state consitution–of 50 percent of all those voting. Despite big votes for Joe Biden and Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior Democratic US senator, only 45 percent of voters supported the Fair Tax. 

Credit for the victory for keeping the flat tax goes of course to Prairie State voters, but also for the libertarian think tank, the Illinois Policy Institute, as well as Illinois’ richest resident, Ken Griffin, who funded highly-effective television ads against the amendment. Slow down liberals, if you think a billionaire “bought” the win against the Unfair Tax Amendment. Illinois’ billionaire Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, spent $58 million of his own money on the campaign for the amendment. Griffin spent $53 million opposing it. 

Illinois doesn’t tax retirement income–all 32 states with progressive tax rates tax pensions. The anti-Fair Tax ads said that retirement income wouldn’t be untouchable, and an admission, quickly retracted, by state treasurer Michael Frerichs, that the Fair Tax would be a first step to taxing pensions aided the argument of the “antis.”

This summer a federal investigation of rank-and-file Illinois political corruption implicated Boss Madigan. The speaker has not been charged. But the stench from the ongoing investigation served as a potent reminder that Illinois isn’t just mismanaged, it’s crooked. Clearly Illinois kleptocrats don’t need more money to squander and steal, many voters–including some Democrats–reasoned. 

Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget since 2001, when there was a GOP majority in the state Senate and a Republican in the governor’s mansion, despite a constitutional requirment for a balanced budget. The current budget has a $7.4 billion deficit. That GOP governor in ’01, by the way, was George Ryan, who later served time in federal prison for corruption. 

For many good reasons Illinoisans don’t trust state government. 

Illinois is still counting ballots. I can mail a letter from Illinois that is addressed to someone in Los Angeles and it will probably arrive there in three business days. But my state is allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrive at one of Illinois 102 county clerk offices by November 17. So a few races are yet to be called. While it appears the Democrats will pick up a seat in the state Senate, the Republicans will probably gain two seats in the state House of Representatives. The Dems will maintain supermajorites in both chambers of the General Assembly. But there is a budding revolt by Democrats in the House against Madigan because of the election results. Pritzker and Durbin have called for Madigan to resign his chairmanship of the state Democratic Party. A few brave Democrats in the House have called on this term as speaker for Madigan, who has held the gavel since 1983 except for two years, to be his last. Illinois’ other US senator, Tammy Duckworth, also a Democrat, has called for Madigan to resign his speakership as well as the party chairmanship.

A weaker Madigan–and a specially a Democratic Party without him in leadership posts–means a weaker Democratic Party, which is why the Boss still has support. That’s good news for Illinois conservatives. But the state Republican Party still might find a way to squander this gift.

Other pretty good news for Illinois conservatives is that Donald Trump bettered his performance over his 2016 effort by two percentage points. Two Republican candidates nearly ousted two Democratic incumbents. One of those close calls was in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District. Despite being heavily outspent by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Cheri Bustos, GOP challenger Esther Joy King came within three points of upsetting the incumbent, whose role as DCCC chair is to elect more Democrats to Congress. 

On the other hand, Illinois will lose at least one congressional seat in the 2020 reapportionment. A downstate rural district, the 15th, that is currently represented by a Republican, is expected to be sacrificed. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Pritzker vowed to support fair legislative maps rather than a gerrymandered ones. 

Don’t hold your breath for Pritzker to fulfill that campaign promise.

Illinois conservatives need to get firmly and publicly behind two new constitutional amendments, the first one to eliminate the pension guarantee clause, so that reasonable and financially responsible pension reform can occur. The biggest challenge for Illinois is its worst-in-the-nation $230 billion in unfunded pension debt. Illinois cannot tax itself out of this mess, an insight not lost on voters when they voted “No” on the Fair Tax. Pension reform will be painful–but even moreso if state politicians continue the decades-long policy of kicking the can down the road. 

Meanwhile of course the Illinois Exodus continues. The Prairie State has lost population every year since 2015.

Oh, I almost forgot. There was another victory of note for conservatives on Election Day. Voters chose not to retain Illinois Supreme Court justice Thomas Kilbride, a downstate Democrat. One of the reasons for Kilbride’s defeat was his being in the party-line 4-3 majority that prevented a redistricting reform amendment from appearing before voters in 2016. The suit against the Fair Map Amdendment was filed by a long-time Madigan ally. Kilbride is the first Illinois Supreme Court justice to fail to be retained. But the victory was short-lived. Kilbride’s interim replacement, chosen unaminously by the remaining justices, is a Democrat. Ken Griffin also funded much of the anti-Kilbride effot.

The second amendment conservatives need to rally around is another attempt at an Illinois Fair Map Amendment.

UPDATE December 6: After lots of counting, in the end the GOP caucus will increase by one seat, not two, in the state House.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.