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

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

School lockdowns lead to urban carjacking spike

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental health among students has suffered during the lockdown

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Corporations need to stay out of politics–or how my father got fired for wearing a JFK button at work

Image courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library

By John Ruberry

In 1960, shortly before I was born, my father briefly worked for the Quaker Oats Company. Sixty years ago many large companies and corporations had ethnic identities. For instance the first episode of Mad Men, coincidentally set in 1960, contains a plotline centered around the decision of a Jewish business owner to change advertising agencies and hire one that wasn’t “Jewish.” 

Big firms also had politial identities.

Quaker Oats was a Republican company. R. Douglas Stuart was the longtime CEO of the company when my dad worked there. In Stuart’s Wikipedia entry, and that of his son, it’s stated that they were “active in the Republican Party.” The younger Stuart also served as CEO of Quaker Oats.

My dad was hired by the Chicago-based company as a junior executive, an in-house farm club concept from that era.

It was a great time to be an Irish Catholic Democrat in 1960 and my dad was able to proudly check all three boxes. John F. Kennedy, who potrayed himself as a devout Catholic, was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Unlike the doomed Al Smith, the first Catholic nominee for president of a major party, Kennedy’s chances for moving into the White House looked promising. But JFK’s Republican opponent, Richard M. Nixon, was the slight favorite early in the campaign. Kennedy, people like my father reasoned, needed every bit of assistance to nudge him over the goal line. So my dad placed a Kennedy poster in the front window of our Chicago bungalow and he wore a Kennedy campaign button everywhere he went.

Including at Quaker Oats. 

But my dad was a probationary hire–there was a three month period before a final decision was made on whether he would stay on. He didn’t make it–he was told at the end of those three months that he “wasn’t a fit for the Quaker Oats culture.”

Years later, after my father’s passing, I met a woman who worked closely with my father at Quaker Oats there and she confimed this story as it had exactly been told to me. She added that my dad was “a real blast” and a “breath of fresh air at that stuffy place.”

Later in the 1960s attitudes changed. Major corporations became less ethnic. One large company after another stopped being WASP, Jewish, or Catholic. The hiring doors for all positions were opened to minorities. And of course those were all good things. Politics was de-emphasized in the business world too.

But politics didn’t vanish from corporate America. Another legacy from the 1960s is that big corporations began envisioning themselves as being responsible for more than providing products and services and making money, explaining in annual reports and countless press releases that they had a “responsibility to the community” and the like. And over time, colleges and universities, even their business schools, drifted even further to the left. So did the political leanings of their graduates. A decade or so ago poltics made a roaring comeback in the boardroom and elsewhere in corporate America.

When there is a political controversy–such as the hasty anger about the new Georgia voting laws–which most people who hate them only do so because they saw Twitter comments or headlines on their smart phones that claim that Georgia has returned to the Jim Crow era–CEOs naturally, such as Delta Airlines’ CEO Ed Bastian, fall in line and echo the opinion of the left. Oh, the fear of a left-wing boycott is part of their rationale too. Coca-Cola, aka Woka-Cola, which went full-woke earlier this year, has also declared its opposition to the Georgia election law. And not just them.

Corporate politicking needs to end because it is an accessory to the dangerous dividing of America. The last time I bought airline tickets I needed to get someplace–and get flown home. That’s it. I don’t need the airline’s politics, I have my own already, thank you. The same goes if I need a beverage or anything else. Ed Bastian and Coca-Cola’s CEO James Quincey need to shut up and stick to keeping flights somewhat on time and ensuring beverages are tasty and safe. They need to avoid subjects they know little about.

The majority of Americans, when they learn more about the Georgia bill, will likely see these reforms as reasonable. For instance already most states have voter ID laws, including Biden’s home state of Delaware. And signature verification as the sole tool to determine if a ballot mailed in was completed by that voter, isn’t a strong enough security measure, at least I think so.

Elections need to be free and fair. 

Did Quincey and Bastian cave to the left on Georgia only because they read an MSNBC or Daily Beast headline? 

I am also compelled to address the bad decision by Major League Baseball to move the 2021 All-Star Game, and the MLB Draft, out of Atlanta. Two days prior, while being interviewed by woke ESPN, President Joe Biden said he supported taking away that game from the Braves. MLB needs to stay out of politics too. Had MLB done a bit of research on the subject it would have learned that the woke Washington Post rated a key Biden claim about the law with Four Pinocchios

Instead of a leftist boycott now Delta, Coke, and MLB face boycotts from the right–and the loudest call comes from former President Donald Trump. Remember him? He received the votes of 75 million Americans five months ago.

My message to corporate America: Keep out of politics and stick to your products and services. It’s good for your business and best for America. And it’s great for your employees.

Oh, my dad learned his lesson. He never wore a political campaign button again. He enjoyed a happy and properous career at other places. After Chappaquidick my father was done with the Kennedy family. After Jimmy Carter’s election he was done with the Democrats.

Quaker Oats was acquired by Pepsico, Coca-Cola’s rival, in 2001.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

India pulls a Trump on Saudi Arabia

Oil Refinery, from Wikipedia

One of President Trump’s greatest achievements was to drive America away from importing Middle East oil. It made the United States capable of sitting out any regional crisis, which in the Middle East seems to happen on a frequent basis. For example, if the Iranians threaten to close the Straits of Hormuz, the United States can take its time to act accordingly, not being pressured by rising gas prices at home. Heck, the U.S. could tell other countries to solve that crisis if it wanted to. Having options makes it harder for your opponent to win, and puts you in control.

India is, ironically, fast approaching where the U.S. was in terms of oil a few years ago. India is the third largest consumer of oil (behind the U.S. and China), and it imports almost 85% of that oil. This leaves India vulneable to any oil interruption, and with OPEC cutting production this month, India is actively trying to diversify its energy and vehicle oil usage. This is also why India is OK negotiating with Iran (which supplies 10% of India’s oil), mainly because it doesn’t have a lot of choices.

By the way, none of this is news, it was being called out last year and the year before that, so India “unsheathing a weapon” is a bit of a misnomer, since they’ve been working on this for some time. This could have been a great moment for the United States and Canada to step in and sell lots of oil to India. Not only would it be democracies helping democracies, but it would provide a 1 billion person counterweight to China’s aggression. Plus we’d make money on the deal. What’s not to love?

India probably paid attention to history and saw how the U.S. got screwed in the 1970s, plus how President Trump gave the U.S. more foreign independence. They are pushing lots of initiatives like solar cars and solar cells to reduce transportation and home usage, but these take time to build in, and India’s sporadic infrastructure doesn’t help the process. Again, all these initiatives provide opportunities for the U.S. to work with India and strengthen that relationship, something we sure don’t seem to be pushing all that much.

Oil isn’t leaving anytime soon as the fuel of choice, and inter-country relationships will continue to be heavily influenced by who produces, consumes and ships oil. The United States has a pretty significant interest in helping countries like India source their oil from friendly places while seeking to become energy independent in the long term. Not only does it make our planet better, but it makes our foreign policy a lot more stable, and we could all use that.

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.

Thanks, Larry McMurtry!

By Christopher Harper

Larry McMurtry provided an opportunity for my father and me to get to know one another a lot better.

In 1989, McMurtry’s novel, Lonesome Dove, became one of the most-watched series in television history.

It’s difficult to summarize a nearly 900-page book, but Texas Monthly did a pretty good job of it: McMurtry wrote his novel about “two retired, hard-bitten Texas Rangers in the forlorn [Texas] border town of Lonesome Dove.

“The ex-Rangers, Augustus ‘Gus’ McCrae and Woodrow Call, lead a cattle drive to Montana with a ragtag team of cowpokes, which includes a black cowboy, a bandit turned cook, a piano player with a hole in his stomach, a young widow, a teenager who is Call’s unacknowledged son, and a prostitute. On their journey, the group encounters psychopathic outlaws, vengeful Indians, buffalo hunters, gamblers, scouts, cavalry officers, and backwoodsmen. They endure perilous river crossings, thunderstorms, sandstorms, hailstorms, windstorms, lightning storms, grasshopper storms, stampedes, drought, and a mean bear. There are plenty of shootings and a few impromptu hangings. The prostitute, Lorena, is gang-raped. In the end, after McCrae is mortally wounded by Indians, he asks Call to bury him in a little peach orchard by the Guadalupe River near San Antonio, where he was once in love with a woman. Call dutifully carries his partner’s half-mummified body back to Texas.”

My father spent much of his early life in Rawlins, Wyoming, as the son of a man who worked the Chisolm Trail as a cowboy and later became a sheriff who died after a gun battle. His mother then married another cowboy. 

Just before I was born, my family moved out of Rawlins to Idaho, then crisscrossed flyover country from Idaho to Colorado to South Dakota. 

Like the folks from Lonesome Dove, we were constantly on the move. 

Somehow, Lonesome Dove reminded my father of the better days of his early life, and he shared the memories of hunting and fishing and country life. 

He wanted to get his family out of Rawlins to build a better life—much like Gus had wanted for his friends from Lonesome Dove. Along the way, our family didn’t suffer as those from Lonesome Dove. But the wandering from place to place took its toll.

Near the end of my father’s life, Lonesome Dove provided him and me the opportunity to talk about his adventures and discuss the tough times, including my mother’s death when I was 13, in a way he could never have done before.

Thanks, Larry!

GOP senators knock down walls of Biden’s Potemkin Village at the border

By John Ruberry

One of Joe Biden’s first acts as president was to end construction of the wall at the southern border, a project heartily championed by Donald Trump.

Instead a different kind of wall has replaced it.

The Trump of the late 18th-century, in regards to what we now call fake news, was Catherine the Great of Russia. Historical gossip has it that Catherine was killed as a horse was lowered on to her for carnal purposes. Not true, as is the milder version of her demise that claims she died of her wounds after her bulk–she indeed was quite heavy– forced the collapse of the outhouse she was using. 

A stroke is what killed the empress of Russia.

Besides the urban legend about the horse, Catherine is best-known for the term “Potemkin Village.” Her governor in southern Russia–and her onetime lover–Grigory Potemkin, supposedly built facades of prosperous villages that hid the reality behind the proto-Hollywood sets. One of abject poverty that Catherine otherwise would see as she toured Potemkin’s region.

Most modern historians believe that these Potemkin Villages were either a myth or a gross exaggeration.

What is not a myth is that the Biden-Harris administration is attempting to hide a crisis at the southern border. Not with wooden facades, yet there is a metaphorical Potemkin Village there. Those figurative walls were knocked down Friday when a group of Republican senators, led by Texans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, visited a detention facility in Donna, Texas, one that Cruz said was built for 250 people but is now holding 4,000

Cruz brought his smartphone as you can see.

Joe Biden promised transparency as president. That’s not happening at the migrant facilities at the border, where the media is banned. “What is occurring here at the border is heartbreaking and it’s a tragedy,” Cruz said shortly after his visit. “It is striking that not a single one of these cameras is allowed in the Donna facility. We requested media to come inside and the Biden administration denied us.” 

A day earlier during his only press conference as president Biden was pressured, gently of course, about when the media would be allowed at the migrant facilities. He unsteadily answered, “This is being set up and you’ll have full access to everything once we get this thing moving.” Translation: The situation at these camps will embarrass the Biden-Harris administration and as soon as we clean it up–or we are able to hide the worst scenes at these facilities–we’ll let reporters in.

For now, as Kevin Bacon laughingly said during the riot at the end of the movie Animal House, “All is well.”

Expect four more years–whether Joe Biden or Kamala Harris is in charge–of such opaqueness. The lapdog media–which only bares its teeth when a Republican is president–will guarantee it. They are the contributing architects to the Biden-Harris Potemkin Village at the southern border–and others that are likely to come.

All will be well.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The leader of the American Gerontocracy trips and falls

By John Ruberry

Unless you tuned in at the right time and you get your news only from MSNBC or CNN you probably didn’t know that President Joe Biden, while climbing the stairs up to Air Force One, fell not once, not twice–but three times. Apparently he was not injured.

Biden, 78, is the oldest man to serve as US president. How old? The prior oldest commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan was 77 years-old when he completed his second term. 

Biden has been president for 60 days–he has gone longer than any president without holding a press conference since Calvin Coolidge. But Biden will end that silence by holding an afternoon presser on Thursday. 

Many conservative commentators have made a similar observation. Joe Biden’s fastball, if he ever had one, has lost its spin. Biden’s tightly controlled appearances have gone beyond gaffes. In one appearance he clearly forgot the name of his Defense secretary and where he worked, referring to him as “the guy who runs that outfit over there.” Oh, his name is Lloyd Austin, “that outfit” is the US military and “over there” is the Pentagon.

What else?

He referred to his vice president as “President Harris.” Was Biden dropping a hint?

In Texas while discussing relief from the winter storm there Biden uttered, “What am I doing here?” He also botched the some names of dignitaries at that appearance.

An unsure Biden during a video feed said, “I’m happy to take questions if that’s what I’m supposed to do, Nance [Nancy Pelosi], whatever you want me to do.” But then the White House abruptly cut off that feed.

While Biden has been president for a brief time, I’m not cherry-picking these embarrasments. They have one thing in common. All occurred in the last four weeks.

Everyone knows of an elderly relative who one day just didn’t mentally have it anymore. There’s an unsteadiness in speech, in steps of too, the eyes aren’t focused, names are forgotten, or they are confused with others.

That’s Biden. 

It gets worse for America. Lots of other people in government leadership are really old. There’s speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who turns 81 this week, House majority whip James Clyburn, the kingmaker who arguably paved the way for Biden winning the Democratic nomination, is 80, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is 70, his second-in-command, Dick Durbin, is 76, and Treasury secretary Janet Yellen is 74. Ah, but liberals cry out as they do about so many other political discussions. “What about Trump?”

Well, what about him?

True, until Biden’s win Trump was the oldest person elected to the presidency. But Trump regularly engaged the media in impromptu question-and-answer sessions. His energetic campaign rallies usually lasted more than an hour–where he spoke without notes–or a teleprompter.

Contrast Trump with Biden, with his shoulders slumped, squinting into a teleprompter as he struggles through his speeches. Yes, medical technology and healthier living habits have allowed people to live longer than ever. Age was a major issue for Reagan, who was 68 when he won his first presidential election in 1980 as it was for him four years later. But science–which of course we must follow at all times–has had less success battling cognitive decline and dementia.

Being old should not be a disqualifier to be president. Konrad Adenauer, 74, became chancellor of West Germany in 1949, a key reason he was chosen is that he was seen as a transitional leader for the new nation because of his age. But he served capably until he was 87. In 2003, German television viewers selected Adenauer as the greatest German of all time.

Coincidentally last spring, when he had clinched the Democratic nomination, Biden declared himself a “transition” candidate. Sorry, Joe, but you are no Konrad Adenauer. 

Biden is the head of state of the American Gerontocracy. That’s not a good thing.

In the 1970s and early 1980s the Soviet politburo was dominated by old men. After the long-ailing Leonid Brezhnev died in 1981, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, then Konstantin Chernenko, two sick old men. Finally a vigorous and relatively young Mikhail Gorbachev took the helm at the Kremlin in 1985. But by 1991 the Soviet Union was no more.

Back to Germany.

Paul von Hindenburg, a World War I hero, wanted to retire as president of Germany in 1932. He reluctantly ran for reelection after being warned that if he didn’t to so then Adolf Hitler would win the presidency. Hindenburg prevailed, but the next year he appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg died in 1934 at the age of 86; historians disagree whether he suffered from cognitive decline late in his life.

Hold on! I’m not saying, or even hinting, that because of Biden and the Gerontacracy that the United States faces imminent dissolution or a dictatorship. American democracy is still very robust. But a weaker America is already here. Whether by choice, inacation, or by incompetence, our southern border is no longer secure. At last week’s disastrous summit with China in Anchorage, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was lectured by our adversary over our human rights record. Yep, this is the same China that has concentration camps for Uyghurs and is stifling democracy in Hong Kong. Biden’s sole legislative achievement, the $1.9 billion stimulus, may bring back 1970s-style inflation. As I wrote last week there are winners and losers with inflation. The latter won’t keep quiet. 

Biden is already the weakest American president since Jimmy Carter, who was just 56 when he left office. Yes, age isn’t everything.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was an ill man in the last year of his life. Shortly before his death he was duped by Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, eastern Europe was gift-wrapped for the communists.

A weaker America means a more unstable world. 

Right now the symbol of America to the rest of the world is a frail Biden falling on a set of stairs.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

High inflation will make Illinois’ pension crisis less severe

By John Ruberry

Will high inflation offer benefits? In Illinois and other states burdened by woefully underfunded pension plans, it just might.

Boss Michael Madigan, the man behind Illinois’ financial debacle, is finally gone. Hard work by the Illinois Policy Institute, some Republicans, local radio hosts, and yes, bloggers, made the Madigan name toxic. The tipping point against the longtime chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and the speaker of the state House for all but two years since 1983, was a disappointing 2020 general election. He’s now enjoying a comfortable retirement.

How comfortable? Madigan, 78, contributed just $350,000 to his retirement, an amount he’ll collect as a state pensioner in just three years, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Over the next 17 years, of course if he lives that long, the Chicagoan will collect $2.9 million from his pension. Not that Madigan is poor. Presumably he’s made a lot of money from his law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, which specializes in property tax appeals. How much money? We’ll never know because Madigan has never released his income tax returns. 

In 1989, Governor James Thompson, a Republican, signed into law a bill that gave Illinois retirees a three-percent annual cost-of-living increase raise in their pensions. Which means after twenty years their pensions double. Madigan was the House speaker when the pension COLA bill passed through the General Assembly. 

Over thirty years later Illinois’ pension plans are among the worst-funded among the 50 states.

Short of default–pension benefits are protected by the state constitution–or a federal bailout, there is no way out for Illinois in regards to these obligations. It’s that bad.

But then there is inflation. Joe Biden’s stimulus package, most of which is not related to COVID-19, has many economists, including Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, worrying about higher inflation. A basic explanation of how high inflation occurs is too much cash chasing too few goods. And Biden’s stimulus is more than double that of Barack Obama’s stimulus of 2009.

Here’s what Forbes’ Elizabeth Bauer said two years ago about inflation and pensions:

If the United States were to hit a period of high inflation rates, sustained over a long period of time, these liabilities would shrink considerably — and I’m not even speaking, snarky photo aside [the article contains a photograph of a Zimbabwean $100 trillion bill], of hyperinflation. Based on my calculations (and yes, these are real calculations, using real data for this plan collected for another project, not merely back-of-the-envelope estimates, however unlikely the very even numbers make it appear), an inflation rate of 10%, and assumptions for interest rate/asset return rate and salary increases over time which reflect the same net-of-inflation rates as at present, would halve the pension liabilities of the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System.

Crisis solved? Kinda sorta. Public pension debt in Illinois will be less of a financial burden if 1970s-type inflation returns. And of course it’s easy to chuckle about the over 100,000 retirees who last year were collecting over $100,000 annually in their pensions, unless you are a member of this fortunate caste.

But what about the retirees collecting half of that–after years of seeing large chunks of every paycheck deducted for retirement? They’ll lose too.

When I was in college an economics professor explained to me and my classmates that inflation is a zero-sum game; he used the example of a five-person poker game. When the first cards are dealt there is, let’s say, $500 placed in chips, $100 per-player. When the final hands are played there is still $500. Some leave the table richer, others poorer. 

High inflation–and hyper inflation–will reward some, which is why, for my largely self-funded 401(k) plan, I recently moved some of my funds into real estate. Let’s hope I made the right decision.

Among hypothetical inflationary losers will be Illinois pensioners, and presumably other public-penioners, unless their plans are tied to the annual rate of inflation. 

Of course don’t expect the public-sector union bosses to quietly accept their fate if inflation deals them, excuse me for not letting go of the poker example, a bad hand. Among the lessons learned from the COVID-19 lockown is that teachers unions are very powerful and they have the ears of Democratic politicians, despite what the science says about the virus and how it spreads among younger people.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season One of Tribes of Europa

By John Ruberry

I guess I’m in an arts and culture mood of late so I’m reviewing my latest Netflix binge-watching adventure, Tribes of Europa, a six-episode series about a dystopian Europe centered on the former Germany in 2074. 

In December of 2029 the world’s power-grid fails–the cause of which is never explained, but it could be because of a cyberwar gone too far, along the lines of the biological warfare that precedes the Charlton Heston classic, The Omega Man.

Europe has devolved well past the European Union or even the nation-states that the borders of which–for the most part–have been resilient since the end of World War II. Microstate tribes have replaced the old order. One of those tribes is the Origines (rhymes with aborigines), a peaceful group of several dozen hunter-gatherers, wearing, presumably, scavenged clothes from before society’s collapse. Their community is destroyed after a B-1 type aircraft, belonging to the technologically advanced Atlantians, crashes near their village.

Three young Origine siblings, Liv (Henriette Confurius), Elja (David Ali Rashed), and Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), along with their father Jakob (Benjamin Sadler), are forced to scatter, the siblings carve three storylines, much like what the children of Ned Stark did in Game of Thrones. Yes, this show is derivative. Much of the mood and tone recalls another German series, the time-travel show Dark. The producers of that series also are behind this one. And there is a bit of the Star Wars franchise in Tribes of Europa. Moses (Oliver Masucci) is a fast-talking salvage merchant who is constantly trying to keep one step ahead of a powerful lender. Who does that remind you of? Moses takes Elja under his wing. Masucci is a gifted actor, he portyayed the brooding Ulrich in Dark, a cruel but ultimately tragic character, as well as Hitler in the comedy Look Who’s Back

Moses is only interested, at least initially, in Elja, the youngest of the Origine siblings, because he found an Atlantian cube, which, must like the Ring of Power in the Lord of the Rings, is sought after by other tribes, particularly the Crows. And in the early episodes, like the Ring, we are unsure of exactly what powers the cube possesses. As for the Crows, they are barbarians who party in discos and participate in gladiator duels.

Yes, there is a bit of The Hunger Games in Tribes of Europa.

Liv falls in the the Crimson Army, which is led by General Cameron (James Faulkner). He’s the actor who portayed the stern Randyll Tarly in Game of Thrones. One of the Crimson Army’s goals is to seize the former Berlin, Brahtok, the Crow capital, where Kiano and Jakob are being held.

Cameron dreams of bringing back the old Europe. Liv asks the general, “Do you really think you can pull it off, unite the continent?” Cameron replies, “The European idea will never die.” According to numerous media sources the idea for Tribes of Europa came to show creator Philip Koch after the Brexit vote in 2016.

The German in Tribes of Europa is dubbed for Netflix. But in a key revelation, English is still the lingua franca in post-collapse Europe.

There are just six episodes in the first season and as this one ends with three cliffhangers, I imagine a second season of Tribes of Europa is planned. If there is I’ll tune in.

Netlix rates Tribes of Europa as TV-MA for graphic violence, foul language, nudity, and very uncomfortable sexual situations. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Lincoln statues under attack in the largest city in the Land of Lincoln

Lincoln: The Man in 2008

By John Ruberry

On Wednesday, in response to the summer riot in Chicago that nearly toppled a Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park last month–it and another Columbus statue have been since placed in storage–Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Monument Project revealed 41 monuments that “have been identified for public discussion.” 

The project’s web site cautions, in bold print no less, “No decisions have been made about the following monuments.”

Yeah, right. BS! Imagine that you work at a company where the annual reviews are conducted each December. But in June you are informed that you’ll soon have a mid-year review but then are told, “Don’t worry, nothing is wrong.” At that point a wise person will begin the process of résumé updating. 

The statues, reliefs, and plaques include monuments honoring four presidents, several memorials recalling the first Europeans to visit Chicago, Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette, as well as generals, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and many public art pieces with Native American themes. And yes of course those two Columbus statues. Oh, if you are one of those people who believe Leif Ericsson was the real European discoverer of America don’t be smug. He’s on Lightfoot commission’s list too.

This not a list of shame. It’s a tragic shame that there is such a list.

Five of the 41 monuments are Abraham Lincoln statues–and there are five Lincoln statues in Chicago. Hmm. Widely considered by liberals and conservatives as the greatest American president, the Great Emancipator’s presence in Illinois is profound and inescapable. “Land of Lincoln” is emblazoned on every Illinois license plate as is Honest Abe’s visage. 

I live on Lincoln Avenue in a Chicago suburb–that street winds its way south into Chicago and Lincoln Park, where you’ll encounter what Andrew Ferguson in his book Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America says is “what is generally thought to be the greatest Lincoln statue of the nineteenth century, a towering figure by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.” That makes this statue, generally referred to as Lincoln Standing although its formal name is Lincoln: The Man, a masterpiece. Yep, a masterpiece. So much so that it has been recast several times, and those Lincoln: The Man reproductions can be found in Parque Lincoln in Mexico City, Parliament Square in London, Forest Lawn Cemetery–Hollywood Hills, and the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield. Earlier this month Little Marathon Pundit and I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, where we found one of the many miniatures of Lincoln: The Man

Of course back in Chicago the original artistic triumph is “under public discussion.” In Grant Park sits another targeted Saint-Gaudens work, Abraham Lincoln: Head of State.

Also troubling is the aforementioned Marquette and Jolliet memorials on this list. Jolliet, while crossing the Chicago Portage in what is now southwestern suburban Cook County, noted that it would be an excellent location for a canal, one that would connect the watersheds of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Lincoln, while a member of the Illinois legislature, was a proponent of the Illinois-Michigan Canal, which opened 17 decades after the Marquette-Jolliet expedition. While that canal very well may have been built without either men, if it hadn’t, Chicago may have ended up like many other small cities on Lake Michigan, like Sheboygan, Wisconin. (Oh, I’ve been there–it’s a lovely place by the way.)

George Washington has two “nominations” from the Chicago Monuments Project, including his horseback statue in his namesake park. McKinley Park’s statue of William McKinley is in peril too. Does that mean their park names will be next? While Grant Park doesn’t have a Ulysses S. Grant statue–Lincoln Park does. He has a nomination too, as do his fellow union generals Phil Sheridan, on Sheridan Road no less, and John Logan, whose statue stands in Grant Park.  

Lori Lightfoot is a failed mayor in a city that is in clear decline. Failed mayor? She’s up for reelection in a little more than two years and already there is speculation as to who her opponents will be. Since I declared Chicago a city in decline last summer its retail cash cow, North Michigan Avenue, has been hit by the announment of two closings, a massive Gap store and Macy’s at Water Tower Place. Chicago’s streets are potholed disasters, there are omnipresent red-light cameras to contend with, the murder rate is soaring, as are the number of car jackings. Taxes are oppresive, and its financial millstone, the worst-funded municipal pension progam in the nation, has never been properly addressed. Oh, this appears to be a little thing but graffiti is no longer routinely cleaned up along Chicago’s expressways. The proliferation of kudzu-like graffiti foreshadowed New York City’s descent in the 1970s.

Instead Lightfoot zooms in on statues and monuments to pander to her leftist base. 

The ultimate responsibility for this real-life dystopia of course goes to Chicago’s misguided voters. What was it that H.L Mencken said of democracy? Ah yes, here it is, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Chicago voters are a special kind of common people it seems

That being said there has been surprisingly little anger here in the Chicago area about these possible monument removals, as coverage has been modest and a major snowstorm earlier last week, on top of another one, had people focused on more immediate needs. 

But that needs to change. Click here on the Chicago Monuments Project web site to offer your thoughts. As always, please be polite–but be firm too. The form asks for a ZIP code. A Chicago one will make you more acceptable to those reading the replies; choose any 606 ZIP code between 60601 and 60661. Just saying.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. He has visited Lincoln’s birthplace, his Springfield home, Ford’s Theatre, and the Peterson House, where our 16th president passed away.