Well-deserved pushback against Chicago Monuments Project underway

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

By John Ruberry 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.


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.

John Lausch needs to stay as US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois

Blogger with Durbin in Chicago in 2020

By John Ruberry

Last Monday the Justice Department asked 56 U.S. attorneys to resign. There were two exceptions, John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, will stay on as the special counsel for the investigation of the Russian collusion hoax, and David Weiss, the prosecutor for Delaware, who is pursuing the probe into Hunter Biden’s taxes, and presumably, more.

Among the others are John R. Lausch Jr., the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, which of course includes that cesspool of corruption, Chicago and suburban Cook County. Appointed in 2017, Lausch has been methodically hacking away at the blighted forest that is Illinois government ever since. Among those indicted under Lausch’s term are a Chicago alderman, two suburban mayors (one of them was also Cook County commissioner), and two members of the Illinois General Assembly. They have one thing in common–all are Democrats. Lausch has chipped away at the political machine of state Representative Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who until last month had been state House speaker for all but two years since 1983. Lausch uncovered an alleged scam involving Commonwealth Edison, Illinois’ largest electric utility, that has led to the indictment of four senior executives at that company, as well as a longtime lobbyist with decades-long ties to Boss Madigan. 

Madigan is the midwife of the Illinois pension debacle and he is the man who destroyed Illinois. Sadly, those aren’t crimes.

Lausch seems to be closing the ring on Madigan, who remains as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, a post he’s held since 1998. Madigan maintains his innocence and he has not been charged with any crimes. But he’s a tough one to investigate–Madigan doesn’t use email and he doesn’t own a cell phone. There’s a lot of smoke surrounding the 78-year-old legislator–but so far no fire has been discovered. 

It took a lot longer than it should have but Illinois’ insipid Republican Party, the Washington Generals to the Democrats’ Harlem Globetrotters, finally pursued tying other Democratic candidates to Madigan, which led to a pretty good, but not great, general election for conservatives last autumn. The best result was the resounding defeat of the so-called Fair Tax Amendent, which would have replaced Illinois’ flat rate income tax with one with graduated rates. As I’ve quipped a few times before, Illinoisans finally figured out that if the Democrats were given an unlimited budget they would exceed it. 

After the general election Illinois’ two Democratic US Senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, called for Madigan’s resignation as party chairman. No, they didn’t suddenly realize that Madigan is toxic to Illinois; Durbin and Duckworth didn’t like the general election results here. 

The state House took care of the speakership problem, the Democrats ousted Madigan last month but replaced him with a longtime ally of the Boss. 

The day after the Justice Department announced those federal prosecutor resignations, in what the Chicago Tribune called “a lame news release,”  those two party-line hack senators called on Biden to keep Lausch on the job. I am very suspicious of their motives. Duckworth is up for reelection next year and if the federal investigation into Chicago area corruption stalls she might get the blunt of the blame for not convincing Biden to keep Lausch in place. 

Durbin is the new Senate Justice Committee chairman and prefers not to be accused of keeping corrupt Dems in power in his home state. Back to gerrymandering and Madigan: Aftet the 2010 census the state congressional map was redrawn to be much more favorable to Democrats. The 8th congressional district was transformed from a competitive one to a layout favoring Democrats. In 2012 Duckworth ousted the Republican incumbent, future never-Trumper Joe Walsh.

Remember, for many Democrats Madigan has been very good to them. His skills at gerrymandering have produced supermajorities in the General Assembly and have bolstered Democratic numbers among the Illinois US House delegation. There may have never been a Senator Duckworth had she not won that House race in 2012. Through government and compliant corporations like Commonwealth Edison, Madigan has been able to hand out contracts, favors, and jobs to those loyal to him–as well as their relatives.

Lausch needs to be kept on the job in Chicago. 

Biden’s nominee for Attorney General is Merrick Garland, a Chicago area native who was nominated by Barack Obama to the US Supreme Court seat that eventually went to Neil Gorsuch. But he hasn’t lived here in decades. Yet my guess is that Garland has kept his eyes on the fetid muck in Illinois. Perhaps he can put in a good word for Lausch to Biden or whoever is making the calls in the White House on federal prosecutors.

Sorry to be repetitive, but I have to keep mentioning this fact. Illinois has lost population every year since 2014. 

People have wised up. But not me. Not yet.

UPDATE February 23: Last night Michael Madigan resigned his post as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Last week Madigan gave up his House seat after 50 years in the General Assembly. Term limits anyone?

This afternoon, according to multiple media reports, Lausch will keep his job as US attorney until a replacement is found and presumably confirmed.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.

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.

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.

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.

COVID-19 lockdowns must end for the sake of our overall health

Outside a store in Wisconsin earlier this month

By John Ruberry

Who else besides me is fed up wearing a mask when shopping at a supermarket?

Or at work?

Or a restaurant? 

I haven’t eaten inside an Illinois restaurant–or in a tent–since Governor JB Pritzker instituted his first lockdown in March. I’ve picked up take-out meals only.

Who has had enough of lockdowns?

As a person with a strong libertarian bent I don’t like being bossed around, pestered, or nagged. 

But I’ve been coping with all of that for months. 

I know ten people who’ve contracted COVID-19. Only two of them told me they were very ill. Two were asymptomatic. All of them are still with us–in fact, they’ve all returned to their jobs as if nothing happened. 

Last month the Centers for Disease Control released the survival rates for those who have contracted COVID-19.

  • Age 0-19 — 99.997%
  • Age 20-49 — 99.98%
  • Age 50-69 — 99.5%
  • Age 70+ — 94.6%

So if you are over 70, and most people already know that seniors are more prone to death from COVID-19 than everyone else, you have a 94.6 percent of surviving. President Trump is one of those septuagenarians who has recovered. Yes, COVID-19 is serious, because those stats also say those 70 and over have a slightly higher than 5 percent chance of dying from it. 

Here’s another situation where that percentage, 94 percent, comes in to play. Nearly two months ago the CDC said of those deaths from the novel coronavirus, 94 percent had “multiple chronic conditions.” In other words, they were already unhealthy. Every death is tragic. But part of life is getting sick, getting injured, getting old, and yes, passing away. You can fool, perhaps, your neighbors or co-workers about your true age with hair dye and plastic surgery, but never can you hoodwink Father Time. 

Humans are intensely social animals, as are all primates. It’s in our genetic makeup. The most watched television shows and movies are centered on personal interactions. One of the most popular TV programs ever aired is “Friends.” There is not a show entitled “Hermits,” there is no interest in producing such a program because few people would want to watch it. 

The death rate from COVID-19 is very low for the very young. Yet many of our schools are closed except for cold and impersonal Zoom sessions.

Usually our first and most lasting impressions with others of our species is by way of their faces. But the mask requirements in many states, especially blue ones like mine, take those connections away from us.

The lockdowns have led to an increase in drug overdoses and possibly suicides. Among young people, the CDC says, the death rate for young people is higher for overdoses and suicides than for COVID 19.

That wave just might be beginning. For instance, Chicago, which is just south of where I live, just instated another curfew because of an uptick in COVID cases. All businesses deemed non-essential for the next two weeks must close between 10pm and 6am. Bars and restaurants, already reeling from being closed down this spring, will be hit especially hard. Some of these businesses, especially those struck by looting this summer, will never re-open. Which means of course more people will be prone to suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. The workforce in the food and beverage industry is disproportionately young.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit was an early victim of the COVID-19 lockout layoffs. She’s fine–she has a new job in a different field. But her former boss was forced to downsize his business, which I believe his home mortgage was tied into. He sold his home this summer and moved into a much smaller residence.

There are millions of former business owners facing similar situations across America. And not all workers, such as Mrs. Marathon Pundit, will be able to land on their feet. 

One “fix” to the drop in revenue for brick-and-mortar restaurants is to set up plastic tents next to them. Diners instead of eating indoors will be eating, sort of, outdoors in these tents, but still breathing each other’s air. Alongside them in cold weather climates, in the winter, will be space heaters, which are a well-known fire hazard. 

Follow the science. 

Take a deep breath before reading this next paragraph.

Based on my current age, overall health, and family history, I’ll probably live another 25-years. I do not want to spend those years wearing a mask. I don’t want to go running outdoors–and this really happened–as I run 50 yards past a couple who, in horror, hurriedly put their masks over their faces as I move, maskless, down the street that I live on as if I am Typhoid Mary. According to federal government data, there have been 624 positive cases of COVID-19 in the town I live in, Morton Grove, which has a population of 23,000.

Who frightened that Morton Grove couple? Not me, well not initially that is.

Will the mask mandates return–if they ever go away–when a more virulent than usual strain of the flu strikes?

Follow the science. 

This is not a distress from me call but instead a call for action. For the sake of our overall health–while maintaining strict safety controls in places such as senior homes and hospitals–these lockdowns must end. But I suspect many politicians–such as Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago–don’t want the lockdowns to end. They are too in love with power. Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker told us we needed the lockdowns to “flatten the curve” in the spring so hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Now they want to prevent all of us getting sick, which as we know is not possible.

The goalposts keep moving.

Years ago I read in a book about marathon training that stated that distance running, all things being equal, does indeed lead to a longer life expectancy. But more importantly, those extra years on this planet for runners usually mean they are enjoyable years. Who is going to sign up for an additional ten years of life if those years will consist of living in a nursing home in need of 24-hour care?

The quality of life for myself and millions of others is diminished because we are ordered to wear masks and to avoid each other.

End the lockdowns.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Questions the mainstream media needs to be asking Biden

By John Ruberry

Last week CNN hosted a town hall for Joe Biden where he was given softball questions. No, on second thought they were T-ball questions. 

The demands on whoever is president are brutal. If CNN believes that Biden can’t handle challenging queries then that in my opinion disqualifies him to be leader of the most powerful nation on the planet. And if CNN is just shilling for the Democrats, then no one should take them seriously as a news outlet. Based on their poor ratings, most people already do not. 

Here are some questions that responsible reporters should be asking Biden. The wonderful thing about the questions I’ve devised is that most of them can be posed to President Trump. Yes, a few of these queries have been given to Biden, but generally only once and with dismissive answers from the Democratic nominee.

Here we go:

  • Will you be releasing the names of your potential Supreme Court nominees, as President Trump did as a candidate in 2016 and did earlier this month?
  • Do you support “packing the Supreme Court,” that is, nominating additional justices to the court to go beyond nine members?
  • Where’s Hunter?
  • Do you unconditionally oppose Antifa?
  • Will a Biden administration investigate plots by Antifa and other groups to incite riots in cities such as Portland?
  • You favor a nationwide mask mandate to fight COVID-19. What is your legal basis for instituting one?
  • Do you support statehood for the District of Columbia? And for Puerto Rico?
  • Many states, such as Illinois, Kentucky, and New Jersey, have public-sector worker pension plans that are essentially bankrupt. Do you support a federal bailout of these and other state worker pension plans?
  • Numerous cities also have similarly under-funded pension plans. Will you back a bailout of those plans?
  • What is your position on bailing out states whose tax revenues have plummeted because of COVID-19 lockdowns?
  • Do you favor allowing states to declare bankruptcy?
  • Speaking of Illinois, in 2008 the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, was in the midst of a corruption investigation of Rod Blagojevich, the governor of the state, and Tony Rezko, a member of Blago’s inner circle who donated large sums to the campaigns of Barack Obama. Your ticket mate kept Fitzgerald in his post after becoming president. This year John Lausch, the current US Attorney in Chicago, is in the thick of investigating more public corruption. The center of this scandal appears to be longtime Illinois state House speaker Michael Madigan who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. If elected will you keep Lausch in his post?
  • Where’s Hunter?
  • If elected you will be older than Ronald Reagan, the oldest person to serve as president, was when he left office after two terms. Are you physically and mentally up to the office? If you are now what will happen if you one day are not?
  • Do you support the Green New Deal?
  • Do you support fracking?
  • Do you support nuclear power?
  • Do you support coal power?
  • Do you back amnesty for illegal immigrants?
  • Do you utilize teleprompters during interviews and question-and-answer sessions?
  • Where’s Hunter?

I’m sure there are many more questions readers can come up with.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Update on the continuing Illinois Exodus

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

Decline and fall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do I sign up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decline and fall. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Lori Lightfoot believes she deserves security on her block, but not Chicago’s peasants

North Michigan Avenue in June after Chicago’s first round of looting this summer

By John Ruberry

If you need more proof that America’s elite class feels that there are rules for them but not you, then take a look at Chicago’s floundering mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

America’s third-largest–for now–city isn’t at the abyss, it’s in it. Riots, looting shootings, unsustainable pension debt, and a declining population are what defines her Chicago. To be fair, the public worker pension bomb is largely the creation of Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago for all of the 1990s and 2000s.

Streets are regularly blocked off–not by police–but by protesters who don’t even bother apply for a rally permit. One march eight days ago, which was hampered by a poor turnout, had as its goal to close off off Interstate 90-94, known as the Dan Ryan Expressway, on the South Side. The right to peaceful assemble does not include blocking off an expressway, which, according to a police friend of mine, breaks a state law: unauthorized entry on to an interstate highway. I find it hard to believe that Chicago cops can’t find a law to allow them to arrest people who block traffic elsewhere in the city. 

That march was a Trojan horse for agitators. The protest migrated to downtown, where it ended violently–even Lightfoot has ascertained that fact, telling Face the Nation, “What we’ve seen is people who have embedded themselves in these seemingly peaceful protests [emphasis mine],” she admitted, “and have come for a fight.” Downtown Chicago and the Near North Side earlier that week was struck by widespread looting, and that round of mayhem delivered a blow that the city may never recover from because 70 percent of Chicago’s economic activity comes from the downtown area.

As I wrote in this space last Sunday, Welcome to Detroit, Chicago.

One popular rally site has been the block in Logan Square on the Northwest Side where Lightfoot lives. But backed by a heavy police presence, protests are now banned there.

“I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats that we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure that my home is secure,” Lightfoot said last week.

Public figures receive threats regularly. If you don’t like that then don’t run for political office. But Mayor Lightweight is clueless on this fact. She’s clueless on many other things, but that’s another matter.

“That’s not what my wife and my child signed up for,” she declared while defending her action. “It’s not what my neighbors signed up for. We have a right in our home to live in peace.”

Meanwhile, murders in Chicago are up 50 percent this year over 2019 and they were 139 percent higher in July alone. Many business owners and their employees are coping with two rounds of looting in a little over two months. They are dreading increases in their insurance coverage–some are considering closing their boarded-up doors for good. 

So much for the peasants’ right to “live in peace.”

Chicago police officers are working twelve-hour shifts to address the protests that often turn violent and the dramatic spike in shootings. There aren’t cops in Chicago sitting around looking for things to do. Duh! But Mayor Beetlejuice has her praetorian guard in front of here home, who last night arrested six protesters. All of them by the way, are from out of state, which belies the meme of the left that the protests are spontaneous outbursts by locals. 

What else is going on in Lightfoot’s home base in Logan Square? Earlier this month a 14-year-old was told, “You’re a racist and you ain’t gonna do sh*t,” by a man as he allegedly stole the kid’s bike. It’s too bad there wasn’t an army of cops there when that happened, although the suspect was arrested a half-hour later after he allegedly committed two more crimes

And of course there is no army of police officers on each block of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods on the West and South Sides. As for violent crimes in the city it’s not just about guns. Last week a serial stabber of sleeping homeless men was arrested. Will Lightfoot blame knives-from-Indiana for those attacks, one of which was fatal?

On Saturday Black Lives Matter is planning a march on North Michigan Avenue just north of downtown. The area is, for now, known as the Magnificent Mile. It is, for now, packed with many retail stores. Don’t forget, a Chicago Black Lives Matter organizer said of looting, “That is reparations.”  My guess is that the protest will be allowed tp proceed. Many people live on the Mag Mile too. My suggestion to them is to pool their funds and buy a condo for Lightfoot and pay her moving expenses. 

And then there will be no more protests on North Michigan Avenue.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit