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

Welcome to Detroit, Chicago

By John Ruberry

About twelve hours after I finished my DTG post last week about Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s get-tough policy on sunbathers in Chicago at Lake Michigan, Chicago became Detroit. That’s not to say that you can now drive for miles in America’s third-largest city–for now–and see nothing but a few lived-in homes among the vacant lots and abandoned houses. Just as you didn’t encounter that in Detroit after the destructive riots there a few days after the 1967 riots faded away.

The Motor City hit rock bottom in 2013 when it declared bankruptcy.

These things take time. Detroit is turning things around now. But its vacant lots will be there for many years.

“Seventy percent of Chicago’s economic activity takes place in and around downtown,” Mike Flannery said last night on his Flannery Fired Up program on Fox Chicago, “and it’s in more peril now than ever before.”

And that’s where the looting, likely directed by Antifa, was centered late last Sunday night and early Monday morning–in and around downtown. Flannery called it “Sad, organized-crime looting.”

So the simple story is that economically speaking, the heart of Chicago is the Loop and North Michigan Avenue, the latter has been known as the Magnificent Mile for decades. You kill that and Chicago dies. Welcome to Detroit.

Last Sunday afternoon a 20-year-old Englewood man was shot by Chicago police officers; he has since been charged with first-degree attempted murder. The accused allegedly shot at the police. A rumor spread online–or was it a manufactured lie?–that the cops shot instead shot an unarmed 15-year-old boy in the same impoverished Englewood neighborhood.

Then came the looting later that night.

The coordinated manner of the looting consisted of mobile criminals, a few of them armed, that quickly descended on the Mag Mile. Some of them came with specialized tools such as drills to hasten the break-ins. There were reports of U-Hauls being packed with stolen goods. The thieves were more organized, Flannery remarked, than the 400 police officers dispatched downtown to confront them.

Much like the people of Englewood, the residents of the downtown area–and the business owners–don’t feel safe there. That’s not to say the folks of the South Side–or the even-worse off West Side–don’t deserve to feel safe. They certainly do. Some of that 70-percent-of-Chicago’s-economic-activity makes its way to the city’s poverty-stricken areas. Should they receive more of it? Probably, but that discussion will belong to shoulda-happened-looking-back rants that you’ll find on Reddit soon.

A few days after the most recent round of looting it was reported that Macy’s is considering leaving the glitzy Water Tower Place mall on North Michigan Avenue, or just perhaps they’ll just downsize there. Under the Marshall Field’s name Macy’s was an original tenant of the mall. What of the smaller operations, the family-run retail outlets who have been devastated with two rounds of looting in just over two months? When they leave, because they don’t have the big names, it won’t make big news. 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.

As for the residents of the Loop, the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, and Lakeview, unlike those people in Englewood, they can afford to move and swallow selling their homes at a loss. A lot of them will. “Why should I stay here?” many will wonder, “there is so much crime, there are no good restaurants here, and there are no decent places to shop.”

You don’t believe me? Here’s what Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd), a Lightfoot opponent, said on that same Flannery Fired Up show. He decried “the economic devastation and the blow to our collective psyche,” as well as “the sense that people have that they can’t live here anymore, their safety is at risk if they try to live here.” Hopkins believes with the right actions Chicago can be saved. Lightfoot certainly knows that she is facing a severe crisis. But I suspect because she is an ideologue she is incapable of instituting meaningful policy changes.

Right now I believe that for Chicago it’s a matter of mitigating its decline and fall. The looting and riots are of course just a symptom. Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1931 but it’s best-known mayor–and possibly its best-ever–was machine boss Richard J. Daley, who ruled America’s then-second-largest city with an iron fist from 1955 until 1976. He was a New Deal Democrat–with a strong law-and-order bent. But Lori Lightfoot is Chicago’s first leftist mayor. After the spring round of looting and riots she seemed more interested in protecting the rights of protesters than protecting citizens and businesses. Sadly the line between rioters and protesters in 2020 is blurry and that sentiment was expressed by a Black Lives Matter organizer who said last week in front of a Chicago Police station about looting, “That is reparations.”

Yesterday a march on the South Side evolved in a violent confrontation downtown between protesters and the police. Cops were attacked with mace, one police officer was repeatedly struck with a skateboard.

Who brings mace to a “peaceful” protest?

The elected prosecutor of Cook County is another leftist, Kim Foxx, Jussie Smollett’s protector, who in one of her first acts in office announced that she would not prosecute shoplifters charged with stealing merchandise worth less than $1,000, even though state law gives a $300 threshold. For the last three years–Foxx was elected in 2016–retail strips have been hit by flash mobs of shoplifters, including some on the Magnificent Mile.

Many accounts of this latest round of looting mentioned that the criminals seemed emboldened. Of course they are.

Chicago has other serious problems. Its municipal pension programs are the worst-funded of any major city. Detroit’s fall was hastened by enacting a commuter and municipal income tax in 1963. Chicago doesn’t have either of those but it has its pension bomb. So does Cook County and the rest of Illinois. Lightfoot, to be fair, didn’t create the Chicago pension crisis. It was Boss Daley’s son, Richard M., another long-serving mayor, who bears most of the responsibility for that disaster.

Welcome to Detroit.

If there is a way out for Chicago, here it is. State law needs to be changed so municipalities and government agencies can declare bankruptcy. This move will in the short-term be painful as pensioners will receive a “haircut” and vendors will end up with ten-cents on the dollar or so for money owed to them. And the federal government needs to allow states to do the same.

Yep, just like Detroit.

I’m not gleeful about such a move. I have friends and relatives who are collecting those pensions. And as a man of the private-sector I don’t like seeing businesses getting short-changed. As a property owner living just five miles from the city limits I might get caught up in the financial tsunami too.

But the money wasn’t there for pensions in Chicago before COVID-19 and the riots. There’s less of it now.

I was born in Chicago and I’ve lived one-third of my life there. This story is tragic.

Agitators in Chicago complain of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy.” Perhaps. But then again perhaps not. Lightfoot, Foxx, as well as the Cook County president, Toni Preckwinkle, are African-American women. Chicago’s new police chief is a black man, he succeeded another African-American male. The chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court is a black man too.

Another way to cushion Chicago’s fall is its citizens to vote, regardless of party-affiliation, for leaders who are results-oriented and not ideologues.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

To leftists like Lori Lightfoot they are not people they are automatons

By John Ruberry

President Donald J. Trump isn’t the only public official prone to Twitter rants. Yesterday after a trip to Chicago’s lakefront on a hot and humid day, the city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, let loose on her constituents.

“It’s called a pandemic, people,” she Tweeted. “This reckless behavior on Montrose Beach is what will cause us to shut down the parks and lakefront. Don’t make us take steps backwards.”

That “reckless behavior” consisted of people gathering at the beach. Chicago’s 18-miles of lakefront parks were closed–they were guarded by Chicago police officers for most of the spring and much of this summer. The cops remained posted at these parks during the riots and looting in May–by people presumably spreading the COVID-19 virus. Riots of course are now, by the liberals, viewed as free speech. After the Lake Michigan parks opened, Lightfoot dispatched an army of “social distance ambassadors” to enforce safe-distancing. I reckon that this snitch army took Saturday off.

Leftist mayors like Lightfoot, Bill de Blasio in New York, Ted Wheeler in Portland, Jenny Durkan in Seattle, and Ethan Berkowitz in Anchorage, they, as I’ve similarly remarked before, love “the people,” but not people. They believe they rule over automatons, faceless entities consisting of countless “Julias,” the void visage featured in the notorious and creepy “Life of Julia” Barack Obama campaign video from 2012. Of course these Julias need an enlightened being, blessed with the correct knowledge, the wisdom of liberalism.

Someone of course like Lightfoot.

At Montrose Beach yesterday Lightfoot saw, like a child in a bedroom, toy soldiers or Barbie dolls to be ordered about. “The people” not people.

Chicago is making national headlines of course for violence, or more specifically, people shooting other people, sometimes killing them.

Late last month a 9-year-old boy was shot to death while playing in a vacant lot. The next morning on Twitter Lightfoot blamed “a bullet,” not the alleged shooter.

“When a 9 year old’s life is ended by a bullet,” she said in that Tweet, “we must all be outraged. These deaths are not mere statistics. And prayers alone will not sooth a broken heart.”

The gang culture that dominates many Chicago neighborhoods is the city’s real problem. And many gang members think it is fine to indiscriminately fire guns at people. Such as the unidentified hoodlum who shot 15-mourners at a funeral home ten days before the 9-year-old was slain.

In a reply to her own Tweet about the murder of that child, Lightfoot added, “Gun violence is every bit a public health crisis as COVID-19.” When I saw that Tweet I thought she had come around, as I thought she Tweeted “gang violence” instead of “gun violence.” If you scanned the brain of Lightfoot you won’t find the words “individual responsibility” paired together.

And if you are from one of those states that Lightfoot labels as a coronavirus hot spot and you visit to Chicago, you may be subject to social media monitoring to ensure you are quarantining.

Thank you Big Sister.

The ultimate responsibility for Lightfoot are the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans, most of whom, I hope, are not automatons, the ones who voted for Lightweight. She won all 50 of Chicago’s wards over Toni Preckwinkle, who is possibly even more left-wing than Lori, in a runoff election.

What was it that H.L. Mencken said about 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.”

UPDATE 4:30pm EDT: The mayor also known as Beetlejuice today dispatched police officers to block off access to Montrose Beach. And snow fencing is also preventing access to the beach on this hot and humid Sunday.

John Ruberry regularly blogs just north of Chicago at Marathon Pundit.

Race, politics, and the English language

By John Ruberry

Last month the Chicago Tribune’s lead columnist, John Kass, penned a column about left-wing billionaire George Soros and his funding of campaigns of Democratic prosecutors such as Cook County’s Kim Foxx–who can rightly be called soft-on-crime. Despite a state of Illinois threshold of $300, Foxx won’t prosecute accused shoplifters unless they steal merchandise worth more than $1,000. Even before this spring’s rioting and looting in Chicago, shoplifting was on the rise.

Criminals appear to be emboldened in Chicago–as the consequences for illegal activities diminish, people believe they can get away with more crimes. Think of it as the opposite of the “broken windows” theory of law enforcement. While I admit it could be a leap to equate Foxx’s permissive attitude on prosecution of crimes to an even more violent Chicago, but shootings and murders for July, 2020 were up dramatically from the previous July. Still I believe Foxx bears some of the responsibility. While the suits in the Chicago Police Department are claiming overall crime is down, I suspect shell game chicanery or something even more troubling. It could be that fewer crimes are being reported because victims believe that it won’t make a difference. The victims know, with minor crimes, Foxx won’t prosecute.

And what about more serious crimes?

In that controversial piece, Kass opined, “And in many of the violent cities, the prosecutors have delivered on their promises not to keep the violent in jail but rather to let them out.”

Kass’ column brought about a fierce backlash by the Chicago Tribune Guild, a union that Kass does not belong to, calling that piece an “odious, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire George Soros is a puppet master controlling America’s big cities.”

That column led to a demotion of sorts from Kass. After over twenty years of his column being placed on Page 2, a halcyon spot once occupied by the legendary Mike Royko, Kass’ column has been moved, by the Trib’s editor-in-chief Colin McMahon to the opinion section, in order to, in his words “maintain credibility of news coverage.” That’s not a credible statement as I’m certain there are very few people who see Kass’ work as anything but opinion.

In that column about Soros, Kass did not mention the billionaire’s faith or ethnic origin. I’m going to be more direct. Kass didn’t say in that piece that Soros is Jewish.

On his Daily Herald blog about the Kass battle, Robert Feder, a longtime media reporter, referred to him as the “Chicago Tribune’s white male conservative standard-bearer.”

Whoah. Let me repeat that, the “Chicago Tribune’s white male conservative standard-bearer.”

I remarked on my own blog:

Replace “white” with black and “male” with female. And of course “conservative” with liberal. Do you think if Fraud Feder wrote that about an African-American writer at the Trib who is a woman that he would have gotten away with it?

Of course he wouldn’t have.

Which reminds me of something I read in high school from George Orwell. Not Animal Farm or 1984, but his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language.

This line stands out from that classic: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.'” Contemporary liberals, and especially leftists, reflexively label their critics as “fascists.”

I’m sure there is a Kass column over the years, none currently come to mind however, where in my opinion he was totally wrong. Any attacks on that theoretical opinion piece from me, correctly, should be on refuting his points with facts, or at least reasoned thoughts. Not, as some people might, retorting that Kass is wrong because he’s a white man, or that he benefits from “white privilege” and “systemic racism.”

Is white becoming, in Orwell’s words, “something not desirable?” Or worse, something that is inherently wrong?

Conveniently, at least for this post, Kass is of Greek descent. Much if not most of classical logic comes from the ancient Greeks. Oh, let’s say Kass is a Filipino-American. I’d still make the same points you’ll see next.

In college I took a logic course–and seriously–it may have held me back in the work force. I guess I’m too logical. There are a number of argumentative fallacies that the ancient Greeks identified, including the “fallacy of origins,” now generally called the “genetic fallacy.”

Here’s what Purdue’s Online Writing Lab offers on this subject:

Genetic Fallacy: This conclusion is based on an argument that the origins of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or worth. Example:

The Volkswagen Beetle is an evil car because it was originally designed by Hitler’s army.

In this example the author is equating the character of a car with the character of the people who built the car. However, the two are not inherently related.

So, if the Chicago Tribune Guild wished to honestly attack Kass, they should have pointed out where they believe Kass is wrong about Soros and his funding of campaigns of Democratic prosecutors. They didn’t. They responded with another logical fallacy, the ad hominem attack, calling him anti-Semitic.

The Chicago Tribune Guild couldn’t, or was to lazy to, argue with Kass’ Soros column on its merits. Or lack of.

Feder in his blog post deemed it necessary to mention Kass’ race, gender, and political philosophy in explaining the columnist’s demotion.

That path angered me, so much so that for my Marathon Pundit post about Feder’s attack I used this headline, “Leftist Daily Herald blogger Robert Feder calls columnist John Kass ‘Chicago Tribune’s white male conservative standard-bearer.'” Okay, I admit, I don’t know if Feder is really a leftist but such a verbal assault is something leftists do now. Apparently stung, he accused me of “faux outrage” on Twitter.

But the outrage is real.

Using one’s race, faith, lack-of-faith, ethnic background, sexual identity and the like as a means of argumentative attack is something until recently I thought was a relic of a more ignorant era, or the denizen of crude online forums. Or the weapon of drunken barroom rants.

Our society is headed the wrong way. 

And if white people are today’s bogey man tomorrow it may another group. Movements with absolutist philosophies eventually eat their own. See the French Revolution. Or the Russian Revolution.

The “cancel culture” may be coming for you.

Kass is a brave man who is not backing down, as he explained in another column last week.

While Voltaire never said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” he should have. Because it’s a noble sentiment I believe in. And no one is always right. Yep, not even me. Not John Kass either. No political philosophy has the solution to every problem. We need each other.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Feds strike at Democratic corruption in Illinois on two fronts

By John Ruberry

As WIND-AM radio host Dan Proft says, “Illinois isn’t broken, it’s fixed.”

And the biggest fixer of all in Illinois is Boss Michael Madigan, the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1997, speaker of the Illinois House, except for two years, since 1983, and Democratic committeman of the 13th Ward since 1969.

As I’ve mentioned many times before in this space, Madigan, among many other things, is a walking advertisement for term limits. I didn’t call him a walking-and-talking advertisement for term limits, because Illinois’ most powerful politician infrequently speaks to the media.

On Friday Boss Madigan was implicated in a bribery scheme involving Illinois’ largest utility, Commonwealth Edison, part of the Exelon Corporation. ComEd, in a deferred prosecution agreement, is charged with one count of bribery. ComEd, according to the filing, admitted that it gained $150 million in rate structuring over the last eight years. Which means that Illinoisans like me have to pay more for electricity.

ComEd has to pay a $200 million fine. If the utility behaves over the next three years the bribery charge will be dropped.

The bribe scheme involves the utility rewarding contracts and jobs–some of them allegedly little-or-no-work—to Madigan cronies. Madigan is not named by the feds but he is widely believed to be the person labeled Public Official A in their paperwork.

Illinois’ weaselly Democratic governor, JB Pritzker, the state’s second-most powerful pol, had this to say later on Friday about the man whose political machine arguably gained him the Democratic nomination in 2018, and hence the governor’s office in the general election, “If these allegations of wrongdoing by the speaker are true, there is no question that he will have betrayed the public trust and he must resign therefore.”

But Pritzker has his own legal problem. The aggressive U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch, in an investigation involving the former Cook County assessor, Joseph Berrios, is believed to be looking at Pritzker. Berrios is the former chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as the Chicago Machine. Berrios has long ties to Madigan and it’s generally believed that Madigan was the impetus for Berrios’ unanimous election as chairman of the Cook County Dems in 2007.

A billionaire, Pritzker and his wife, MK, had the toilets removed from a Chicago Gold Coast mansion that he owns and that is adjacent to the one he lives in. Allegedly the commodes were removed so JB’s residence could receive a $330,000 property tax break because the mansion next door was “uninhabitable.” Also on Friday, news broke about the investigation of the Cook County assessor’s office involving other 100 properties. Many of the tax appeals filed were handled by a small law firm where Boss Madigan is a name partner. A law firm where Chicago alderman Ed Burke is a partner–he is under indictment for racketeering–handled some of the other appeals.

The Pritzkers later paid the county back the $330,000 he saved. JB and MK deny any wrongdoing. However, the Cook County inspector general called the toilet removal appeal a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers such as myself.

Back to Madigan.

The jobs Madigan allegedly pressured ComEd to hand out allegedly include a real plum, a board of directors seat at ComEd. That person, not named by the feds, got the seat but he is no longer on the board. Some students who live in Madigan’s Chicago ward received internships from ComEd. While internships may not involve a paycheck, job offers can follow. Madigan’s office even directed the utility to hire meter readers for ComEd.

According to someone prosecutors named Individual A, “We hire these guys because [Madigan] came to us. It’s just that simple.”

Boss Madigan is widely considered to the man behind the fiscal crisis that has destroyed Illinois. The Prairie State is burdened unsustainable public-worker pension debt. Public-sector unions have been a loyal cog for Democrats in Illinois for decades. Madigan’s fingerprints are on every Illinois budget since the early 1980s. Yet Madigan somehow finds the time to tell which meter readers ComEd should hire.

Illinois has $4.8 billion in unpaid bills, the lowest amount since 2015. But a $1.2 billion federal loan designed for COVID-19 relief deserved the credit. Loans, by the way, are supposed to be paid back.

Illinois has been annually losing population since 2014.

As for alleged Madigan strong-arming, the feds aren’t just looking at Commonwealth Edison. Madigan’s state office was subpoenaed on Friday, allegedly authorities were seeking records involving AT&T (disclosure, I worked for them for 11 years), Walgreens, Rush University–and a whole lot more.

Through a spokesperson Madigan denies any wrongdoing.

While Donald Trump’s chances of winning Illinois this fall are miniscule–part of that reason is the Illinois conservatives are demoralized because of Madigan’s obscene gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts–reelecting Trump may be the best way to ensure a thorough prosecution of Democratic corruption in Illinois. Americans, we’re all in the same boat. A Joe Biden pick for the Chicago area’s chief federal prosecutor might be less enthusiastic about going after Madigan and the Illinois culture of corruption.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The war on statues may never end

Lincoln and Douglas at Freeport, Illinois

By John Ruberry

While we’re not–yet–at the French Revolution level of destroying then recreating society, the Angry Left is focused on defacing and toppling statues of men deemed racist. Or by having sympathetic politicians remove them, such as what happened last week with Jefferson Davis’ statue at the Kentucky state capitol. So far women in bronze and marble, to my knowledge, have been spared, but one of Illinois’ representatives at National Statuary Hall at the US Capitol just might be inflicted with induced restless legs syndrome. I’ll get to her later.

Monuments of Confederate generals and of course Jefferson Davis have been the hit the hardest by the vandals. But the rage is now world wide. Winston Churchill’s statue at Parliament Square in London had “was a racist” spray painted on its pedestal. There’s an Abraham Lincoln statue there too, Black Lives Matter activists defaced that one. Up in Scotland, a statue of medieval monarch Robert the Bruce, whose views on black people are unknown, had “BLM” and “was a racist king” spray painted on it.

Because I’m from Illinois, I’d like to zoom in on my state. Let’s return to Lincoln. While Honest Abe was always anti-slavery, his views on black people prior to the Civil War would be classified as racist today. Lincoln’s stance on slavery in the 1860 election was to confine it to states where it already existed. By 1863 he was an abolitionist, at least in areas held by Confederate forces. Two years later the Great Emancipator enthusiastically backed the 13th Amendment that finally ended slavery in America. Oh, Lincoln saved the union too. That’s why he is considered the United States’ greatest president by most historians.

Lincoln gained national prominence in 1858 during his campaign for the US Senate against Stephen A. Douglas. Other than his connection to Lincoln, Douglas, “the Little Giant,” is largely forgotten now. His Kansas-Nebraska Act, which eliminated the Missouri Compromise in determining which states would be slave or free, ignited Bleeding Kansas, a brutal warmup to the Civil War. But Douglas was a political dynamo in the 1850s and he was the nominee for president for the northern Democrats in 1860.

Douglas and Lincoln agreed to a series of seven debates throughout Illinois during the 1858 campaign, the famous, or make that formerly famous, Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Late in the 20th century bronze statues of both men were placed at each of those sites.

Hmmm.

Douglas’ views on slavery were purposely murky, he believed in “popular sovereignty,” that is the voters, who comprised only of white males in the 19th century, should decide where slavery should exist. The Little Giant owned a plantation in Mississippi with slaves. Well, not exactly, but it was in his wife’s name.

How long will it be before those Douglas statues in Illinois will be vandalized? When will the call for their removal begin? And those seven plazas with Lincoln and Douglas will look unbalanced with just one man. Will Lincoln, who at one time of course was a racist, albeit most whites were bigots in the 1800s, get yanked too from those spots too?

Nancy Pelosi is calling for the removal of eleven statues honoring Confederates at Statuary Hall. Each state gets two statues, some of these honorees are well-known, Andrew Jackson represents Tennessee, George Washington is one of Virginia’s statues. Both men of course owned slaves. Some of the honorees are virtually unknown. Frances Willard, the longtime president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a group that assisted in establishing Prohibition in America, represents Illinois in the hall. Like Douglas, she was a big deal in her day. But Willard held racist views and she feuded with African American civil rights leader Ida B. Wells.

When you remove the Confederates, the slave holders, and the racists, how many statues will be left in Statuary Hall?

How many statues in front of libraries, village squares, or county courthouses will be removed?

Where does is it all end?

And if all of the statues are gone, then what?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The desecration of the Cook County Forest Preserves

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

Story continues below the photograph.

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

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

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

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

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

These are their woods, not ours.

Stay out of my parking lot! 

Stay away from other people! 

No water fountains for you!

Hold your bladders!

No more fun of any kind!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Masks dehumanize us

Discarded medical mask, Miami Woods, Morton Grove, Illinois

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My suggestions for Illinois’ bankruptcy auction

Blogger at the Damen Silos

By John Ruberry

Last week I suggested that Illinois, arguably the most broke state in America, put itself under receivership to fix its dire financial problems, which include nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills and an astounding $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

I chose receivership as bankruptcy is not a legal option for the fifty states. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered bankruptcy as a possibility, so it appears he’s open to changing the law so financially reckless blue states, Illinois, as well as New York and California, can call into one of those 800 lines that advertise on television late at night offering Chapter 11 as a salvation. (Okay, I’m kidding on the 800 line.)

Oh, Mitch, your home state of Kentucky also has a financially anemic public worker pension fund.

So state bankruptcy is no longer a pipe dream, although Illinois and New York’s Democratic governors, J.B. Pritzker and Andrew Cuomo respectively, immediately dismissed McConnell’s sound idea. But right now these blue states are acting like old-money aristocrats who believe bankruptcy is beneath them even though their income stream has dried up and their trust funds are depleted.

When there is a bankruptcy there is often a liquidation sale. Illinois has many valuable assets. Not enough to cover the $7 billion in unpaid bills–let alone the $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations–but the Land of Lincoln has to begin somewhere to dig itself out of the hole created by irresponsible politicians from both parties. So here are my suggested on what needs to go.

The Damen Silos: Illinois has owned the abandoned grain silos at Damen on the Sanitary and Ship Canal on Chicago’s South Side since the 1970s. It’s a popular spot for urban explorers–I’ve been there–and for graffiti-taggers. An explosion scene for Transformers: Age of Extinction was filmed at the silos. But the state has owned it four over four decades. Get rid of it. The location is also near Interstate 55. While demolishing the site will be pricey for the new owner which will drive down the selling price, every dollar counts during Illinois’ financial emergency. As it stands now, the Damen Silos are a towering monument to Illinois incompetence.

Illinois’ governor mansion: The last Illinois governor to live full-time in America’s third-oldest governor’s mansion was Republican Jim Edgar, he of the failed “Edgar ramp” pension rescue. He left office in 1999. Another Republican gov, one-termer Bruce Rauner, led the recent private efforts to restore the residence, which was in poor shape. The renovation cost $15 million. The project was completed last July. Four months later Pritzker trounced Rauner in his reelection effort.

Sell the mansion. It can be central Illinois premier luxury B&B. In fact it can be America’s premier luxury B&B.

When Illinois’ governor needs to be in Springfield there are plenty of hotel rooms to choose from there. Or the state can buy a humble bungalow for the governor.

A whole bunch of state parks: Illinois has 142 state parks. Many are tiny and little-visited. Illini, William G. Stratton (named for a governor who was indicted for tax evasion), Jubilee College, and Gebhard Woods state parks immediately come to mind as expendable. At least of half of Illinois’ state parks need to go on the auction block. Illinois has a very popular state park that I’m thinking of that I’ll talk about later.

The former Tinley Park mental health facility: Governor Pat Quinn shuttered the sprawling 250-acre site in 2012. There are toxic wastes that need to be cleaned up. But in real estate, of course, the most important concern is location, location, location. And the old asylum has a great one, at Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street in southern Cook County a few blocks away from an Interstate 80 exit.

Illinois Department of Transportation snow plows: Snow removal and the spreading of salt on roads where IDOT bears maintenance responsibility should be privatized.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield: The Disney-esque ALPLM was the brain-child of Julie Cellini, the wife of longtime state contractor and power-broker William Cellini. A Republican, William got caught up in the Rod Blagojevich scandals which earned him a short stay in federal prison. Julie envisioned the state-owned library and museum as a way to upgrade Springfield as a tourist destination as opposed to merely being a two-hour detour and bathroom stop for travelers on I-55 who visited the Damen Silos in Chicago earlier in the day. It hasn’t worked. And it appears that the ALPLM was conned when it purchased $25 million worth of Honest Abe artifacts, the centerpiece of that swag was a stovepipe hat that was said to be worn by our 16th president. Except that there is no evidence that Lincoln ever wore that hat. At onetime the ALPLM owned a dress once worn by Marilyn Monroe. Who knows what other unrelated treasures that are gathering dust in closets there? Well here is one: There are five copies in Lincoln’s handwriting of his Gettysburg Address. All of them are considered priceless but a since-fired ALPLM director lent the one the library owns to a tiny museum owned by Glenn Beck for a paltry $50,000.

Illinois is incapable of running the ALPLM.

Lincoln’s New Salem: A twenty-minute drive north of Springfield near Petersburg is Lincoln’s New Salem. This was Lincoln’s first home away from his parents. The town lasted only ten years but it is central to Lincoln lore. This spot, consisting mostly of rebuilt log cabins, has many visitors, primarily kids on school field trips, but its value to buyers grows if it is packaged with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Young Americans for Freedom owns the former Ronald Reagan Ranch in California. Perhaps they might be interested in the above sites tied to our first Republican president too. Hey, Disney might want to grab them for a Lincoln Land attraction. Is that a dumb idea? Well it is not as dopey as buying a Marilyn Monroe dress for a Lincoln museum.

The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago: Colloquially known as by its original name, the State of Illinois Center, it was designed by renowned German-American architect Helmut Jahn. Great artists are capable of colossal flops, after all Prince released several unlistenable albums, and Jahn’s Thompson Center is the turd in his career punch bowl. The heating and cooling systems have never worked well and they are expensive to operate. Its marble floors are slippery when visitors bring in snow from their shoes and it snows a lot in Chicago Ironically its atrium is supposed to be a monument to openness in government. But under the decades-long tenure of Boss Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the speaker of the Illinois House, government in Illinois has not been transparent at all. The building is named for James R. Thompson, the Republican governor who signed the three-percent annual compounded pension raise into law. Governors back to Blago have suggested selling the white elephant, which sits on prime real estate in downtown Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park: Illinois’ crown jewel in its state park system is Starved Rock in LaSalle County. Desperate times call for drastic action and that is why the Prairie State needs to sell its most-visited state park, which includes an NPS-style lodge with cabins. Private industry can do a much better job running the park, which has crumbling roads, and perhaps new owners build a couple of more lodges. What did I say about location earlier? As with the former Tinley Park mental home, Starved Rock is a short drive from I-80.

What are your suggestions for things and places for divestment by Illinois?

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois should put itself under receivership over pensions

Blogger two years ago

By John Ruberry

“As a result, Illinois government is a massive retirement system that, during work hours, also offers some services.” Chicago Tribune Editorial Board in 2016.

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Rahm Emanuel in 2009.

Last week the president of the Illinois state Senate, Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), sent a letter the state congressional caucus, a gerrymandered lot–more on that latter–asking for $41 billion in aid in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The devil is in the details–Illinois is a hellish place—and in that letter from Harmon is a request of $10 billion to fund its woefully-underfinanced public pension plans.

Illinois’ pension crisis goes back decades. In 1989 Governor Jim Thompson, a Republican, signed into law an annual compounded three-percent cost-of-living-adjustment for the state’s public pensioners. But the funding wasn’t there. His successor, Jim Edgar, another Republican, seemingly placed a fix into the system in 1994, “the Edgar ramp,” which started with low payments for the 15 years of his plan. But by that time, when the “ramp” was to kick in, Great Recession arrived. And there were “pension contribution holidays” before then. When the 2008 economic collapse hit Rod Blagojevich, who was as bad as math as Edgar and Thompson, was governor.

In the early 1990s pension payments consumed four percent of the Illinois budget–now it’s 25 percent. The state-controlled public pension plans are only about 30 percent funded.

All that time–except for two years–powerful Chicago Democrat, Michael Madigan, has been speaker of the state House.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, 19,000 state pensioners collect more than $100,000 annually. On average these pensioners paid a paltry $160,000 into their retirement plans. What a great deal!

New Jersey and Kentucky have public pension funding issues that are as bad, or perhaps slightly worse, than that of Illinois. Will they be asking for pension bailouts next?

Cutting the three-percent COLA has been tried–it was ruled unconstitutional in a unanimous decision by the Illinois Supreme Court because of the pension guarantee clause in the state constitution. Repealing that clause is the smart thing to do but it’s a politically tall hurdle. Such an amendment would likely have to pass both chambers of the General Assembly. Thanks to Madigan, a skilled gerrymanderer who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, there are Dem supermajorities in both chambers. Two attempts by petition to effectively ban gerrymandering by way of a constitutional amendment was struck down in court. Allies of Madigan were behind the anti-Fair Map suits. The petition process to amend the Illinois constitution is deeply flawed. 

The organized labor wing of the Democratic Party, the public sector unions, won’t remain quiet if pensions are challenged. Hey there unions, you contributed to this problem too. In 2005 most public service unions signed on to that year’s pension holiday.

Last week Fitch lowered its bond rating for Illinois to BBB- with a negative outlook. That’s one level above junk.

I’m against an Illinois pension bailout by the federal government. For the most part. But if such aid comes in the form of an International Monetary Fund-style rescue package with conditions that Illinois cleans its fiscal house, such as dropping the 3-percent COLA and taking aim at the top pension earners, those six-figure retirees, I’m willing to listen. 

But receivership is best. Okay, let me dream a bit. As Chicago architect Daniel Burnham said a century ago, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” I know, states are viewed as sovereign entities and cannot, as Detroit did in 2013, declare bankruptcy. But what if Illinois agrees to a strings-attached receivership deal? An emergency manager can be appointed. Pritzker, or whoever is governor if receivership comes about, can still handle the ceremonial stuff, such as ribbon cutting for a new bridge and placing bets with other governors when Chicago sports teams are playing for a league championship.

Oh, I’m thinking loans from the feds, not handouts.

As badly funded as Illinois’ pension plans are, many local government pension systems are in worse shape. Illinois municipalities and government agencies, unlike those in Michigan, cannot do so under current state law. That needs to change too.

On a personal note, several friends and relatives of mine are collecting state pensions. Money that was taken from their checks every two weeks for their retirement was instead spent on lord-knows-what. They deserve to be angry and that fury needs to be directed at every Illinois governor from Thompson through Blagojevich. And of course at the Where’s Waldo of Illinois failure, Boss Michael Madigan. He deserves the most rage.

Let me be clear: I don’t take my pension reform views lightly.

Prior to Harmon’s bailout request, the latest pension fix idea was a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Illinois flat income tax guarantee and replace it with a graduated one. That amendment will be presented to Prairie State voters in November. My guess is that it will fail. And even if the graduated income tax amendment passes, the additional revenue won’t be enough. Illinois, which has had negative population growth for six straight years, can’t tax its way of the mess.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit