Chicago aldermen making a wrong turn on proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive is between the skyscrapers and the lake

By John Ruberry

“And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive.”
Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah, “Lake Shore Drive.”

As I’ve stated many times before Chicago is a city in decline. Decades of rampant corruption and fiscal malfeasance, particularly with woefully unfunded public worker pension plans in regards to the latter, have placed Chicago in a bankrupty-in-name only status. The bleak future is now. Chicago can’t keep kicking the can down the road, whether that road is Michigan Avenue or Lake Shore Drive. 

Chicago’s woke mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is halfway into her first term, has made Chicago’s situation worse with her overreaching lockdown response to COVID-19 and her feeble response to two rounds of summer rioting in 2020. The city’s murder rate is high. The quality of education provided by Chicago Public Schools is low and has gotten worse because the Chicago Teachers Union keeps pushing more convenient, for the teachers of course, remote learning lessons.

Politicians, particularly liberals, are adept at adopting symbols, as author Tom Clancy pointed out to Bill O’Reilly in an interview shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “The general difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals like pretty pictures and conservatives like to build bridges that people can drive across,” Clancy said to O’Reilly. “And conservatives are indeed conservative because if the bridge falls down then people die, whereas the liberals figure, we can always build a nice memorial and make people forget it ever happened and was our fault. They’re very good at making people forget it was their fault.”

Okay, no bridges have collapsed in decline-and-fall Chicago. But some City Council members are lining up behind a proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive for Chicago’s first non-indigenous resident, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. He opened a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan around 1790.

About the Chicago City Council: Since 1973 over thirty-five of its members have been sentenced to federal prison.

Little is known about DuSable although it’s believed he was born in Haiti around 1750. In 1800 he sold his home and the land around it; the property ended up in the hands of John Kinzie, the first recorded European-American to live in what is now America’s third-largest city. One of Chicago’s first streets was named for him, but DuSable was forgotten, wrongly in my opinion, for many years. But his legacy caught up and surpassed Kinzie’s. There is the DuSable Museum of African American History on the city’s South Side, DuSable High School, a DuSable Park near the site of his former home, and a bust of DuSable on Michigan Avenue, even though because there are no known contemporary renderings of DuSable–no one knows what he looked like. Oh yeah, we were talking about bridges. The Michigan Avenue Bridge downtown was renamed for DuSable in 2010.

There are some urban streets that are iconic. Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, Fifth Avenue in New York, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. 

Lake Shore Drive–it has had that name since 1946–is a fantastic driving road. Fifth Avenue, for instance, is a better walking street. Chicago’s early leaders, post-Kinzie, made the wise decision to keep the Lake Michigan waterfront open, and most of it is park land–with Lake Shore Drive. When I have out-of-town guests I always make a point of taking them on a trip up and down Lake Shore Drive. The response I usually receive is from them, “I had no idea Chicago was so beautiful!”

Of course if the road is renamed for DuSable, the views will be just as pretty and Lake Michigan will be equally blue. But Lake Shore Drive is in essence a brand name. An iconic one. Why mess with that?

The Chicago Tribune editorial board has suggested a sound alternative–renaming Millennium Park, which abuts Lake Shore Drive, for DuSable and merging it with DuSable Park. Mayor Lightfoot has a good idea too, renaming the Chicago Riverwalk, which arguably has no name, for DuSable. But Lightfoot has gained, many say earned, a lot of enemies in her short time as mayor. They oppose the Lightfoot’s proposal because of their dislike for her. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the only reason in my opinion to subscribe to that paper, offers a superb knockdown of the Lake Shore Drive renaming proposal, which brings up many of the same points I have mentioned. Also, Kass, as I have done, has excoriated Lightfoot’s woke Chicago Monuments Project, which has placed, among other items, five Abraham Lincoln statues “under review.” Yep, right here in the Land of Lincoln.

Destroying symbols is important to liberals too.

Those against the renaming Lake Shore Drive find themselves in a trap. In this cancel culture environment opponents of DuSable Drive will be called racist by the virtue signalers–even though they are not. Sears Tower, when it opened four decades ago, was the tallest building in the world. The naming rights of it were purchased by a British firm and it’s official name is now the Willis Tower

No one I know–and I have a large circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances–calls this iconic structure anything but the Sears Tower. No one. A DuSable Drive faces the same fate. Except nobody has ever called a Willis Tower-denier a racist. 

I’m with the Tribune and Lightfoot on this controversy. Rename Millennium Park, which has only been open since 2004–because of delays and cost overruns it opened well after the millennium began–for DuSable. And rename the Riverwalk too for DuSable. It’s another relatively new city attraction, it opened in stages beginning in 2001.

And I have my own idea. The former Meigs Field, a small lakefront airport abruptly closed by the midwife of Chicago’s pension crisis, Richard M. Daley, is now known as Northerly Island Park. I suspect that Daley wanted that space named for him. If Millenium Park keeps its moniker–then rename Northerly Island Park for DuSable. Call it DuSable South–a twin of the other park.

Don’t mess with success Chicago. But the city, like the state of Illinois, has a habit of making bad decisions. Call it tradition.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Obama and Pritzker exposed as frauds on gerrymandering in Illinois

By John Ruberry

Last year former president Barack Obama called partisan gerrymandering “a sneaky way for politicians to consolidate as much power as they can. In the end, gerrymandering means that citizens’ voices are being diminished.” 

A year earlier the governor of Obama’s home state of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, had this to say after the US Supreme Court decided not to get involved in partistan remaps. “As I’ve said since I was a candidate, I will veto any map that is unfair,” Pritzker said. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re going to have to make sure that here in Illinois we’re not gerrymandering, that we’re drawing maps that are fair and competitive. That’s what’s best for the voters of the state, that they have choices when they go to the ballot.” 

Obama and Pritzker are of course both Democrats. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, state Senate minority leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), pointed out that Obama, while at Illinois’ state capital late in his presidential term, denounced gerrymandering and called for reform. “And this needs to be done across the nation,” the 44th president said, “not just in a select few states. It should be done everywhere.”

Apparently not in Illinois becauses Obama has been silent about stacking the decks in favor of Democrats. The 2010 remap of Illinois congressional and state legislative districts was a travesty of democracy, as was the one after the 2000 Census, both of which were the work of longtime Illinois House speaker and Democratic party chairman Boss Michael Madigan, who was forced into retirement this year as scandals engulfed his inner circle. The state legislature, as mandated by the Illinois constitution, draws new General Assembly and US congressional district maps.

Late last month Pritzker appeared to be backtracking from his stance against gerrymandering.

The most blatant gerrymandering from the most recent remap is Illinois’ 4th congressional district, nicknamed “the earmuffs,” which is pictured above. 

But a quick look at maps won’t tell the whole story. Illinois three largest cities outside of Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, and Springfield, the aforementioned state capital, are each split between two congressional districts. This is not a case of these cities being too large for one district, the average size of a US congressional district is over 700,000, the largest of these municipalities is Rockford, with just under 150,000 residents. 

The current Illinois congressional delegation consists of thirteen Democrats and five Republicans. Mission accomplished, Democrats. That number will change because Illinois, again, will lose a congressional seat. As I’ve remarked before, Illinoisans are voting with their feet by moving out. They are fed up with rampant corruption, high taxes, and an unfunded public worker pension debt crisis that can be solved only by default or hyperinflation. Between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts Illinois lost population–the first time that has ever happened to the Prairie State.

The electoral results are predictable when politicians choose their constituents. Last year 52 of the 118 races for seats in the Illinois House had only one candidate. In the state Senate it was worse–10 of the 20 races had only one person running. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. 

Twice in the prior decade Republicans led efforts to allow voters to decide to amend the state constitution by having a non-partisan committee draw maps instead of the legislature. Both times what was called the Fair Map Amendment was ruled unconstitutional in a party-line state Supreme Court decision. The lead attorney in the lawsuit to block the amendment had ties to Boss Madigan.

Back to the US Congress. Illinois’ Democratic delegation is lockstep behind House Bill 1, which if made into law, in the process of nationalizing local elections, will mandate independent committees, not state legislators, to take charge of the decennial remaps in all 50 states. But why aren’t Illinois 13 Democratic members of Congress decrying the current remap process here? Because they are phonies, that’s why. Just like Pritzker and Obama. 

The current remapping in Illinois is being performed behind closed doors by Democratic members of the General Assembly using preliminary Census data. Hey Pritzker! Are you aware of this news?

Yeah, I know, in 1990 Republicans drew gerrymandered districts. It was wrong then too.

On Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up this weekend, state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) told the host, “We should draw fair, straightforward maps that use official [Census] data and give the people of Illinois a real choice in their elections so people are picking their elected officials and not the other way around.”

Tellingly, because Flannery strives to be fair, he had two Republicans on the gerrymandering segment of his program, but no Dems. I’m very confident that Flannery invited a Democrat to appear but they are either too ashamed to defend their non-transparent remapping–or they know it’s indefensible.

One more time for emphasis.

Six days before his election as governor a St. Louis NPR reporter, Jason Rosenbaum, asked Pritzker, “If you’re governor and they send you a map that is obvioulsy gerrymandered against Republicans would you veto it and why?”

Candidate Pritzker’s response? “I will not sign a bill that is gerrymandered,” adding, “I have been for independent maps for a long time.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season 1 of Shadow and Bone

By John Ruberry

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s there was the hope, egged on by the music media, that soon “the next Beatles” would arrive. The Bee Gees, Badfinger, and the Knack were among those acts who failed to match the hype. And no band could match the Beatles’ level because even when they were together they were already legends. 

In that same time period there were even more “next Bob Dylans” heralded.

No one can supercede a legend.

Late last month the first season of Shadow and Bone began streaming on Netflix. 

And many are wondering if Shadow and Bone is the next Game of Thrones

Short answer? No. Longer answer? Not even close. And as HBO’s Game of Thrones has entered the world of legend, Shadow and Bone doesn’t have a chance. 

Call me sadistic, but I knew in the first episode of GoT, “Winter Is Coming,” that here was a series that broke the mold when Jamie Lannister pushed young Bran Stark from a high window ledge so to hide his sexual relationship with his sister, Cersei.

With Shadow and Bone you are exposed to an eight-episode muddled mess. 

The show is based on a trilogy of high fantasy books by Leigh Bardugo, and there are elements from two of her other works thrown in too. To understand what is going on you it seems you have to read all of these books first. And I’ve read none of them.

“Students,” I can see a teacher announcing, “your assigment is to read five books and then, only then, watch Shadow and Bone.” Uh, no.

The alternate world of Shadow and Bone is largely based on Russia of the late 19th century. The costume designers make the most of it and they deserve an Emmy nomination for their efforts. Soldiers wear fur ushankas and papakhas. Women don ornate dresses, the heads of civilian males are often topped with bowlers. While GoT and Lord of the Rings is rooted in the Middle Ages of western Europe, viewers here find themselves in the Russia of the Industrial Revolution. There are guns and a train. But no sword battles.

Ravka (Russia) is in the center of the continent and it’s separated by the Fold, a thick cloud wall inhabited by human-eating volcra, who are a cross between griffins and pterodactyls. Spoiler alert: there are no dragons. The Fold was created years earlier by an evil grisha, that is, a magic maker of Ravka. Maybe I’m a dope but it wasn’t until the third episode that I ascertained that the grisha were magicians. They are particularly adept at fire-starting. The grishas make up one of two armies of Ravka.

The central character of Shadow and Bone is Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a woman in her late teens and a grisha who is half-Shu Han. The Shu Han nation, which we don’t encounter here, is the show’s version of China and they are enemies of Ravka. To the north is Fjerda, a stand-in for Scandinavia. We see the Fjerdans when they fight the Ravkans.

An orphan–just like Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins–Alina encounters racism because of her foreign looks. She has a puppy love relationship with a fellow orphan, military tracker Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux), they’ve known each other since childhood. Alina is a mapmaker for the First Army, the non-magical one–and man oh man, could viewers use a decent map here to get a grip on the geography of Shadow and Bone. Only one is briefly shown. More time is devoted to Alina burning maps.

We quickly learn that Alina, like Harry Potter, is a Chosen One. The revelation brings her to a grisha leader, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), and the capital city of Ravka, where she meets the king, who looks a lot like Czar Alexander III. Alina is declared a Sun Summoner, that’s a really big deal you see, and then begins her training to fully utilize her powers.

Word spreads about Alina–all the way to the island nation of Kerch–which is Shadow and Bone’s version of the Netherlands, complete with its largest city, hedonistic Ketterdam, which parallels another city. Do I really need to spell out which one? We meet three underworld characters there, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) who leave Ketterdam to kidnap Alina for a one-million kruge reward. The three criminals have an intriguing dynamic and they are more captivating characters than Alina and Mal. 

If you like elaborate clothes, eye-catching special effects, and being transporated to an alternative yet familiar civilization, then Shadow and Bone could be for you. But if you expect fully-developed characters and a coherent plot line, then stay away. 

If magic and the 19th-century interests you then instead I recommend streaming Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on Amazon. In this series, among other things, the Duke of Wellington is aided by a magician to fight the French during the Napoleonic Wars. 

As for the grisha–if they are so powerful how come they are captured with relative ease?

Shadow and Bone is rated TV-14 for violence, adult situations, and brief nudity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

To reign, divide. This is the goal of critical race theory

By John Ruberry

I’d like to add my thoughts to Christopher F. Rufo’s superb piece in City Journal that attacks critical race theory. First an explanation of what that is. In short, critical race theory is the belief that America is systematically racist. Yes, you’ve heard that term before, systemic racism. White Americans created this nation, according to critical race theory, primarily to perpetuate white supremacy and they are doing so today.

Wrong on so many counts. 

While many of the Founding Fathers were slave holders some were abolitionists. A Civil War–two of my ancestors fought for the Union by the way–was fought to end slavery. But since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 became law, it’s hard to argue that America is systemically racist. Yes, there is still racism among Americans but most of us live, work, and interact with people of other races without incident–even better, many think nothing of it.

When I was a child intermarriage among the races was rare. While Americans still are much more likely to marry within their own race, in 1967, when the US Supreme Court ruled that laws in some states that banned inter-racial marriage as unconstitutional, only three percent of Americans married someone outside their race. By 2015 those numbers had risen to 15 percent.

There is much progress to be made–there should be no racism. 

If America is truly “rigged” or “fixed” for the white man, then why is our southern border being overwhelmed by migrants from Mexico and Central America? Why do immigrants from Asia or Africa continue to settle in the United States?

Critical race theory, which is an offshoot of Marxism, is being taught at our schools. While there is some pushback against this indoctrination but there needs to be more, especially since the Biden administration supports critical race theory. Opponents who speak out against this toxicity should be prepared to be called racist if they are white–or naive fools if they are not. The use of kneejerk false accusations against those with other ideas is one of the many weapons of the left.

One goal of the practicioners of critical race theory is to divide us into oppressors (white) and oppressed (minority). Divide and rule is an ancient tactic of totalitarians. The next step for these self-righteous ones is to divide people into even more groups, making rule by one person, or one idealogy, an easier task. Those other groups could be rural, urban, suburban, southern, western, and more.

Left-handers versus right-handers, anyone?

The use of such tactics ironically mirrors who the “woke” persistently vilifies, the colonizers.

Speaking of the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s on NPR yesterday, former UN senior adviser Elizabeth Nyamayaro said, “And a lot of that also had to do with lots of colonial policies that – you know, I grew up in Zimbabwe, and we were colonized by Britain. And one of the devices that was used to control the massive population was to split us – you know, split us into different groups, give us different rights so that whilst we fought amongst ourselves, you know, those in power would continue to rule over all of us.”

Supposedly in the fifteen century, Louis XI of France said, “To reign, divide.” In the workplace I’ve had a few psychotic bosses who “managed” this way.

Is this the American we want to live in? Us versus them? You versus me?

Never forget, you are not automatically a racist if you oppose critical race theory. You simply are against that divisive poison.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

School lockdowns lead to urban carjacking spike

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental health among students has suffered during the lockdown

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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

Image courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library

By John Ruberry

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

Big firms also had politial identities.

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

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

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

Including at Quaker Oats. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections need to be free and fair. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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

By John Ruberry

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

Instead a different kind of wall has replaced it.

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

A stroke is what killed the empress of Russia.

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

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

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

Cruz brought his smartphone as you can see.

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

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

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

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

All will be well.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The leader of the American Gerontocracy trips and falls

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

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

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

That’s Biden. 

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

Well, what about him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Germany.

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

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

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

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

A weaker America means a more unstable world. 

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

High inflation will make Illinois’ pension crisis less severe

By John Ruberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.