Statue wars come to Alaska

By John Ruberry

There was no post from me last week here as I was on vacation in Alaska with Mrs. Marathon Pundit celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and getting away from all of the craziness in what Alaskans call “the lower 48.”

Surely leftists’ obsession with tearing down statues hadn’t come to the Last Frontier?

Wrong. It is there too.

While listening to a Talkeetna, Alaska NPR station–which was apparently the only FM station I could pick up in “Gateway to Denali”–I heard a Native American artist from Sitka say, “Take them all down.” The statues, that is. Well, presumably not all of them, just ones of old dead white guys.

A friend of mine who lives in Anchorage urged me to get a photograph of the Captain James Cook statue in Resolution Park, where the bronze likeness of the English explorer, who led the first expedition of Europeans into what is now known as Cook Inlet in 1778, looks over his eponymous bay.

Why?

“Before Cook is taken away,” he warned me.

I believe the Cook statue is a goner. A Change.org petition to remove Cook from Resolution Park, which is named after his flagship, went online last month and attracted a lot of attention, including that of Anchorage’s Democratic mayor, San Francisco native Ethan Berkowitz. He’s a weasel and he punted the decision to an Anchorage native community of 70 to decide the statue’s fate.

Cook haters and everyone who despises white explorers should be able to take solace in knowing that the captain was killed by native Hawaiians on the Big Island several months after sailing into Cook Inlet. But no.

Anchorage is a sister city of Whitby, England, the town where Cook began his maritime career, and the Resolution Park statue is a replica of the Whitby one. Yes, there is a drive in the UK to topple that Cook statue, although the member of parliament who represents Whitby says it will be removed “over my dead body.”

But like hungry sharks, the first kill is never enough for that haters of white man statues. Even in Alaska. What was then known as Russian America was purchased by the United States in 1867; the driver of that purchase was William H. Seward, the US secretary of state. Seward, a rival of Abraham Lincoln for the 1860 presidential nomination, was seen as more anti-slavery than Lincoln. Along with the Great Emancipator, Seward successfully used diplomacy to keep Great Britain and France from recognizing the Confederacy and intervening in our Civil War. On the night Lincoln was assassinated Seward was seriously wounded as well.

In short, most people agree Seward was one of history’s good guys.

We stayed in the village of Seward for a couple of days last month–there’s bust of him there, which is so far safe. That is not the case with the Seward statue in Juneau, Alaska’s capital. Yes, there is a Change.org petition calling for getting rid of it.

Seward’s Day is a state holiday it Alaska, it commemorates that signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty. There is a Seward Highway–which we traveled on last month–and a Seward Peninsula in our 49th state. Clearly, the usually overlooked Seward is a noticeable presence in Alaska. If Juneau’s Seward statue goes, which Seward remembrance will be next?

In Sitka, there is a Change.org petition to remove the statue of Alexander Baranov, who once headed the Russian-American company.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I journeyed to the Last Frontier, among other things, to get away from the craziness in the continental United States.

But that was not possible.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The far-left wants a Year Zero

Woodrow Wilson Street in Detroit

By John Ruberry

Yesterday, on Messidor Duodi (2), 228, three statues were toppled by a leftist mob at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. One of Junípero Serra, the builder of the first Catholic missions in California, one of Francis Scott Key, the composer of Our National Anthem, and of Ulysses S. Grant.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of which statues of historical figures in this country should stay up and which should go because I believe nearly all of them should. Although I support the decision by the Dearborn Historical Museum to remove the statue of segregationist and virulent racist Orville Hubbard, a long time mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, from their grounds. It formerly stood at the Detroit suburb’s city hall.

Last week I wrote that statues of Abraham Lincoln, even in Illinois may not be safe. As far as I know, no Lincoln statues in the United States have been removed or vandalized. Although two, one in Boston and one in Washington, both with a freed slave, might go. The Great Emancipator’s greatest and best-known general, Grant, of course isn’t so lucky. The 18th president freed the only save he owned, at a time when he was suffering severe financial difficulties, was the commander of all Union forces during the Civil War, which of course saw to the ending of slavery in America. As president he pushed strongly for Reconstruction and he led the successful effort to destroy the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Oh, the date yesterday wasn’t really Messidor Duodi (2) 228, unless you follow the French Republican calendar. Among the dementedness that came out of the French Revolution was dropping the seven-day week Gregorian calendar for a ten-day week calendar, think of the metric system only for time. That calendar began in 1792, but to the French revolutionaries it was Year One. Napoleon returned France to the Gregorian calendar in 1805 and except for 18 days during the Paris Commune of 1871, another leftist insurrection, the French have kept it since.

When the Khmer Rouge conquered Cambodia in 1975, the communists declared it Year Zero.

I’m sure you know where I’m heading in this discussion. The far-leftists who are pulling down and defacing statues–they even placed a burning US flag on a George Washington statue after toppling it–don’t want to reinterpret history, they want to destroy it.

Now that Grant can’t be protected–oh, where were the San Francisco police when his statue was removed from its pedestal?–is anyone safe? Franklin D. Roosevelt is a hero to the left. But Roosevelt ordered the internment of over 100,000 people of Japanese descent, many of them US citizens, during World War II.

What about Woodrow Wilson? To be fair, most white men 100 years ago were racist under contemporary definitions, but that makes Wilson an extreme racist. Wilson, another lion of the left, chose the ultra-racist Birth Of a Nation to be the first motion picture to be screened at the White House.

A quote from Wilson appears on a caption in that movie, “‘The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation … until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.’ — Woodrow Wilson.”

Wilson also re-segregated the federal workforce. As for Birth Of A Nation, that movie brought on the second incarnation of the KKK.

Wilson is already under attack. Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, New Jersey will be renamed. Monmouth College in New Jersey–the Garden State was Wilson’s adopted home state–will remove his name from a building on its campus.

Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower had racist views. What about them?

What about everyone?

What about you?

The far-left wants their Year Zero.

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.

After the riots, my walk down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

By John Ruberry

Chicago’s largest shopping district, and its best-known, is North Michigan Avenue, which is just north of downtown. It’s known internationally as the Magnificent Mile. 

The Mag Mile is dominated by luxury department stores and boutiques, including Nordstrom’s, Bloomingdale’s, Cartier, Macy’s Tiffany, Burberry’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Rolex, and many more. 

So naturally it was a target of the Antifa-driven riots of last weekend in Chicago. 

I was on the Mag Mile Thursday. Nearly every building was boarded-up at street level. Not all were looted, I assume. But who knows?

Someone tried to break down the glass doors at Rolex apparently with a sledgehammer, after which another hooligan sprayed “F*ck Trump” on one of the shattered doors. 

Spontaneous protests aren’t attended by sledgehammer wielding thugs carrying cans of spray paint.

Many stores were looted–probably most. 

There’s an American Girl Store on the Mile–it was boarded up. The Disney Store on North Michigan was not the happiest shop in the world–it was sealed off by plywood too.

There was rioting and looting all over Chicago and in the suburbs. On a personal note the area where I live, the inner northern suburbs, was not hit by rioting and looting. 

The George Floyd homicide was an abomination. But I don’t believe there is any justification for the rioting, looting, and the arson, the latter of which didn’t strike the Magnificent Mile. 

The Illinois lockdown is harsh. Dine-in restaurants are still closed–outdoor dining was allowed on May 29, except in Chicago, which had a June 3rd partial re-opening date. Many of the aforementioned retailers had been closed since late March and were looking at a June 3 reopening. 

Then came the riots. 

Chicago and Illinois’ recovery from the Great Recession was a slow one–political mismanagement, corruption, and unfunded pension liabilities saw to that. And those three underlying failures, particularly the pension bomb, have gotten worse since then. 

Chicago and Illinois seem destined for more misery.

I want to add one more thought. Police brass botched the initial response to the downtown and Magnificent Mile riots. The Chicago River draw bridges were not immediately raised, an opportunity to block or at least separate the mob was lost. And Chicago police officers were guarding Chicago’s 18 miles of lakefront parks from walkers, runners, and cyclists, as they have been for over two months, while the riots and arson raged. 

Those cops are still at the lakefront. 

Anger–and stupidity–rules Chicago.

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.

My wife and daughter escaped the Illinois lockdown and traveled to Wisconsin

By John Ruberry

As I wrote a couple of posts back the unemployment rate is 67 percent in the Marathon Pundit home here in suburban Chicago. Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, they were furloughed from their jobs.

Obviously in possession of free time Mrs. Marathon Pundit and Little Marathon Pundit decided to travel on this holiday weekend–they headed to Wisconsin. I stayed here to work.

Illinois, run by a Democrat from Chicago, J.B. Pritzker, remains under lockdown. You cannot enter supermarkets or any store with out a mask. Up in Wisconsin, its state Supreme Court struck down its shelter-in-place order made by its Democratic governor, Tony Evers. And its mask requirements.

Wisconsin is a free state. Illinois is a lockdown state. It’s that simple. My wife and daughter’s money is being spent not her3 but north of the Cheese Curtain. In a way they remind me of Poles in the last years of the Cold War visiting West Germany.

Illinois, according to WalletHub, has the most restrictive COVID-19 restrictions in the nation.

I just got off the phone with Mrs. MP. She enthusiastically told me about her first dine-in restaurant experience in two months. The restaurants in Illinois that are open are open for take-out only. On Friday outdoor dining will be allowed in the Prairie State. What if it rains? What if these diners aren’t equipped for al fresco serving? What if they don’t have the necessary permits? What if the restaurant owners can’t apply for an outdoor dining permit because their village hall is closed because of the coronavirus lockdown? Thanks for next-to-nothing, Pritzker.

Then my wife told me about their arrival yesterday in the small town of Mineral Point in the southwestern part America’s Dairyland. There was–wait for it–a parade! One for recent high school graduates. While the graduation ceremony was cancelled, grads in Mineral Point received their moment of glory on the streets. As far as I can gather all parades scheduled in Illinois in spring or early summer were cancelled. “A few people wore masks,” she told me of the people participating or viewing the parade, “but most didn’t.” Some stores are open–mostly the locally-owned ones as opposed to the big chains. “When you go in those places, you don’t have to wear masks,” she enthused.

My wife and daughter went inside, yes inside, a coffee shop, and drank coffee, although a sign outside of that establishment said, “Masks are recommended.” But masks weren’t even recommended when they entered an ice cream parlor.

Many other Illinoisans have escaped to Wisconsin too. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel spoke to one refugee from the Pritzker Lockdown who journeyed to Lake Geneva. “‘All for it,” said Dave Gragnani of McHenry, Illinois, who said he planned to visit a coffee shop and skatepark without any mask or hand sanitizer. “People should have a choice. I’m having a wonderful time.'”

Good for you, Dave!

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

Not as much as Wisconsin, but Indiana is opening up too. And of course the welcome mat is open there for Illinoisans fed up with the lockdown. I’m sure Iowa, where my family traveled last month, as well as Missouri and Kentucky, the other states that border Illinois, are enjoying an influx of cash-flush Illinoisans.

Yes, I’m aware that nearly 100,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, although nearly every one of them already had serious health problems. Nursing homes, hospitals, and senior centers need extra protection. 

It’s time to open up the rest of America. And the world. 

Dennis Prager earlier this month wrote that the worldwide COVD-19 lockdown might be biggest mistake in history

John Ruberry regularly writes 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.

The Pritzker disaster in Illinois

Apple River Fort State Historic Site last month in Elizabeth, Illinois, located in a county that has 18 reported cases of COVID-19 as of May 10, 2020.

By John Ruberry

Illinois has the wrong governor at the wrong time. 

Oh, I’m not talking about the political positions of Chicago Democrat J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire who was elected governor in 2018. 

Let’s first discuss how he was elected. Largely because of support of unions, who probably fell in love with his wallet, as well as the tacit support of the most powerful politician in Illinois, longtime state House speaker Michael Madigan, Pritzker won the Democratic gubernatorial primary. That’s quite ironic as the Pritzker family has had a troubled relationship with organized labor, starting with the Pritzker-owned Hyatt hotel chain

Pritzker largely self-funded his campaign. So did his hapless general election opponent, multi-millionaire Bruce Rauner. The one-term Republican achieved nothing as governor, other than get bested by Boss Madigan, the mother hen of Illinois’ pension bomb

Illinois’ shelter-in-place order in response to the coronavirus was eased a bit earlier this month. Golf courses, those germ cesspools, are now open. Dine-in restaurants, health clubs, hair salons and the like are closed. Nearly one million Illinoisans, including my wife and daughter, are newly out of work. 

When things get back to what we might call normal, many of businesses won’t be here anymore. Pritzker is a trust fund baby who has never had to worry about economic survival. I’m sure he’s had a few setbacks, but he could always reach into that perpetually-full cookie jar of a trust fund or his accounts in the Grand Cayman Islands. Contrast that situation to the husband and wife who met while working as servers at a restaurant twenty years ago, then saved their money and took out a second mortgage on their home to open their own restaurant. They’ve laid off their servers and bussers, and only half of their cooks kept their jobs. Revenue has plummeted. Taking a third mortgage out on their home to bail out their restaurant isn’t an option. So their dream business, their livelihood that supported children may have only one destiny. Closing down. And then they’ll have no choice but to declare bankruptcy. 

Pritzker doesn’t get it. 

Since the governor issued his shelter-in-place order nearly two months ago most state offices were shuttered. Yet every state employee is being paid. Let’s zoom in on Illinois’ secretary of state office, which is mainly what other places call the DMV. Driver’s licenses aren’t being issued or renewed, the same goes with license plates, unless, with the latter, you are buying a car as most car dealers in Illinois have the ability to provide at the very least temporary state tags. 

Why haven’t state employees like these been laid off? Union rules just might prohibit that but we are told by Pritzker that Illinois is facing an emergency. I’m sure if he wanted to he’d find a state law to justify layoffs. But Pritzker couldn’t simply buy the governor’s office two years ago, he needed votes to win and unions supply lots of voters. And Pritzker, who is not the most dynamic campaigner–he comes across as an arrogant jerk because he is one–will need labor support again if he chooses to run for reelection. 

Sales tax revenue is of course way down in Illinois. Because of that and the state’s mountain of unpaid bills and its appallingly-underfunded public worker pension plans, last month Fitch lowered Illinois’ bond to one level above junk

Unlike its governor, Illinois has no trust fund to bail it out nor does it have bank accounts in the Grand Caymans. Courtesy of Boss Madigan Illinois hasn’t had a rainy day fund for years. 

Pritzker is facing several lawsuits challenging his shelter-in-place order. But his wife violated that order by leaving the state for the refuge of their Florida equestrian estate, in the manner of a medieval royal escaping a plague. 

It’s good to be king. It’s better to be a billionaire living off a trust fund who can use that cash to be elected governor and then lecture people like me as to how I should live my life. He’s been doing so in his daily press briefings on live television that pre-empt talk shows and soap operas. What fun! The Great Oz has spoken!

Rural Illinois has been particularly devastated by Pritzker’s shutdown. Many Illinois counties have fewer than ten reported cases of COVID-19. Three of them have none. 

With great fanfare and expense–$65 million–Pritzker transformed Chicago’s cavernous McCormick Place Convention Center into a hospital because he told us our existing hospitals would be overwhelmed by the coronavirus and there’d be no more hospital beds. After treating 37 patients the McCormick Place hospital closed down. Pritzker took bad advice from so-called experts.

Whether the shelter-in-place order in Illinois and other states worked–or perhaps it was never needed–the lockdowns need to end, with exceptions such as preventing visitors at places with vulnerable people, such as nursing homes. Densely populated cities such as New York and Boston–but not Chicago–probably need to keep up additional protections against COVID-19.

As I wrote a few weeks ago here, a new epidemic is coming. Perhaps it’s here already. One consisting of addiction, spouse and child abuse, and suicide. Economic hardship often brings out the worst in people. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review of Season 4 of The Last Kingdom

By John Ruberry

Are you stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown? Here’s another Netflix binge-watching opportunity for you: The Last Kingdom.

Last Sunday Season 4 began was released by the streaming service.

On the old platform of Da Tech Guy I reviewed the first three seasons. Here’s a brief summary: Uhtred Ragnarsson of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), the son of a Northumbrian nobleman, is raised by Danish Vikings, along with another Saxon, Brida (Emily Cox), after his father is killed in a battle. Both of them abandon Christianity and convert to the Norse religion. As adults they serve as bridges, Uhtred much more than Brida, between the Danes and the English. Uhtred, also called “Uhtred the Godless” and “the Daneslayer,” sets his goal to reclaim Bebbanburg, his ancestral castle.

In the first season the four Saxon kingdoms, Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, and Wessex have been conquered by a Danish force later called the Great Heathen Army. Only Alfred (David Dawson), the king of Wessex, puts up an effective resistance. Uhtred and Alfred form an uneasy alliance to defeat the Danes. Wessex of course is that Last Kingdom. Alfred is one of two English kings to be given the moniker “the Great.” The other was Cnut, an 11th century ruler.

The series is based The Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell.

Minor spoilers in the next paragraph:

In the fourth season Bebbanburg, weakened after a siege by the Scots, finally seems within reach of Uhtred. He’s been united with his children, yet another Uhtred (Finn Elliot), a devout Christian, who was largely raised in a monastery, and his daughter, Stiorra (Ruby Hartley), who like the elder Uhtred is conflicted in her relations with Saxons and Danes. Edward (Timothy Innes), who succeeded his father, is the new king of Wessex and has a strong influence over Mercia, where his sister Aethelflaed (Millie Brady) is queen. 

The Viking era of the British Isles lasted over two-and-a-half centuries, ending in that auspicious year of 1066. The Last Kingdom is set roughly half-way into that conflict. If the Danes were to issue a knock-out punch, it needed to be by the Great Heathen Army over Alfred. That didn’t happen so that sets the table for a long series of alliances and betrayals. There is plenty of both in the show, in this season the prominent one is a scheme from the traitor Eardwulf (Jamie Blackley), a member of a fallen Mercian noble family. Meanwhile Alfred’s widow, Aelswith (Eliza Butterworth) weaves her plan to fight the Danes. 

The middle section of Season 4 is overly burdened with plots and counter-plots, made even more confusing because many of the historical characters in The Last Kingdom have similar names. For instance we have Aethelflaed who is married to Aethelred (Toby Regbo). Such similarities can work in books, but the scriptwriters for the series should have changed one of those names. There is more. Aelfwynn (Annamária Bitó) is their daughter. Her grandmother is the aforementioned Aelswith.  While Edward is in Mercia, Wessex is ruled by an ealdorman, Aethelhelm (Adrian Schiller). His daughter, Aelflaed (Amelia Clarkson) is married to Edward.

But the season is redeemed by the battle scenes which are quite intense. And of course the later episodes are dominated by major one, a siege with Uhtred and Brita on opposite sides of the walls. The Saxons are led by Edward, the Danes by a new Viking leader, Sigtryggr (Eysteinn Sigurðarson).

A fifth season seems likely as The Last Kingdom has enjoyed a top-ten Netflix viewing all week. One issue that needs to be resolved is that the main characters have barely aged yet Uhtred’s children are in their mid-teens. It’s time for a touch of gray in his hair. And Brida’s too.

The Last Kingdom is rated TV-MA for violence, torture, and nudity.

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.