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.

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.

Jussie Smollett’s protector Kim Foxx faces Cook County voters in two weeks

By John Ruberry

February was a nasty month in Chicago. Not the weather, as it was pretty good. Just a day or two of sub-zero weather and no major snowstorms.

No, I’m talking about crime. Just as there are contested primaries in Cook County for state’s attorney, which consists of Chicago and its inner suburbs, on both the Democratic and Republican sides. There are three challengers to Kim Foxx in the Democratic side, two GOPers are battling for their party not.

Bill Conway seems to be the leading Dem challenge to the incumbent prosecutor.

Foxx, best known for her still not-fully explained decision to drop charges against alleged hate crime hoax charges against Jussie Smollett. A grand jury empowered by a special prosecutor issued new charges against the former Empire star last month, 

Murders of have been decreasing in Chicago since 2016 when there were 762. But last month there were 34 murders–ten more than in February, 2019, a 41 percent increase.

In 2019 there were 123 shootings in February. This February there were 166.

Carjackings are up too. As with murders in Chicago, the clearance rate is abysmally low, year to year, according to Hey Jackass, hovers around ten percent. But that clearance rate is declining. 

There are no figures on gangs of shoplifters in Chicago, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate there are more of these roving mobs. Twice last month the ritzy North Michigan Avenue was hit. Both times no one was arrested. 

Foxx, a leftist, refuses to charge shoplifters with a felony who are caught steeling less than $1,000 in merchandise. The Illinois threshold is $300. Crime seems to pay in Chicago and suburban Cook County as long as you don’t get caught and especially if you don’t get too greedy.

Northeastern Illinois seems to be part of the wave that I called here the Age of the Criminal.

Election Day is March 17 here. Of course I’ll be taking a Republican ballot. 

UPDATE March 19: Cook County voters proved to me just how dumb they are. Foxx easily was won renomination two days ago. The Republican nominee is Pat O’Brien, who has my support.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Republicans are handed a winning issue as Democrats call for and act on abolishment of cash bail

By John Ruberry

If your sole source of news is leftist media such as Slate, you’ll believe that there are “people who are in jail solely because they can’t afford to pay their way out.”

Nope.

There are people in jail awaiting trial because they are accused of serious crimes and they are deemed by a judge to be a threat to society.

Someone like Tiffany Harris of Brooklyn seemingly fits that bill. Late last month Harris allegedly slapped three Orthodox Jewish women as she said “F-U Jews” and was promptly arrested.

Courtesy of New York State’s new laws that eliminate most cash bails, Harris was back on the street a few days later. The next day Harris allegedly punched a woman and was arrested again–and was released.

A few days later, during a court-mandated meeting with a social worker, Harris was arrested again after allegedly pinching that worker. She went too far even for New York this time. Harris is now being held for psychiatric evaluations.

The Harris case is not an isolated one in the five days the Empire State’s new bail law has been in effect, as the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle tells us:

On Thursday, a man accused of manslaughter for choking and stabbing a woman to death in Albany was set to be released without bail under New York’s new criminal justice laws.

In Harlem, a man who allegedly hit and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk was released without bail because of the new state law that ends cash bail for misdemeanors and many non-violent felonies.

In Rochester, a man convicted a decade ago of shooting a Rochester police officer was released on new drug charges without bail.

And in Poughkeepsie, a man once convicted of manslaughter was set to be freed on new charges of felony aggravated DWI as he awaits trial, the district attorney said.

Law enforcement officials are understandably aghast over the new law, as are Republicans.

New York City’s left-wing mayor, Bill de Blasio, is now calling for a minor scaling back of the law, adding judicial discretion to keep those are the biggest threat to society either locked up or under the burden of a cash bail.

De Blasio is a former Democratic presidential candidate. Of the top tier Dems running for president, all of them, specifically Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders favor ending cash bail. So dropping it is not a fringe issue among the Democrats. Sanders has gone as far as sponsoring a Senate bill to abolish cash bail.

Anti-police rhetoric dominated liberaldom during the 2016 presidential race, which led President Trump to call himself “the law and order candidate.”

In a November Tweet, President Trump decried the New York bail law, “So sad to see what is happening in New York where Governor Cuomo & Mayor DeBlasio are letting out 900 Criminals, some hardened & bad, onto the sidewalks of our rapidly declining, because of them, city. The Radical Left Dems are killing our cities. NYPD Commissioner is resigning!”

Other Blue States are bowing to the criminals. As I noted here at Da Tech Guy, Cook County Illinois’ State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, best known for dropping the hate crime hoax charges against Jussie Smollett, is bringing additional misery to law-abiding citizens such as myself by refusing to prosecute shoplifters who steal merchandise worth less than $1,000. Probably not coincidentally, Chicago is now plagued with shoplifting mobs. Californians will vote later this year on an initiative to eliminate cash bail–a bill enacted in the former Golden State was blocked by a lawsuit. As I also noted in that DTG entry, the headline was “Welcome to the Age of Criminals,” San Francisco’s new prosecutor, Chesa Boudin, the son of two Weather Underground terrorists, who was raised by two others, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, wants to drop cash bail right now. He favors “restorative justice” as an alternative to imprisonment. New Jersey and one Red State, Alaska, has a weaker version of the New York cash bail law.

Abolishing cash bail for the GOP is what former Chicago White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson would call a “get-me-over-fastball.” In other words, it’s a gift basket of a pitch that ends up as a home run.

Trump should pursue maintaining cash bail as a campaign issue. But even more so, because law enforcement is primarily a local issue, down-ballot Republicans should do so too.

After all, as I’ve noted many times, the most important duty of any responsible government is to protect its citizens from invaders and criminals.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Welcome to the Age of Criminals

By John Ruberry

“Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints,” Mick Jagger first sang in 1968. The late 1960s were a period when many people believed that society, not individuals, was responsbible for crimes. There was a predictable backlash which led to the “Get Tough on Crime” movement that benefitted the political careers of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and countless other politicians. In 2016, Donald Trump once referred to himself as “the law and order candidate.” He should have stayed with that meme, in my opinion.

Clearly, at least in America’s big cities, the law enforcement philosophic pendulum is swinging back to the liberals. A big part of the reason is the left-wing political monoculture in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco. The Democrats are the only effective political force in these places, and the two-party structure, such as it is, consists of the left and the far-left. It was the far-left, aided by the uninformed who only vote for candidates with “D” next to their names, who elected Kim Foxx the state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois, where I live, as well as Larry Krasner as district attorney of Philadelphia, Rachael Rollins as district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which is dominated by Boston, and earlier this month, Chesa Boudin as San Francisco’s district attorney.

Boudin takes us back to the 1960s. You probably haven’t heard of his parents, David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. Both were members of the terrorist group the Weather Underground, which was founded in 1969. Dad is serving what is effectively a life sentence for murder for his role in a deadly 1981 suburban New York Brinks truck robbery, done in conjunction with the Black Liberation Army, one that saw a security guard and two Nyack police officers shot to death. One of those slain cops was the only African-American on the Nyack force. Mom was released from prison in 2003, she is now an adjunct professor at Columbia University. Getaway cars for the heist were rented using personal information taken from customers who shopped at a New York boutique, Broadway Baby. The manager of that store, using a phony name, was Bernardine Dorhn. She was also a member of the Weather Underground but was never charged in Brinks case.

Since Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were unable to raise Chesa, who was a toddler at the time of the heist, they chose their radical pals, Dohrn and her partner, Bill Ayers, who of course was another Weather Underground member, as his guardians. Dohrn and Ayers’ home in Chicago is where Barack Obama began his political career in 1995. Ayers and Dorhn, now retired professors, are rarely mentioned in the generally sympathetic mainstream media reports about Chesa. As for that younger Boudin, he did well by attending an elite private school, then Yale, then Oxford. Prior to becoming a public defender in San Francisco, Boudin worked as a translator for the Venezuelan government at the time Hugo Chavez was running that once-prosperous nation into the ground.

Next year voters in California will vote on an initiative to eliminate cash bail there. Boudin doesn’t want to wait that long. The district attorney-elect told NPR last week that his first act in office will be to tell his prosecutors never to ask for cash bail, “Because we shouldn’t be putting a price tag on freedom, because we shouldn’t be determining incarceration based on wealth, and it’s what I intend to implement as policy on day one.” In place of prison time, Boudin, with victims’ consent, supports something called “restorative justice,” even in cases involving murder, kidnapping, and rape.

Not surprisingly, the local police union opposed Boudin in the election, spending $700,000 and calling him “the No. 1 choice of criminals and gang members.” Boudin has called for the prosecution of cops and ICE officials for, wait for it, doing their jobs. 

Bernie Sanders endorsed Boudin in the DA race.

Back in Cook County, Illinois, where Boudin was raised, Kim Foxx is the top law enforcement official. She endorsed Chesa, as did those leftist district attorneys in Philadelphia and Boston. Nationally Foxx is best known for her bizarre–unless you are a leftist–decision to drop all of Jussie Smollett’s charges involving staging the phony “racist” attack on him in Chicago earlier this year. But there is more to dislike. The Illinois threshold for charging shoplifters with a felony is stealing items worth $300. Foxx, with the snap of her fingers, raised it to $1,000. Not surprisingly, retail theft is on the rise in Chicago. Who pays? The store owners? Not exactly. To recoup their losses, prices for their unstolen merchandise goes up. So honest people suffer. Now there are reports of roving bands of shoplifters in Chicago. Retail theft can be a career choice, it seems. Presumably the swiped goods are resold by these bandits on the black market, at a cheap price, undercutting the sales of legitimate merchants. And Chicago doesn’t collect its whopping 10 percent sales tax on these transactions. Crime is indeed expensive. Yet for some people it pays.

When Foxx took office three years ago, shoplifting was the second-most prosecuted crime in Cook County. Now it’s the eighth-most prosecuted one. The long term implications for society are dire as shoplifting is viewed by some as a gateway crime to more serious offenses.

In her video regarding announcing her run for reelection in 2020, Foxx admitted she botched the Smollett case, but she also attacked Chicago’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, which in a spring protest outside of her office called on her to resign. In a July letter to Foxx, the FOP cited that a “deep mistrust now exists between your office and ours. We no longer believe that your office will treat our members fairly either in the arrests they make or when they are victims of crimes.”

It appears that the Age of Criminals, at least in some big cities and their inner suburbs, is upon us. Supporting law abiding folks are the cops. Leftist prosecutors are on the other side.

The crime gateway is open.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.