Monday, August 31, 2020

Culture War in Sweden

Now that the pandemic panic has abated in Sweden, that nation is returning to a debate over another important issue-- what to do about the crime wave unleashed by Muslim migrants. 

Zero Hedge has the story:

And now that the COVID-19 numbers are down, the country is starting to focus on the rising rates of violent crime, spurred in part by a series of particularly brutal crimes that have taken place in recent weeks. Whether its reports about criminals setting up their own roadblocks in Gothenburg, a 12-year-old girl shot and killed in gang crossfire, or a beating that verged on torture, right-wing politicians, led by a right-wing party called the Sweden Democrats that was mostly shunned until a few months ago, have seized on this latest crime wave as Sweden's "second pandemic."

"There is a big frustration and anger at the developments,” Mattias Karlsson, parliamentary leader of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, the country’s third-largest political party, told the Financial Times. “Our laws are too soft, the police don’t have the means to investigate this very serious crime."

But then, right wing radicals also stoked violence last Friday, by burning a Koran. 

On Friday night, a large riot broke out in an immigrant suburb of Sweden's third city Malmo after far-right sympathisers burnt a Koran. Ulf Kristersson, head of the main centre-right opposition party, the Moderates, used his summer speech on August 24 to accuse the government of failing to act after more than 200 shootings and 24 deaths this year. “The deadly violence is Sweden’s second pandemic,” he added.

It is becoming a liability for Sweden’s Social Democrats:

Interestingly enough, the issue of crime is becoming a bigger political liability for Sweden's ruling Social Democrats than their handling of the coronavirus. And it's a natural fit for the 'anti-migrant' right because most of the criminal suspects are immigrants.

The governing Social Democrats had until recently enjoyed a boost in the polls from their handling of the coronavirus pandemic where they have largely followed the recommendations of state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell while ploughing billions of krona into the economy.

Migrant crime is a great political issue for the conservative political parties:

But a nascent conservative bloc - involving Mr Kristersson’s Moderates and the Christian Democrats from the mainstream centre-right, plus the previously shunned Sweden Democrats - is increasingly attacking the government on law and order and migration as many of the suspected criminals are immigrants.

One academic expert quoted in the FT story said that while the liberal government's "libertarian" approach to tackling the pandemic had "discombobulated" Swedish conservatives, the crime issue is giving conservatives a rare opportunity to completely turn the tables on their competition.

The conservative line is pretty straight forward: attempts at integration and open migration were misguided idealism, and these failed policies have led to "segregation and violence".

Sweden is now engaged in a culture war. It is not debating economic issues but is trying to figure out what to do about migrant crime, drug trafficking, no-go zones and rape culture that Muslim migrants have brought to that country:

Toward the end of the story, the conservative politician who appeared to be the FT's main source made an interesting point. In Sweden - as in much of Europe today - the big political disagreements are no longer about economics. They're about culture.

Mr Karlsson said that “many people are feeling insecure in their everyday life” and argued that Sweden’s immigration and integration policies had failed, leading to “segregation and violence”.

He added: “It’s not really economics or taxes that are the main sources of conflict in Swedish politics — values, identity, crime that is where the debate is.”

Canceling San Francisco

Those who happily declare that America’s large blue cities will soon make a comeback often point to commercial real estate.

While New Yorkers are fleeing their city in large numbers, major companies, like TikTok are taking out large long term commercial leases. It might be that office towers are now empty, but still, hope gleams eternal in the Big Apple.

And then there is the case of San Francisco. While San Francisco has not had its fair share of revolutionary violence, looting and arson, the city is grossly overpriced. Young Silicon Valley workers are leaving in droves. Like the exodus from New York’s Upper West Side, tech workers are discovering that they can have a far better standard of living anywhere but in San Francisco. Besides, as you know, the local authorities have happily granted homeless people to encamp wherever they want and to do anything they want on the city’s streets.

It sounds a bit like New York’s Upper West Side.

Anyway, cancel culture has now come to San Francisco. No, not the cancel culture that wants to obliterate your presence on social media. It’s the cancel culture that allows large companies, like Pinterest, to cancel commercial leases in beautiful downtown San Fran. Apparently, Pinterest was going to lead a revival of inner city San Francisco. No more.

It's so bad that Pinterest was willing to pay tens of millions to get out of its lease. That's very bad indeed.

Zero Hedge reports:

Things are going so great in California that Pinterest just paid $89.5 million to cancel its 490,000-square-foot lease at the upcoming 88 Bluxome project in San Francisco. 

The company blames working from home as a result of the pandemic as the reason for abandoning the lease - but we're sure the state's rising taxes, impending real estate market crash and conversion of the property to a temporary homeless shelter in March likely helped contribute to the decision making.

Either way, Pinterest wanted out of the lease so badly they were willing to fork over a hefty sum to ensure they would not be held to it. The company's total lease obligations for the property would have amounted to $440 million. 

Pinterest's CFO told the San Francisco Chronicle: “As we analyze how our workplace will change in a post-COVID world, we are specifically rethinking where future employees could be based. A more distributed workforce will give us the opportunity to hire people from a wider range of backgrounds and experiences.”

That’s corporate PR-speak. The company does not want to alienate anyone, but it is responding to the demands of its workers, workers who do not believe that the abuse they receive in San Francisco is worth absorbing.

It also bears an uncanny resemblance to what Amazon decided to do with their Queens, New York hub after taking a good, hard look at New York City’s politicians. After casting a cold eye on AOC and on Comrade de Blasio, Amazon decided to take thousands of jobs and billions of dollars elsewhere.

Zero Hedge remarks that the Pinterest decision will do the same for San Francisco’s hoped-for redevelopment:

To us, it appears to be more of a statement about San Francisco's real estate market than about Pinterest. After all, the company was the first and only lease commitment "in San Francisco’s 230-acre Central South of Market district, where numerous large commercial and residential projects have been approved after the city raised height limits last year," the Chronicle said.

They were to help contribute to 30,000 new jobs and 20,000 new residents in the district, which the city hoped would fuel more than $2 billion in public benefits. The project is "now in doubt". The proposed 88 Bluxome project was supposed to start construction this year, but current plans for the project are now "unclear". 

For the time being, the area has been converted into a homeless shelter:

And in peak San Francisco fashion, the city converted the tennis club currently on the lot to a homeless shelter in March. 

Thereby you see the future of great American blue cities. But, at least, they can all blame Donald Trump-- moral dereliction that will not bring business or commerce back to their hellholes.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Middle East Realignment

Last week, the American Secretary of State addressed the Republican National Convention in a speech delivered from Jerusalem, Israel. Democrats were up in arms about the violation of some law they had never previously cared about.

And we know that if an American Secretary of State had delivered a speech from Gaza or Tehran, in the company of people who want nothing more than to murder Americans, these same hypocrites would have cheered it as an act of courageous diplomacy.

For the record, I assume that Pompeo spoke from the American embassy in Jerusalem. And everyone knows that the American embassy is, strictly speaking, sovereign territory of the United States. 

Anyway, the Pompeo speech highlighted one of the Trump administration’s most significant foreign policy achievements: the strategic realignment of the Middle East, with the formation of an alliance between Israel and the Gulf Arab states-- beginning with the recent rapprochement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

To measure the significance of what is happening, we turn to the reliable Caroline Glick. She begins her cogent analysis by remarking that he Obama administration had precipitated the realignment by siding with Iran and Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, as against Israel and the Gulf Arab states.

While the dimwitted Nancy Pelosi proclaims that the Democratic Party supports Israel, the truth is that her party is a cesspool of anti-Semitism. And the other truth is that the last Democratic administration, the Obama-Biden administration allied itself with the most anti-Semitic regimes on the planet.

Glick opens:

The shift predates the Trump administration. A decade ago, the Sunni Arab regimes in Egypt and the Persian Gulf had a brush with annihilation that transformed their perception of the region and the world. With the rise of Islamist forces in the Arab Spring threatening to overthrow them on the one hand, and the Obama administration shifting US support away from them and towards the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran on the other, the Egyptian military, the Saudi regime, and the UAE leadership collectively arrived at an earth-shattering conclusion that Israel is not their enemy. Like them, the Jewish state was spurned by Obama. And like them, Israel recognizes Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood as its mortal foes. As Obama's betrayals multiplied, and his support for Iran and its nuclear program expanded, Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia began to view Israel as their most stable and powerful ally and only competent defender against Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Obama policy shifted America’s allegiance toward Iran, Turkey and Qatar:

Facing the Arab Sunni regimes and Israel, and strongly supported by the Obama administration were Turkey, Qatar, and Iran which together formed a Sunni-Shiite Islamist bloc. With their proxies and vassals in control of Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq, members of this bloc were open to alliances with the Democrats, the Russians, the Chinese, the EU, and Marxist regimes in Latin America.

The new Obama-led alliance showed its ugly head in 2014 during the Hamas war against Israel. It tried to pressure Israel into yielding to the ceasefire demands of Hamas:

The first time the two blocs were seen in the light of day was in 2014, during Hamas' war with Israel known as Operation Protective Edge. At the time, Turkey, Qatar, and the Obama administration supported Hamas' ceasefire terms. The Republicans, the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia supported Israel. Their unprecedented willingness to publicly stand with Israel stunned the Obama administration and enabled Israel to withstand administration pressure to succumb to Hamas's demands.

The G. W. Bush administration had already caused its own problems in the region, especially by pursuing its democracy agenda. Glick calls it utopian ignorance.

After overthrowing Saddam and his Ba'athist regime, the younger Bush stunned the US' Sunni Arab allies when he made transforming them into liberal democracies the central goal of his foreign policy. Bush's democratization efforts empowered the Muslim Brotherhood. His overthrow of Saddam empowered Iran.

Whereas Bush acted out of utopian ignorance, Obama's Middle Eastern policies were borne out of his anti-Western world view. Obama's policies exacerbated the damage Bush had wrought to America's position in the Middle East and to regional stability.

And then there was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He shocked the world and the Obama administration by laying the initial groundwork for an alliance with the Sunni Arab world. Obviously, the Trump administration policy built on this foundation:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to reach out to the Egyptian military, to the Saudis and to the Emiratis in the midst of the Arab Spring and the Obama administration's betrayal was the first sustained, rational, strategic initiative anyone had tried in nearly a decade of turmoil. The operational alliance they formed blunted the momentum of the Muslim Brotherhood and the rise of Iran.

In the American context, Netanyahu's move offered Republicans a framework for developing a rational and constructive alternative strategic framework not only to Obama's radical realignment, but to the wider conceptual vacuum in US post-Cold War strategic planning.

And yet, both the European Union and Great Britain have refused to give up on the Obama administration’s anti-Israel policies. To the chagrin of many:

Arguably the saddest man in Jerusalem this week was British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab. Blind to the seismic shifts that have occurred, Raab arrived uninvited in Israel's capital, (which Britain still refuses to recognize) to mediate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

After Britain exited the European Union following the Brexit vote, the Trump administration expected Britain would renew its special alliance with the US and ditch Brussels' anti-American and anti-Israel unified foreign policy. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn't get the memo.

Much to Washington's disappointment, the Johnson government has continued to act as a loyal member (or vassal) of the EU. The Johnson government opposes the administration's maximum pressure strategy for dealing with Iran, and even abstained from supporting the US at the Security Council last week.

The British Foreign Office, like the EU and the UN, reacted coldly to the news that Israel and the UAE are normalizing their relations, insisting that the Palestinians must not be ignored, the chimerical "two-state solution" must be upheld at all costs.

Raab met with Pompeo in Jerusalem. While the details of their meeting were not reported, Netanyahu made clear Israel's displeasure at Britain's pro-Iran policies and expressed no interest in Britain's offer to pressure Israel to make unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians.

Thanks to the Trump administration the EU and Great Britain have no leverage on the process. They must still yearn for the halcyon days of the Obama administration when their perfidy and fecklessness was in perfect harmony with that of the United States.

Leaving the Upper West Side

It’s one thing to go by the numbers. It’s one thing to accumulate the statistics about the people leaving New York City. It’s quite another to see it in action. It’s quite another thing to see the moving vans backed up on West 87th Street, a few blocks north of the hotels where Mayor de Blasio has parked thousands of homeless drug addicts and sex offenders.

We have it on the authority of one Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, a self-protection group. When Sliwa created the group in 1979 it was designed to protect New Yorkers from violent subway crime.

Today, Sliwa lives on West 87th St. There, yesterday, he was witnessing the reality of the exodus out of the Upper West Side. The neighborhood was filled with moving vans.

For the record, nine out of the twelve apartments in Sliwa’s building are now empty. When we reported on the CEO of The Related Companies decrying the absence of people in New York office buildings, we suggested that he, being in the business of renting apartments, was most concerned about vanishing renters, we were apparently on the mark.

The New York Post has the story:

Moving trucks were out in force on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Saturday — leaving Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa practically tripping over them.

“The mass evacuation of Upper West Siders from NYC is in full effect,” Sliwa, who lives on W. 87th Street, lamented, blaming the city’s decision this summer to house hundreds of emotionally disturbed homeless and recovering addicts in neighborhood hotels.

When Sliwa stopped to ask where the trucks were going, he learned that they were all leaving New York State. They were going to Virginia, New Hampshire, Tennessee and South Carolina. 

What did the emigrants tell Sliwa?

“They told me, ‘Curtis, first the pandemic hit us and now the quality of life is so bad'” Sliwa said.

“The woman was almost crying. They said they survived the ’70s,” as a young couple in the then-high crime neighborhood. “But then in a month, in July, the neighborhood was destroyed.”

And then Sliwa saw this, at a spot that must count among the toniest and priciest locations in the city:

The fourth truck was at W. 75th and Central Park West.

“It was a young family,” a mom and dad, and a little boy and girl.

“They were moving themselves down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,” Sliwa said.

“They said in the last month, there have been so many disturbed people in the streets, aggressively panhandling, defecating, urinating — they leave the hotels and have no bathrooms to use,” Sliwa said of the new homeless neighbors, who he believes are also victims.

At least, they all voted for de Blasio. And they are all progressive Democrats. As the old saying goes, they are hoist on their own petard:

“These are the people who elected de Blasio, who live here,” Sliwa said. “It’s a progressive, liberal neighborhood. And now there’s a visceral hate here for him — the feeling that he has virtually singlehandedly destroyed this city.”

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Andrew Sullivan's Confusion

Let’s see. Andrew Sullivan writes an extended critique of the Democratic Party, lamenting the fact that the party cannot do better as nominee than a man who is suffering from senile dementia.

He trashes the Democratic program, pins the current wave of violence and rioting on Democrats, and then declares that he is going to vote for Joe Biden. To each his own.

Confusion on parade.

Take the following graph, from near the end of the essay. Ask yourself: what’s wrong with this picture:

Yes, we still have an election. But barring a landslide victory for either party, it will be the beginning and not the end of the raw struggle for power in a fast-collapsing republic. In a close race, Trump will never concede, and if he is somehow forced to, he will mount a campaign from the outside to delegitimize the incoming president, backed by street-gangs and propaganda outfits. If Biden wins, we may have one last chance for the center to hold — and what few hopes I have rest on this.

It pops out of the page. Sullivan accuses Trump of doing what Democrats have actually been doing for the past three plus years. Aside from the fact that that incompetent fraud, Hillary Clinton, just told Biden never to concede, the fact remains that Democrats did mount a campaign in order to delegitimize the president, and that they have been backed by street gangs and propaganda outfits. Black Lives Matter and Antifa are street gangs. The mainstream media is a propaganda outfit. 

Given the Democratic Party reaction to Trump, you have to admit that the center of American politics has not held. And that Democrats are largely responsible for it, for having defied and trampled the norms of democracy.

So, Sullivan is correct in his analysis. The only problem is: he is confused about who is committing the crimes and who is destroying democracy. You can’t have everything.

As for his observation that when rioters are allowed to destroy cities and when the police have been ordered to allow them to do so, opposing groups will inevitably take to the streets to try to restore order. It should not be a controversial thought. It does not, as Sullivan does not, prejudge what happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Besides, Victor Davis Hanson made precisely the same point a week or two ago. 

For his part Sullivan tries too hard to be fair and balanced. He fails to notice that the source of the violence is a domestic insurgency mounted by leftist enemies of democracy. At the same time, he rejects the basic premise of the BLM movement:

But I’m equally repelled by the insistent attempt by BLM and its ideological founders to malign and dismiss the huge progress we’ve made, to re-describe the American experiment in freedom as one utterly defined by racism, and to call the most tolerant country on the planet, with unprecedented demographic diversity, a form of “white supremacy”. I’m tired of hearing Kamala Harris say, as she did yesterday: “The reality is that the life of a black person in America has never been treated as fully human.”

So, the dogmatic truth, one that you must accept lest you be harassed in public by BLM demonstators is that America is a racist country, the worst ever. To his credit, Sullivan calls out BLM for trafficking in nonsense.

Moreover, Sullivan rejects any justification for rioting and lawlessness. If only he had limited his analysis to blaming the people who are committing the vandalism and who are mounting the current insurrection, we would be cheering more loudly. But still, his point is well taken:

But here’s one thing I have absolutely no conflict about. Rioting and lawlessness is evil. And any civil authority that permits, condones or dismisses violence, looting and mayhem in the streets disqualifies itself from any legitimacy. This comes first. If one party supports everything I believe in but doesn’t believe in maintaining law and order all the time and everywhere, I’ll back a party that does. In that sense, I’m a one-issue voter, because without order, there is no room for any other issue. Disorder always and everywhere begets more disorder; the minute the authorities appear to permit such violence, it is destined to grow. And if liberals do not defend order, fascists will.

Obviously, he has provoked a gale of outrage by using the word fascist in the last sentence. He might have said that the National Guard can restore order, as it did, to Kenosha, and that it is not a fascist organization. In truth, a few representatives of the Proud Boys, an extremist group, have been out trying to confront Antifa, but, the damage done by the rioters so vastly exceeds anything that the citizen militias have done that the word “fascist” is simply misplaced. The McCloskey’s, who waved guns at marauding BLM rioters, rioters who tore down their front gate and threatened them with violence, are not a fascist mob. 

Sullivan seems to want to tell his fellow traveler Democrats that the current domestic insurgency is costing them votes and will likely cost them the election.

And as I’ve watched protests devolve over the summer into a series of riots, arson expeditions, and lawless occupations of city blocks, along with disgusting and often racist profanity, I’ve begun to feel similarly. And when I watched the Democratic Convention and heard close to nothing about ending this lawlessness, I noted the silence.

It is not just silence; it is active collusion. Democratic political leaders in the cities and state effected have actively stopped the police from intervening.

When a political party finds itself so wedded to a new and potent ideology it cannot call out violence when it sees it, then it is walking straight into a trap. When the discourse on the left has become one in which scholars and editors and Tweeters vie with one another to up the ante on how inherently evil America has always been, redescribe it as a slaveocracy, and endorse racist books that foment the most egregious stereotypes about “whiteness”, most ordinary people, who love their country and are mostly proud of its past, will rightly balk. One of the most devastating lines in president Trump’s convention speech last night was this: “Tonight, I ask you a very simple question: How can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?” A cheap shot, yes. But in the current context, a political bullseye.

So far, so good. An astute analysis, one that collapses as Sullivan essays to make the Republican Party seem to be equally demented and equally disgraceful.

Sullivan cannot resist suggesting that Republicans are really Nazis:

The key theme of the RNC was reminding people of the American narrative that once was. Yes, it was unbelievably vulgar. Yes, it looked like a cross between a sophisticated CGI video-game and a crude car dealer ad with a dollop of Leni Riefenstahl. But it was extremely effective. To see that, you have to remove your frontal cortex and put it in a jar, accept that it’s all going to be a series of lies so massive they stupefy us into stutters, and then cop the feels.

Having offered the usual pro forma denunciations of Republicans, Sullivan continues to trash the Democratic Party:

All this reassurance played out against a backdrop of Kenosha, which was burning, and Minneapolis, where a suicide led to a bout of opportunistic looting, and Washington DC, where mobs of wokesters went through the city chanting obscenities, invading others’ spaces, demanding bystanders raise fists in solidarity, with occasional spasms of violence. These despicable fanatics, like it or not, are now in part the face of the Democrats: a snarling bunch of self-righteous, entitled bigots, chanting slogans rooted in pseudo-Marxist claptrap, erecting guillotines — guillotines! — in the streets as emblems of their agenda. They are not arguing; they are attempting to coerce. And liberals, from the Biden campaign to the New York Times, are too cowardly and intimidated to call out these bullies and expel them from the ranks.

The fanatics are in fact the face of the Democratic Party. And, right now, they have become an albatross. So much so that commentators on CNN are whining in their latte about how Democrats are throwing away the election.

Sullivan is not finished with his critique of the American left. He explains that the principle behind cancel culture is being played out on the streets of Democrat-run American cities:

Remember the pivotal moment earlier this summer when the New York Times caved to its activist staff and fired James Bennet? It’s no accident this was over an op-ed that argued that if New York City would not stop the rioting in the streets, the feds should step in to restore order. For the far left activists who now control that paper, the imposition of order was seen not as an indispensable baseline for restoring democratic debate, but as a potential physical attack on black staffers. They saw restoring order within the prism of their own critical race ideology, which stipulates that the police are enforcers of white supremacy, and not enforcers of the rule of law in a liberal society. It was a sign that the establishment left were willing to tolerate disorder and chaos if they were directed toward the ideologically correct ends — which is how Democratic establishments in Minneapolis and Seattle and Portland responded. The NYT, CNN and the rest tried to ignore the inexcusable, and find increasingly pathetic ways to dismiss it. This week, their staggering bias was exposed as absurd.

But then, Sullivan denounces Republicans, not one of whom has been running a cancel culture at a major American newspaper. Leftist democrats are not being canceled. Republicans and conservatives are. After all, the New York Times allowed its staffers to harass Bari Weiss for being Jewish. And precious few people cared.

So, Sullivan wants to vote for the cerebrally defective Joe Biden. It is his right. His effort to balance badness between both ends of the political spectrum is ultimately unpersuasive. Simply put, the domestic insurgency mounted against America was produced and aired by the Democratic Party. Obviously, in certain quarters you are only allowed to say such a thing if you add that Donald Trump is the root of all evil.

In the end, the reason for defaming Trump is simply that you can use his evilness as an excuse for mounting an insurrection against America. Thereby you can shift the blame and declare that whatever Democrats have been doing, Trump really wants to do it. Sullivan does not see it, but his analysis still has value.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Leaving Chicago

The city that gave us Barack Obama has seen better days. When Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel took over as Chicago mayor, the city’s crime rate spiked. It became a shooting gallery.

Now, things are worse. Under the new mayor, one Lori Lightfoot, far more diverse in her person than Rahm, the city has become a hellhole. Not just in the bad neighborhoods, but in the good neighborhoods. You see, the Black Lives Matter domestic insurgency has not limited its destruction to poor neighborhoods, It has been moving into good neighborhoods and even suburbs. It wants to deprive you of peace and quiet, and does not want to allow you to sleep.

The result. Chicagoans are leaving town. Where is Richard Daley when you need him?

The Chicago Tribune has the story:

Incidents of widespread looting and soaring homicide figures in Chicago have made national news during an already tumultuous year. As a result, some say residents in affluent neighborhoods downtown, and on the North Side, no longer feel safe in the city’s epicenter and are looking to move away. Aldermen say they see their constituents leaving the city, and it’s a concern echoed by some real estate agents and the head of a sizable property management firm.

The Tribune continues:

It’s still too soon to get an accurate measure of an actual shift in population, and such a change could be driven by a number of factors — from restless residents looking for more spacious homes in the suburbs due to COVID-19, to remote work allowing more employees to live anywhere they please.

But, for some Chicagoans, the chaotic bouts of destruction in recent months have proven to be the last straw.

The day after looting broke out two weeks ago, a Tribune columnist strolled through Gold Coast and Streeterville. Residents of the swanky Near North Side told him they’d be moving “as soon as we can get out.” Others expressed fear of returning downtown in the future.

Consider the viewpoint of Rafeal Murillo, a broker who specializes in downtown high rises:

Buyers looking for homes in the Loop, South Loop or Gold Coast have been taking a pause and reconsidering their purchase, Murillo said. And there are more sellers who want out. In recent weeks, Murillo said he has talked with three or four sellers who live downtown and are thinking about moving to the North Shore, to Hinsdale or out of Illinois.

“They want to feel safe,” Murillo said. “They want to be able to come outside their homes and enjoy their neighborhood amenities, whether it’s running at the park, enjoying a nice little dinner, shopping. But with everything going on, there are a lot of residents who are not feeling safe right now.”

Even before the rioting started, Chicago real estate was in free fall:

The Chicago real estate market was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic before unrest broke out in late May. The number of May home sales citywide fell by 43.6% compared to May 2019, a more severe drop than seen statewide, according to data from the Chicago Association of Realtors. Homes sold about as quickly as they did in 2019, spending an average of 39 days on the market.

The decline in June closings compared to June 2019 was less severe, down 28.4%, and July closings were actually higher compared to last year, which the association suggested meant the market was recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

August figures won’t be released until late September, and because new listings spend weeks on the market, assessing the impact of the summer unrest is still several months off.


But reports suggest the downtown housing market is experiencing a significant impact. Home sales in the Loop and River North, particularly high-priced homes, have dropped dramatically this year compared to the decade prior, by as much as one-third in parts of the downtown area, according to Crain’s Chicago.

Listen to Charlie Ragusa, a client of Rafael Murillo:

After moving into a South Loop condo 13 years ago after a job transfer, Charlie Ragusa, a real estate client of Murillo’s, fell in love with the city and his neighborhood. When he retired last year, he planned to keep his condo to travel back and forth between Chicago and his home in Boston. But now, the 61-year-old said his plans have changed.

“I don’t feel comfortable here in the city anymore,” he said. While Ragusa said he understands the point of recent protests, “there’s more than one thing going on in the city.”

“People have the right to get their message out there … whatever it might be. But beyond the protests, we have the violence that’s attached to the protests,” he said. “Often times, we combine the two of them together, because they pretty much happen at the same time. The violence is overpowering the people who have a message to say.”

A regular walker and cyclist, Ragusa said he no longer feels safe doing those activities in and around his neighborhood. He’s afraid to go out at night, he said, and hasn’t enjoyed a leisurely stroll since parts of downtown have been boarded up.

“I don’t like walking the city and seeing the entire city boarded up,” he said. “That doesn’t look like a beautiful city that we’re from; that looks like a third-world country. That’s not a safe, pretty environment. That doesn’t make you feel welcome.”

Who does Ragusa blame? None other than Mayor Lightfoot. She is obviously incapable of doing her job. Reminds us of Bill de Blasio. As for the Illinois governor, J. B. Pritzker, an heir to a major fortune, and an Obama backer, he has been AWOL:

Frustrated by what he sees as inaction from Lightfoot and city officials, Ragusa said crime in Chicago is out of control. He blames Lightfoot for the continued destruction downtown, he added.

“She hasn’t done her job,” he said of the mayor. “Her job is to protect me and protect the city. And I just don’t see that she’s doing it. I can’t go out at nighttime anymore. I’m afraid to. That’s not normal; that’s not the way Americans are supposed to live.”

Ragusa’s condo is currently on the market, and he said he’ll move back to Boston permanently by October, whether his condo sells or not.

Good bye, Chicago.

Donald Trump's America

You can’t go too wrong by being completely cynical-- especially about today’s Democratic Party. 

After months of violent protests that resemble nothing other than a domestic insurgency, Crazy Joe Biden emerged from hiding to blame it all on Donald Trump. Apparently, Biden does not understand federalism.

After all, riots are happening in a half dozen of America’s major cities. Local law enforcement is the responsibility of local authorities. Most of the local authorities have told the police to stand down. Most of the local authorities have opened prison doors to release violent felons. Most of the local authorities have joined the idiot media in declaring the violent protests to be peaceful.

For the most part they have insisted that the federal government stay out. The lone current exception is the governor of Wisconsin who asked Trump to send in the National Guard.

Democratic governors have been happy to see their cities destroyed, as long as it played well for them politically. That is what Joe Biden proved last night. The riots in Kenosha, WI apparently brought the light of reason into the minds of so many Americans that the Democratic takeover of the nation suddenly became less likely. The rioting was playing badly for the Democrats, so Joe Biden awakened from his slumber, sat before the cameras and mumbled something about how it was all Donald Trump’s fault. 

This is happening, he said, in Donald Trump’s America-- as though Donald Trump had somehow bought and taken possession of America. And as though no one but Trump bore any responsibility for what was going on in America's cities.

In truth, the Democratic Party, in a grotesque breach of democratic decorum, has never been willing to recognize Trump as a legitimate president. It has done everything in its power to make it impossible for him to govern. He has needed to spend so much time fending off harassment, defamation, incoming attacks, assaults, bullying and abuse, that his ability to govern has become somewhat compromised.

The disrespect has been flagrant. So flagrant that the octogenarian Speaker of the House of Representatives, in a fit of adolescent pique, tore up a copy of the president's State of the Union message, behind his back, on national television. When Nancy Pelosi behaves like an insolent brat, you can conclude that Donald Trump has only a limited capacity to influence events in Democrat run cities.

The Democrats have filled the airways with seditious rhetoric for three years now-- led by the notable incompetent and manifest fraud named Hillary Clinton. The domestic insurgency is merely following the Democratic script. It isn't that great a distance between tearing up a public document and tearing down a shop or burning police cars.

Local law enforcement is a local responsibility. When the Trump administration dared to send federal agents into Portland last month, Democrats screamed that the Nazis were invading America. Democrats are so stupid that they do not recognize that the people who are acting like Storm Troopers are the radicals who are leading the insurgency.

But, now that the public has discovered that Democratic politicians are in charge, and thus are responsible for the violence that has plagued American cities for months now, candidate Biden is trying to shift the blame to Donald Trump.

The same song-and-dance is occurring in relation to the coronavirus death rate. Governors in states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan sent recovering patients into nursing homes, thus infecting vulnerable old people and causing many of them to die. Now, after an unconscionable delay, the Department of Justice is launching an investigation into these derelict governors.

Naturally, the Democratic Party has happily touted the virus death rate as a sign of failed presidential leadership. We have not yet reached the level of cynicism required to see these governors as having been careless because they did not feel that they would be held responsible for their dereliction. But, it is not the craziest idea yet to cross the transom.

Now, beginning with Gov. Cuomo, they are spinning as fast as they can-- and, given the dishonesty that infects the media, they will probably get away with it. If Biden wins in November the investigations into Democratic politicians will vanish into thin air.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

No Matter the Cost: Get Trump!

Jeff Blau is CEO of The Related Companies. They rent apartments in New York City. One suspects that they are not in a very upbeat mood these days, what with the proliferation of empty apartments.

So, Blau has written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal explaining that he wants people to go back to their offices. Empty offices must be code for empty apartments, but surely he has a point. Empty offices are a bad sign for the future survival of New York City.

Tellingly Blau does not seem to be willing to place blame where it belongs. That is, with New York’s astonishingly inept mayor Bill de Blasio. One suspects that he cannot compromise his dealings with the de Blasio administration. But clearly, the fault for New York’s imminent collapse lies with incompetent politicians, especially Bill de Blasio. And let’s not forget the pathetic idiot who is school chancellor, Richard Carranza.

Keeping schools more or less closed will make it impossible for large numbers of people to go back to their offices. And let’s not forget that people who leave their homes might well be subject to abuse from the thousands of homeless people, drug addicts and criminals that de Blasio has released onto New York’s streets.

Blau opens thusly:

New York has gone from the epicenter of the pandemic to the model for a responsible reopening in two short months. The parks seem full, the streets have more life, but it’s an illusion.

The reality is: New York’s offices remain empty.

We can’t recover until people actually return to New York. That won’t happen until the people who work in our offices come back. New York, like all cities, is an economic ecosystem that requires the common commitment of everyone to thrive. Office workers support retail, restaurants, cab drivers, street vendors and countless others. The tightly woven fabric of our urban economy is in danger of fraying beyond repair. The Partnership for New York City estimates that more than a third of small neighborhood businesses might close permanently. The New York Fed has reported on the disproportionate effect the pandemic is having on black-owned businesses. The damage is compounding and the situation will only grow worse unless we change course.

For the record, New York State led the nation in coronavirus deaths. About that, Blau has nothing to say. He has nothing to say about the simple fact that restaurants are all closed, with the small exception of outdoor dining. The industry employs 300,000 people. 1,000 of 25,000 restaurants have already closed. The de Blasio response: the mayor does not know when he will allow them to open. In the rest of New York State, restaurants allow indoor dining. 

And, by the way, in New York State gyms are now allowed to open. Such is not the case in New York City. The more suffering the better.

Why has Comrade de Blasio declared open warfare on New York City? Why is he trying to destroy the city? Could it have something to do with politics? Could it be that he wants to damage the national economy, the better to pin it on Donald Trump. After all, the states that led the nation in coronavirus deaths were all led by Democrats. Left leaning politicians are now spinning as fast as they can, the better to blame their high death rates on Trump.

Blau lights on the simple fact that the New York area is responsible for 9% of the nation’s GDP. How better to sabotage the Trump economic record than shutting down New York City. Of course, it sounds cynical, but de Blasio is a pathetic ideological zealot, so….

He writes:

While none of this is easy for anyone, the value of returning to work in the office is undeniable. The New York area is the economic engine of the nation, representing almost 9% of U.S. gross domestic product. As New York goes, so goes the country.

The entire essence of this city we all love is at stake. This isn’t about writing a love letter—anyone who lives, works or visits New York knows what it offers. As John Updike said, “people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.” The city has an energy that can’t be found anywhere else. The greatest cultural institutions in the world are here.

That’s not New York braggadocio, it is simply a fact.

As for the city’s energy, it has been draining out for quite some time now. You recall that James Altucher wrote a long article on Linked In, explaining that New York is over and that it will not come back… at least, not in the near future.

To that Jerry Seinfeld, a wealthy retired comedian, wrote a barely literate screed announcing, based on nothing resembling reasoning, that he could not accept the fact.

For writing another, shorter column in The New York Post, Altucher has received a blizzard of death threats. If you want to know what is wrong with New York, therein you see it. Death threats….,

Altucher remarks, as the CEO of the Related Companies surely knows, that 13,117 apartments are currently vacant. 25% of city residents have not paid rent since March.

He adds that the city is basically bankrupt. Its budget deficit is around $9 billion, and this does not factor in the revenue lost as the tax base has decamped for warmer and friendlier climes.

As for small businesses, Altucher has some additional and less optimistic numbers:

Thousands of restaurants have shuttered their doors permanently. Yelp has said up to 50 ­percent of the restaurants it tracks are out of business. A study by Partnership for New York City found that up to one-third of Gotham’s 240,000 small businesses may never reopen.

What does this mean? It means more revenue declines and even higher deficits. It means the choking death of the tourism industry. It means eerily empty office buildings.

Somehow or other Jeff Blau missed the point: closing down restaurants indefinitely will impact office towers.

And, given the city’s budget deficit, city employees will be laid off:

We are just beginning to see the beginning. The beginning! A city spokesperson said that up to 22,000 layoff notices will go out Aug. 31. These layoffs will hit emergency workers (who risked their lives at the height of the pandemic), garbage collectors, teachers and policemen. That last group’s loss will be ­especially tragic, given the 130 percent increase in shootings this year.

And then, the layoffs will destroy small businesses:

It’s working-class people who will bear the brunt: the dry cleaners, the deli-sandwich virtuosos, the retail workers. Seinfeld and others imagine that “grit” and “resilience” are all it takes. Magical thinking is such a wonderful thing.

What do you want to bet that these people all voted for de Blasio and that they will all vote for Biden. After all, it’s about discrediting Trump. It doesn’t matter how many people you have to destroy. What matters is: Get Trump.

Assuming that there is no massive federal bailout of the blue cities and the blue states, Altucher sees a bleak future:

Otherwise, New York’s (and other large cities’) opportunities will disperse throughout the rest of the country. If urban areas stay on their current trajectory, young people will find other places to flourish without having to move to cities. Gotham would lose its greatest engine of prosperity and dynamism: people.

The city we love needs help. I don’t care that Seinfeld insults me in another paper. Hey, for all the grimness of the moment, at least I inspired a once-great ­comedian to finally write some new jokes. By the way, my local business, StandupNY, is doing 50 free shows in Central Park this week. You’re welcome to perform, Jerry, but I don’t think you’re in town.