Jeanne Ives

By John Ruberry

At my own blog and here at Da Tech Guy, I enthusiastically backed the candidacy of Bruce Rauner, the current Republican governor of Illinois.

Count me as an ex-supporter. I’ll be voting for state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) in next spring’s primary.

Rauner was a political newcomer when he narrowly defeated unpopular incumbent governor Pat Quinn three years ago. He became the first gubernatorial candidate in the Land of Lincoln to win a majority of the vote–albeit a very small one–since Rod Blagojevich’s first victory in 2002.

Rauner’s campaign slogans were “Bring Back Illinois” and “Shake Up Springfield.” He hasn’t done either which is why, in its upcoming cover story, National Review is calling Rauner “the worst Republican governor in America.”

After Quinn’s own narrow win in 2010, he and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), by far the most powerful politician in Illinois,  ramrodded through the General Assembly what was called a temporary income tax increase, which would expire shortly after the 2014 gubernatorial election. At that point, after Quinn’s presumed next win, the tax increase would be voted on again and made permanent.

But fed-up Prairie State voters, most of whom are corralled into gerrymandered legislative districts created by Madigan, who is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, have no other way to fight back except at the top of the ticket every four years. They chose Rauner to stop the bleeding.

In his previous career Rauner was a venture capitalist. When he took over a company he could fire the CEO. He can’t do that with Madigan. So what followed was a game of chicken. Rauner, as part of his Turnaround Agenda, supported such common sense reforms as term limits for legislators, later changed to term limits for legislative leaders, which was clearly aimed at Madigan, who has been speaker of the House for an unprecedented 32 of the last 34 years. It’s Madigan who Reuters calls “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.”

Other Turnaround Agenda items included tort and pension reform–Illinois has one of the worst-funded public pension systems in America–a ban on public sector unions contributing to state political campaigns, an option for local governments to enact right-to-work laws, as well as a two year property tax freeze.

Rauner said he was not averse to an income tax increase–but in exchange for his support of a tax hike he wanted his Agenda Turnaround agenda passed.

For thirty months the game of chicken continued, and that included an unprecedented two years without a budget. Illinois’ pile of unpaid bills tripled, reaching a level of over $16 billion. In the end Boss Madigan won. Overriding Rauner’s veto and some Republican legislative defections–who provided cover for Democrats in unsafe seats to vote “No,” Madigan’s 32 percent income tax hike became law.

Rauner and the GOP didn’t see a single part of the Turnaround Agenda included in that tax hike. Its passage was a colossal failure for the Republicans and long-suffering Illinois taxpayers.

And Rauner has been a colossal failure too. Yet he’s still running for reelection. In his video announcement Rauner dons a leather jacket and rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which is ironic as southeastern Wisconsin, which is where Harley-Davidson is based, has been a direct beneficiary of Illinois’ decline.

The failures of Rauner don’t end with Madigan winning the tax increase war. Breaking a promise he made Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Rauner, who is pro-choice, signed into law a bill that keeps abortion legal in the state even if the US Supreme Court overturns the Roe vs. Wade decision. The bill also allows Medicaid funding of abortion as well as funding of abortions for state employees. And Rauner also signed into law a bill, weeks before California did, making Illinois a sanctuary state.

Ives, who is Rauner’s only declared Republican opponent, voted against both bills when they were up for vote in the House.

Last week the governor drove home the gist of his own failures when he said of Illinois, “I’m not in charge.” Who is? Madigan, because he has “rigged the system,” Rauner says. Is that true? Probably. But Rauner has had three years to unrig it. That’s why voters hired him.

What expectation do we have that Rauner can unrig it in a second term?

In her campaigns announcement Ives said that she wants to “realign public sector salaries and benefits to be commensurate with their private sector counterparts who finance it all.” Specifically she favors 401(k) plans for new state hires. Ives, a West Point graduate and a mother of five, also backs property tax reform and in an acknowledgement to one of President Trump’s campaign themes, vows to fight for the “forgotten people in Illinois” Of which there are plenty, including me.

In that campaign introduction Ives refers to the governor as “Benedict Rauner.” While I don’t view Rauner as purposely traitorous to the voters who supported him, he has been a spectacular disappointment as governor. I apologize to anybody who took my advice and voted for him.

Rauner says he is “not in charge” of Illinois yet he still wants four additional years of not being in charge. Who in their right mind can get behind that? Rauner says “it’s time to finish the job.” But he hasn’t even started it yet. Imagine Rauner as a homebuilder and three years after hiring him all that he has to show for his efforts is an unkempt pile of bricks paid for with money borrowed from you.

That’s Illinois, which leads the nation in negative net-migration. Its bond rating is the lowest ever for a state.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

I met Rene Jax last week, and I’m lucky I did. Not many people could be full of good humor after a 24-hour cross-country plane/train/bus trip, but Rene was. That’s all the more remarkable considering that she was in town to talk about “gender identity.”

Not from any academic viewpoint, either: Rene is a transsexual, born male, who underwent “reassignment” surgery in 1990 after living as a woman for more than a decade. She has come to regret that decision, and she’s alarmed at how transsexuality has been “weaponized by the left.”

She has a message she’s willing to travel across the country to deliver. “The debate around sex changes is personal, because I am a transsexual. I literally have flesh and blood in this debate.” She has written about her experiences, but now she’s willing to travel to speak out. Why? “I’m here to be an advocate for our children.” When Rene sees puberty blockers being prescribed for kids, and when she sees teenagers seeking surgery to amputate healthy body parts, she can’t be quiet. She’s funny, and she doesn’t bludgeon anyone with words, but she means business.

Her trip to my corner of the country coincides with a bill in my state capital that would create “gender identity” as a protected class under civil rights law. This follows an executive decision, unilaterally imposed by the state’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, to add “gender reassignment” to the list of covered services for adults and children alike under Medicaid. (The Commish made his decision effective July 1, a month before a public hearing on the change. He’d rather ask forgiveness than permission, and the governor seems to be indulging him.)

During Rene’s few days here – too few, I might add – she spoke to groups large and small. The largest event was a forum where she was on a panel with a therapist and an attorney, each offering stories and expertise about gender identity and its personal, cultural, and legal implications. All the speakers were excellent. Rene’s talk was the linchpin of the whole thing, though, in my humble opinion.

It takes nerve to talk about personal experience and regrets to a room full of strangers. I respect that. Rene broadened my outlook, and I respect that, too.

Here’s her 20-minute presentation from the forum.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist living in New Hampshire. She blogs at ellenkolb.com and Leaven for the Loaf. 

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who spent $3.2 million in his first four months investigating Russian meddling in last year election and any links between President Trump and Russia, fired an interesting character in his staff, FBI agent Peter Strzok (pronounced “struck” as far as I can tell).

Strzok was senior supervisor on the Clinton private email server investigation,

he was in charge of running the probe, reviewing evidence and making recommendations to higher-ups, including then-FBI Director James Comey.

Strzok is the guy who decided Hillary was careless but not criminal, and Comey went along with it.

Ben Shapiro listed,

Strzok wasn’t just any agent. Here are some of the events in which he was involved.

He Interviewed Hillary Clinton And Helped Exonerate Her.
. . .
He Was Involved In The Investigation Into The So-Called Russian Dossier.
. . .
He Interviewed Mike Flynn.

He also interviewed Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills.

Apparently Mueller fired Strzok for texting anti-Trump messages to his (Strzok’s) mistress. Ben concludes,

It’s not clear whether Mueller fired Strzok upon finding out about his anti-Trump text messages; if so, that would actually boost Mueller’s credibility. And it’s also true that Strzok was a top agent, and would have been tasked by Comey to let Hillary off the hook. However, Strzok’s involvement in every area touching the collusion and Hillary investigations, and his known bias, throws the entire investigation into chaos.

This is a strange case, and Scott Johnson adds his own list; here are the last three items (emphasis added),

10. None of the stories pause to ask why the Inspector General have sought Strzok’s text messages in the first place. What is going on here? As the Times notes, FBI regulations allow an agent to express his opinions “as an individual privately and publicly on political subjects and candidates.”

11. A law enforcement source writes to observe that the Inspector General would not be able to access the private text message communications of an FBI official as senior and prominent as Strzok unless he had good cause to do so. What was this cause?

12. He adds: “Reviewing an agent’s private text messages is not an investigative action which is entered into lightly unless the situation is serious. I cannot think of a situation where you would find the IG’s office looking at your private text messages unless you, or someone you were communicating with, is in big, big trouble. There is something very, very shady going on here with the IG’s investigation of Strzok….why the IG was investigating him in the first place is much more interesting.”

Strzok is not the only member of Mueller’s million-dollar gang who is clearly biased. Andrew Weissmann, one of Robert Mueller’s top prosecutors and formerly the Obama-era Chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Fraud Section, congratulated former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce President Trump’s Middle East travel ban executive order. He wrote:

“I am so proud. And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.”…

The Wall Street Journal is questioning Mueller’s credibility, and wants him to step down. Mueller remains undaunted: Yesterday the Journal reported Mueller Subpoenas Deutsche Bank Records Related to Trump.

Hugh Hewitt: A special counsel needs to investigate the FBI and Justice Department. Now.

As Drudge says, developing . . .

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

By John Ruberry

If you know a millennial who craves communism, then I suggest that you sit that person down to watch the documentary Karl Marx City by Petra Epperlein and her husband, Michael Tucker, which was released last year. Epperlein was born in 1966 in Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany, which is now, as it was before, the city of Chemnitz.

And as it is was when she was a child, the most noticeable feature of her hometown is the giant bust of Karl Marx, which looks over the dwindling population of Chemnitz. Its bulk makes it too expensive to remove from its perch on the former Karl-Marx-Street.

The Marx monument is the ideal metaphor for the former East Germany. Just as Big Brother is always watching in George Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry for State Security, colloquially known as the Stasi, was watching too. Cameras were seemingly in every public space, as were Stasi agents and informants. In a nation of 17 million people, there were an astounding 90,000 Stasi agents aided by 200,000 informants. In contrast, the FBI employs a paltry 35,000.

What was the Stasi looking for? Everything. Just grab whatever information that can be found and use it for a case later. Because not only was everyone a suspect in this worker’s paradise, everyone was probably guilty. And if they weren’t guilty they likely would be soon.

Early in Karl Marx City Eppelein tells us that her father, 57, committed suicide in 1999 after washing his company car and burning his personal papers. Afterwards her family discovers cryptic typed letters anonymously mailed to her father that accused him of being a Stasi informant.

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Shot in black and white, perfect grim communist hues, Epperlein, looking similar to Liv Ullmann’s mute character in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, in a bit of twisted humor wanders the decrepit and mostly empty streets of the former Karl Marx namesake town holding a massive boom microphone and wearing vintage headphones while we listen to her voiceovers–in contrast to the clandestine recording done by the Stasi.

Epperlein visits the Stasi archives in Chemnitz and Berlin where we see file after file on multiple floors. She’s looking for her father’s file, but we learn that the German Democratic Republic didn’t organize its files in the manner that Google stores information on mainframes where we can instantly retrieve volumes of information on just about anything. Instead there’s something here, there’s something there.

We see a grainy Stasi film of a couple walking on sidewalk. The man picks up an object. Then he puts it down. Why did he do that? Another man picks it up. The object turns out to be a knife. He keeps it. Why?

Epperlein tracks down a childhood friend who was a true-believer in communism. Now she worships trees. Her father, a retired Stasi agent, recounts his regular break-ins at apartments. What was his most common discovery? Handwritten schedules of West German TV shows and small bags containing a tooth brush and other personal hygiene items, just in case the occupants are arrested–or forced to escape to the West.

Many political prisoners were indeed locked up for subversion. Many ended up in the West, but rather than this being an innocent Cold War liberation, we learn they were sold by the workers’ paradise for ransom to the West for much needed hard currency.

The suicide of Epperlein’s father was hardly an anomaly, taking one’s own life in the GDR was common after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Recently Chemnitz had the lowest birthrate of any city in the world.

One of the experts interviewed for the film scorns the Oscar-winning film, The Lives of Others. While Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List was real, there was no Stasi hero fighting back against oppression.

Near the end we learn the truth about Epperlein’s father.

Karl Marx City is available on Netflix and on Amazon.

John Ruberry, whose wife was born in the Soviet Union, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

I spend most Saturdays (weather allowing) at my screened porch, when I’m not doing chores. I was reading Robert Bidinotto’s latest thriller, Winner Takes All, when Juliette asked if I could fill in for her today, so here I am, posting from the porch.

It’s a beautiful, quiet, warm (80F, 49% humidity) and sunny day in Central Florida.

And I am thankful.

[I’ve been thinking a lot about thankfulness recently, not only because of Thanksgiving Day, but also because I’ve come across a person or two who spend every waking moment – they really work hard at it – in a purposeful bad mood. Lest you think I’m charitably inclined, my reaction is that of mild annoyance alternating with feigned indifference, since, to paraphrase Dean Wormer, “fat, ornery and stupid is no way to go through life.” But I digress.]

Good reads are one of the things I’m thankful for.

I highly recommend Winner Takes All. I met Robert Bidinotto years ago at CPAC, before he started writing thrillers. He was already known for his article “Getting Away with Murder” in the July 1988 issue of the Reader’s Digest, but I didn’t match the article with the face until later. The article,

stirred a national controversy about crime and prison furlough programs during the 1988 presidential election campaign, and it’s widely credited with having affected the outcome of the election.

It was about Willie Horton.

Robert brings his reporter experiences and his writing skills to his novels (in order): Hunter, Bad Deeds, and Winner Takes All starring Dylan Hunter.

You’ll enjoy them for the quality of the writing, the action, the nice details (Robert incorporates the family of foxes from his real-life back yard in Winner Takes All), and the well-developed characters.

The only warning (and you may – or not – be thankful to hear this in advance) is that the three novels are highly addictive and you will not want to put them down.

Unless, of course, you have a chance to fill in for Juliette. You can help her out with the laptop repair bills.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

Yesterday Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of the 2015 murder of Kate Steinle.

My initial reaction was that of outrage, since Garcia, previously deported five times, had been released from a San Francisco jail despite a standing federal deportation order (yes, one more deportation order) and San Francisco is a sanctuary city.

Patterico, who is a prosecutor, posted,

I didn’t see the trial, so I don’t know if the verdict was rational or irrational. However, only in the last few days did I learn some facts that made it sound like a tough case. It was a single ricochet shot off pavement. The interview was poorly conducted and failed to clearly establish that he pulled the trigger, due to a translation issue. I am not shocked by the verdict and it may be right.

Why did the jury reach this decision?

Sarah Rumpf looks at the case:

These two facts are undisputed by the prosecution and defense:

  1. On July 1, 2015, Kate Steinle was fatally struck in the back by a single bullet as she walked on Pier 14 with her father to view the San Francisco Bay. 
  2. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a Mexican citizen illegally in the United States, fired the gun that killed Steinle. 

The complicated part is pretty much everything else.

The defense presented a credible case that the death was an accident, while the prosecution pressed for a first degree murder conviction (which would have meant that Garcia premeditated killing Steinle).

The jury convicted Garcia Zarate of a lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a gun, and is pending sentencing:

there is an outstanding U.S. Marshals Service warrant against him, and despite the sanctuary cities policy, San Francisco apparently does turn over undocumented immigrants to the feds when they have a warrant.

I urge you to read Rumpf’s lengthy post.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

I’m staying away from most headlines out of news exhaustion, so today I’m posting about Gertrude Jekyll (no relation to Robert Lewis Stevenson’s fictional doctor).

Gertrude, born 174 years ago, was THE garden designer of her age,

Born in 1843, Jekyll was a British horticulturist, garden designer, artist and writer who created more than 400 gardens in Europe in the US and wrote 15 books and more than 1,000 magazine articles on garden design. To honor Jekyll, described as “a premier influence in garden design,” Google created a lush and colorful landscape doodle Wednesday to celebrate Jekyll’s contribution on her 174 birthday.

Her own house, Munstead Wood, has a glorious garden you can read about in Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood, which is back in reprint after twenty years (and will make a great holiday or housewarming gift).

The house at Munstead Wood was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the Lutyens bench (see photo on the right). Jekyll and Lutyens collaborated frequently over the years, and she had started the 15-acre garden before he designed the Arts and Crafts style house in 1897.

Gertrude had fourteen full-time gardeners doing the maintenance.

My first trip tp England, nearly forty years ago, was a pilgrimage of sorts to locales related to Arts and Crafts, William Morris, and the Pre-Raphaelites. I didn’t make it to Munstead Wood, but did enjoy other breathtakingly beautiful Jekyll gardens.

In case you wonder, I lack gardening skills and became even more discouraged some 25 years or so ago. I bought a dozen hosta for a shady part of the back yard and enthusiastically spent all day preparing the clay soil and planting them.

The next morning I looked out the window and they were gone.

The deer had eaten them down to the roots.

Gertrude and her fourteen needed a 10′ fence.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

By John Ruberry

The Netflix neo-western Longmire has ridden into the sunset after six years. The final season started streaming on the network nine days ago and the results should please its fans. I enjoyed it.

My Da Tech Guy review of the first five seasons of is here.

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), a widower, is a sheriff in the fictional county of Absaroka in Wyoming. He and his three deputies patrol an area that is larger than Delaware. While Walt, an old-school lawman who knows the difference between right-and-wrong and who rarely crosses the ethical line, at first glance appears to be an anachronism, he still has the smarts and the brawn to set things straight.

If you haven’t watched Longmire but think you might, I suggest you skip the next paragraph as there are some series spoilers.

At the end of Season Five, Walt’s personal and professional life are in shambles. The smartass mayor of Durant (Eric Lane) wants Longmire to resign, and he gets in a brutal knock-down bar fight with his best friend who has turned into a vigilante, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips). Henry’s situation gets worse after he is kidnapped by corrupt former Bureau of Indian Affairs police chief Malachi Strand (Graham Greene) and his goons. Walt faces a wrongful death lawsuit from the estate of a businessman who also happened to be the father of one of his deputies and the brother of Longmire’s predecessor as sheriff. (Hey, not many people live in Absaroka County.) Walt’s most trusted deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) is pregnant–no one knows who the father is. And the Native American casino in Absaroka, run by the compromised Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez), is fostering the crime Walt predicted would result, although I’m pretty sure that he didn’t expect Irish mobsters from Boston being part of it. Walt’s daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman) is running a free legal aid clinic on the Cheyenne reservation, but she’s being paid by Nighthorse.

Season Six kicks off a new story thread about a serial bank robber known as “Cowboy Bill.” A stereotypical blogger–who is bearded, overweight, and shoves iPhones into people’s faces while garnering minuscule traffic on his site, causes another headache for Walt when he reports that the sheriff  “ambled in” to the robbed bank long after Cowboy Bill made off with his loot. Of course that infuriates the mayor. As for this blogger, I’m thin, clean-shaven, I own a camcorder, and I have many more hits daily on my blog than that other guy has received in the life of his blog. Da Tech Guy of course crushes the traffic of that fictional blogger’s site too.

Anyway…

John “Lee” Ruberry of Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Seven

The lawful death lawsuit against Walt begins. Cady continues to face difficulty striking an equilibrium between the law, her ethics, Native American culture, and Nighthorse. As for the casino operator, his juggling act becomes even more difficult, as it does for Walt’s pal Henry. And we learn that the Irish mob doesn’t take “no” for an answer from a Wyoming sheriff.

The series ends with a surprise twist, one that is satisfactory too.

The first three seasons of Longmire ran on A&E, and while the ratings and the critical response were favorable, the network cancelled the show because the demographics favored older viewers. A&E is run by dopes. Thank you Netflix for rescuing the program.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Thankfulness is not the same as gratitude.

Thankfulness involves appreciativeness, gratitude is the act of being thankful. You must appreciate something in order to be thankful, which brings in the act of gratitude.

Our first President, George Washington, at the request of Congress, established the first Thanksgiving Day for the purpose of “acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Let’s look closely at those words.

Acknowledging with grateful hearts

A human being recognizes a good, appreciates it, and does do with gratitude.

the many signal favors of Almighty God
As we are created by God and endowed with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government
Not only to establish a form of government, but a government, as defined in the Declaration of Independence, that is “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” not a government that imposes its will upon its people.

for their safety and happiness.
Safety in a country where all citizens are equal under the law, and pursue happiness in liberty.

If you are of a certain age, you may be thinking, “I heard this in grade school.” Yes, I know I’m sounding like a fifth grader going over a history homework.

Sadly, a great many adults have forgotten, and a lot of young people are never taught, the most basic of lessons: Thankfulness is inherent in the American spirit.

And yes, the Founding Fathers chose their words very carefully.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

In the late 1960s the counterculture set out to destroy societal mores. Free love, legal abortions at any point in the pregnancy, drug use, destruction of the establishment, damn the consequences.

The 60s generation rebelled against their parents’s standards where men were expected to be gentlemen and women ladies.

I was not one of the anti-establishment crowd. Even back then I didn’t see the use of tearing down society . . . for what? Some 10 years ago, my son, who at that time was the same age I was during the Summer of Love, asked me where I was during Woodstock, and all I could answer was, “probably at home preparing for the SATs.”

Now the headlines have discovered sexual harassment.

My Facebook feed popped up some posts by women SJW activists who blame white men. Their default stance is to blame the patriarchy, Western Culture, and white men, regardless of the fact that it is Western, Judeo-Christian values codified and enforced by (mostly) white men that have brought about women’s equality under the law.

It’s worth pointing out that SJWs characteristically do not hold the individual responsible. If Charlie Rose, age 75, allegedly strips down and makes unwelcome advances, the patriarchy’s to blame and not that Charlie is allegedly a perv.

There’s another problem: Andrew Klavan mentions that

the New York Times, a former newspaper, now has a tip line where you can complain about something sexual someone famous did to you back in the day.

Klavan continues,

USA Today has a running list of Hollywood sexual offenders and I was reading through it and came upon the charges against Dustin Hoffman. The now 80-year-old Hoffman is accused of talking dirty to one woman and inviting another woman on a date some 30-odd years ago. And you know what? I don’t care. Not even a little. I think Harvey Weinstein, assuming he’s guilty, should go to prison for what he did and I think what Hoffman allegedly did shouldn’t even be mentioned in the papers. When they’re both on the same list, the whole list becomes a moral blur.

Human life is complicated. Sexuality is one of the most complicated parts of human life. Some people make errors, other people corner you in the basement and bang off in front of you, and still other people tell lies. If any voice can be raised against any man and illicit the same level of outrage, all voices will eventually blend into a silence of obscurity and indifference — and that’s a kind of silence that’s very difficult to break.

There’s yet another problem, about which a Facebook friend posted: “The system of the social left, both apparatus and reflex, is structured to be distributed and unpredictable.” The aim is not toleration, respect for women, or encouraging strong moral men to protect women.  The proximate step may be to generate fear and confusion, but the ultimate goal is control.

As it always has been.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog