By John Ruberry

“And it was inevitable that some of these people pushed back…”
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles.

Overtaxed residents of Cook County, where Chicago is, are finally waking up. After decades of being slapped by tax after tax–folks are fighting back.

Last week the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to repeal a hated penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax, one that until the repeal takes effect on December 1, places a 39 percent tax on a $4.88 12-pack of soda pop.

“The pop tax is dead, but the issue is bigger than the pop tax,” Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-Chicago) told the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass last week. “The issue here is that the people of Chicago and Cook County are not used to having their voices heard and making a difference, with public outrage forcing an elected body to reverse course. This is something.”

Cook County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle (D-Chicago) last year had to issue a rare tie-breaking vote last year to enact the soda tax, which took effect two months ago. Last week commissioners voted 15-2 to kill it.

Over the years Cook County imposed with little pushback a 0.75 percent sales tax, along with tobacco, gasoline, and liquor taxes, as well as an additional one-percent sales tax. Okay, there was a rebellion with that last one. Taxwinkle defeated her unpopular predecessor in a Democratic primary on the promise to repeal it–and she followed through. Then five years later she led the effort to successfully bring it back.

Chicagoans pay the nation’s highest sales tax rate.

Meanwhile Chicago residents have been pulverized by repeated property tax hikes to mainly pay for underfunded municipal worker pensions. Illinoisans just got socked with a 32 percent income tax increase, much of that money will go to pension obligations. And Taxwinkle has said that some of that soda tax money is needed for county worker pensions.

Taxwinkle dismissed criticism of the pop tax, which she ludicrously claimed was a public health measure, as the message of Big Soda. Yes, the American Beverage Association’s Can the Tax Coalition did pay for television, radio, and internet ads calling for a repeal. But Taxwkinkle enlisted the aid of “Nanny” Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, to pay for pro-soda tax ads. And after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association delayed imposition of the soda tax, Taxwinkle quickly sued the group for $17 million in lost revenue, exposing her “it’s for our kids’ health” argument as a lie.

Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle

No figures are available, but anecdotal evidence is abundant that Cook County residents in droves have been driving to collar counties and Indiana to purchase pop since collection of the soda tax began. And does anyone think they were only buying soda on these grocery runs? And gee whiz, do you think they noticed that gasoline, and well, a whole lot of other things are cheaper outside Crook County?

Fill ‘er up. Oh, grab a case of beer too! Oh, and buy that stuff as long as we are here. And this stuff too!

Democratic office holders–and not just county ones–heard the sharp message from ordinary citizens: get rid of this tax!

The repeal of the sugary drink tax repeal is a big victory for long suffering Cook County residents such as myself. Cook is heavily Democratic. Hillary Clinton won nearly three-quarters of the vote in last year’s presidential election. Cook County hasn’t had a Republican president of the Cook County Board in nearly five decades, which is when the county’s population peaked.

Yet people in one of America’s bluest counties screamed “Enough” and they pushed back.

But this victory is only partial. The soon-to-be-canned soda tax is only a symptom. Voters need to understand why Taxwinkle needs to spend so much. Pensions for unionized retirees are only part of it. Taxwinkle has been building a massive “free” public-health care network that caters to the jobless and Cook’s burgeoning illegal immigrant community since taking office seven years ago.

Chicago is a sanctuary city and Cook is a sanctuary county. And last month our state’s Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, signed a bill making Illinois a sanctuary state.

These may be the type of governments that Illinois voters want. If it is, then so be it. But prepare to pay dearly for it too.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Cook County resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The just-concluded Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. was punctuated by standing ovations. Among them: a few for the President, who spoke decisively but without pugnacity; for Bannon and Gorka, the red-meat guys; for Alveda King, bringing the crowd to its feet to join her in song.

And then there was the one for Steve Scalise.

Months after a gunman’s savage and politically-motivated attack left him near death, Congressman Scalise made his way to the Values Voter podium last Friday to the sound of appreciative cheers. He moved with the aid of crutches, the only visible sign of his injuries. Once at the podium, he spoke in the strong and steady voice of a man eager to get to work.

As House Majority Whip, he has the unenviable task of herding the GOP cats when it’s time for votes on the House floor. HIs position is probably what earned him an invitation to speak at Values Voter. He understands first things first, though. Before he spoke about policy, he spoke about gratitude.

After he was shot, while he was in the hospital, he and his family received countless prayers and good wishes, including messages from people who are not in political harmony with him. That touched him deeply. He understood that the messages were not merely routine.

“You knew that this was an attack on the values of our country….I cannot thank you enough for those prayers and that love.” This from a man who spent three and a half months in a hospital.

He was candid in his speech about the tough times past and to come, as he and his family face long-term challenges arising from his injuries. His candor made his enthusiastic demeanor all the more meaningful. “We have a great and mighty God,” he declared, “and I am a living example of the miracles he can produce.”

Then, and only then, he addressed specific policy initiatives. He said, “I came back with an even sharper focus” on family, friends and America.

He Considers the Pain-Capable Act a victory. That’s the measure to restrict abortions after 20 weeks, the point in pregnancy when science indicates that unborn children can feel pain. Passage of the measure was a near thing. “As Majority Whip, I had to put that coalition together. But we did.” Now, the bill is in the Senate, its prospects uncertain in view of the particular batch of Republicans now serving. “Tell your Senators to pass it,” Scales urged. The President “wants to sign this bill into law.”

The bill includes cutting federal funding to the nations’s largest abortion provider. That gives me pause, as voter who questioned (and still questions) the depth of the President’s roots on the life issues. Scalise has no doubts. “He wants to sign this.”

He’s determined to support the President’s tax reform proposals. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone give a snappier summary and smile while doing it: reduce personal rates; reduce business rates to encourage families to bring jobs back to this country; repeal the death tax, double the child tax credit (now there’s a pro-life initiative).

He did not dwell on the unhappy fate thus far of efforts to repeal Obamacare, beyond saying “let’s not give up fights. President Trump wants these on his desk.”

All this was said in a tone that most other speakers at Values Voters didn’t approach. He was passionate and determined without breathing fire. He didn’t sound as though we were all under siege; in fact he radiated hope, both political and personal.

HIs final words to the crowd, coming after all he has experienced these past months, rang with truth that brought the audience to its feet yet again: “It’s great to be alive.”

Ellen is a New Hampshire writer and pro-life activist. Read more by and about her at ellenkolb.com.

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While the Harvey Weinstein culture wars play out, I made a quick survey among friends, and asked, “When was the last time you went to see a movie in a theater?”

Out of ten people, only two had been to a movie theater in 2017. Three hadn’t been to a cinema for so long they didn’t even remember whether it was 5 years ago or longer. One replied,  “When Nixon was president.”

When I asked, “When was the last time you watched a movie at home?” nine of the ten had watched at least one film in the past week (the Nixonian had watched three) and the one who hadn’t was away on a business trip with no spare time.

I don’t know if this is because of our demographic (all surveyed are at least 40 years old), but you don’t go out on a limb when you surmise that the film industry will greatly continue to influence popular culture for the foreseeable future, regardless of cinema attendance.

Andrew Klavan believes that the whole Hollywood system is built to keep the silence.

Klavan adds,

“One of my big beefs against feminism is that it tells men that it’s sexist for them to feel protective towards women, so all you’ve left after that, is Harvey Weinstein and all the men that are too weak to stand up against them.”

It’s not just Hollywood.

Years ago I audited a class at Princeton University on the history of the American musical. One day a guest speaker, whose own show had been on Broadway, came for a question-and-answer session. When asked about the casting couch, he replied, “go for it.”

Auditors at PU are like children in Victorian times, “seen but not heard,” so I did not have the opportunity to express my disgust. I wonder what some of the parents dishing out $60,000+/yr for their PU student would think of the speaker encouraging their expensively-educated children to prostitute themselves.

Hollywood may have lost the right to lecture anyone, but Michelle Goldberg wants to get rid of the men, “If there must be bosses, fewer of them should be men.” In case you must put up with men, they should be gay, because,

Obviously, female bosses can be abusive and can create cultures where abusive behavior toward underlings is tolerated. But women may face less harassment at companies with fewer straight men at the top.

What about men being harassed by gay men, men harassed by women, or women harassed by lesbians, then? I guess she’d just stick to “If there must be bosses, fewer of them should be men” as a cure-all.

Goldberg suffers from what I call toxic feminism, which solves nothing.

The answer to evildoing by predators is integrity and respect – and law-abiding good men (and women) who stand against the predators and their enablers.

Now. that would be a long-term win in the culture wars.

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

As you may recall, now-President Trump went to Mexico during last year’s campaign, and, after he took over the press conference, both Pres. Peña Nieto and he stated that NAFTA should be renegotiated.

If you look up the history of NAFTA, you find:

The United States commenced bilateral trade negotiations with Canada more than 30 years ago, resulting in the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on January 1, 1989. In 1991, bilateral talks began with Mexico, which Canada joined. The NAFTA followed, entering into force on January 1, 1994.

Considering the changes in technology and global markets that have taken place during the past 23 years, it’s not unreasonable to take a second look at the treaty.

The next round of talks starts today (emphasis added)

One provision designed with that objective is a “sunset” clause that would force Nafta’s expiration in five years unless all three countries act to renew it, said people briefed on the plan.

Other proposals, these people said, would weaken or eliminate the mechanisms aimed at settling disputes between the three countries and curbing the unilateral threats and sanctions that frequently roiled trade ties in earlier years.

More importantly,

None of the U.S. proposals would alter the specific trade terms that have spurred a quarter-century of commercial integration between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, such as tax-free trade across borders.

The Trump administration’s goal appears to be to reduce the incentive to outsource by watering down the pact and reduce its influence on American companies through measures such as undoing the current policy of treating the three economies – Canada, U.S, Mexico – as one, narrowing the amount of U.S. federal spending to the same dollar amount as the trading partners (“dollar for dollar”), and requiring that some products contain not just a certain level of Nafta-regional content, but U.S.-specific content.

This goal goes hand-in-hand with the administration’s deregulation strategy to improve U.S. manufacturing. And, as the WSJ said in the above article, “None of the U.S. proposals would alter the specific trade terms.”

Since the new round of talks starts today, this of course does not mean that is what NAFTA will look like at the end.

However, I would love to see – if only once – an international treaty with an actual sunset clause.

A woman can dream.

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

By John Ruberry

Last week I wrote this in my own blog about a scandal-plagued state university in Kentucky: “Is Louisville a college with an athletic program? Or is it an athletic program that offers some college classes?”

Late last month the shadowy and corrupt realm of NCAA men’s college basketball, whose players are nominally amateurs, was shattered by the revelation of an FBI investigation of payments to recruits that allegedly comes from Adidas. Ten people have been arrested, including four assistant coaches at Power Five college hoops programs. More arrests are expected.

But most of the media focus on the scandal is on the the University of Louisville, where no one so far faces charges. Allegedly an AAU coach, Jonathan Brad Augustine, whose team is sponsored by Adidas, boasted to an undercover FBI agent about the reach of Cardinals coach Rick Pitino–who is identified as “Coach-2” in court records–and how Pitino could get James “Jim” Gatto, the director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas, to send $100,000 to the family of a Louisville recruit. That athlete, Brian Bowen, enrolled at Louisville. But now he’s been suspended from the team.

Oh, the first “A” in AAU stands for “amatuer.”

“No one swings a bigger d–k than [Coach-2],” Augustine reportedly said after learning that Gatto had difficulty in allegedly sending the $100K to Bowen’s family. He added that “all [Coach-2] has to do is pick up the phone and call somebody [and say], ‘These are my guys–they’re taking care of us.'”

Those remarks appear to have been lifted from a Sopranos script.

Pitino, and Louisville’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, were suspended by the university the day after the scandal broke. Both of them are expected to be fired but in the meantime they are the highest paid persons in their positions in college sports.

But despite its success on the field–Louisville has a pretty good football team by the way–the athletic department loses money. Apparently Louisville manages its athletic department as poorly as the state of Kentucky runs its public-worker pension programs.

Pitino is the only NCAA men’s basketball coach to win national championships at two universities, Kentucky and Louisville. But four months ago the Cardinals program landed on NCAA probation because of a prostitution scandal involving recruits, some of whom were underage. Uh, where are the Louisville Police? The NCAA suspended Pitino for five games and Louisville will have to vacate some victories–and possibly its 2013 NCAA title. Pitino claims ignorance of the hiring of these “dancers” by the program. He also claimed to be simply a put-upon victim in a extortion attempt by a woman, Karen Sypher, who alleged that Pitino raped her. The Basketball Hall of Fame coach, who is married, admitted to consensual sex with Sypher–she later went to prison. Pitino also admitted to paying for her abortion.

Because Louisville’s men’s hoops program is already on probation, it’s likely that the Cardinals are eligible for the NCAA “death penalty” if they are found to be a two-time offender. The death penalty allows the NCAA to shut down a program for at least a year.

I say cut down the nets and turn off the lights for Louisville basketball, preferably for several years. The possibility of the death penalty has holders of the junk bonds financing the stadium where the Cardinals play understandably a bit nervous.

At the very least Louisville needs a fresh start, but so far it’s off to a dreadful one. Pitino’s interim replacement is one of his former players, David Padgett, who until two years ago was director of basketball operations at Louisville. Was Padgett a glorified clerk? Or a figurehead?

Louisville has other problems and one of them involves Adidas. Of the money from the current marketing contract the shoe giant has with the basketball team, reportedly 98 percent of it goes to Pitino. Shouldn’t the general revenue fund of this taxpayer-supported college get at least a healthy cut?

Jurich, the money-losing suspended athletic director, likely earned more money annually than the budgets of four Louisville academic departments.

This scandal has legs longer than those of the late Manute Bol–and I’m predicting not only will it spread to other colleges and AAU programs but to high school hoops as well, starting with the Chicago Public League. Lack of payments probably explains why the Chicago recruiting apparatus for years shuts out basketball programs such as DePaul and the one at my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Both schools are natural fits for Public League talent and both of them used to recruit very successfully in Chicago.

Do you have a better explanation?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Remember last year’s Rio Olympics?

They started with a lame Marxist opening ceremony (complete with video that included the flooding of South Florida and other areas), had mishaps involving underwater sofas tripping kayaks, accusations against Ryan Lochte, plus Zika and security worries, but evolved relatively well.

The country could hardly afford the games, but, as Frances Martel put it,

The IOC chose Brazil at a time in which the nation had swung radically left, and comments by IOC officials at the time indicate that they were more interested in rewarding Brazil for making Lula their head of state than rewarding the nation with the best bid to host the Olympic Games.

More than just a symbolic reward was involved: Carlos Nuzman (emphasis added), The man in charge of last year’s Rio Olympics was arrested yesterday as it was alleged 16 gold bars worth $2m (£1.53m) that were stored in a bank in Switzerland were among his hidden assets.

Sixteen bars of gold; had Nuzman been listening to William Devane’s ads?

But I digress.

The Guardian reports that Nuzman allegedly served as Olympic bag man,

Nuzman, a well known figure in Olympic circles, is suspected of acting as a facilitator, organising a $2m payment made by a wealthy Brazilian businessman into the account of Papa Massata Diack just two days before Rio won the right to stage the Games.

Massata Diack – who recently lost an appeal against a life ban from athletics over corruption allegations – is the son of the disgraced former IOC member Lamine Diack, who it is believed voted for Rio to host the Summer Games at an IOC session in Copenhagen in 2009 in exchange for the money.

As it turns out,  it’s not just Brazilian prosecutors looking into the case,

They are coordinating efforts with French authorities investigating corruption surrounding the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic bids.

Small wonder that people want to end the Olympics.

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

The grind-it-out side of public policy occupied me this morning, as I went to the State House to listen to a subcommittee patiently work out the language of a bill. That done, I walked outside to see what was up on the State House plaza.

And my day was made.

A collection was underway for the Red Cross, with an eye to the disaster in Puerto Rico. Pallet upon pallet of water awaited loading onto trucks. Other types of donations were being sorted, labeled, and packaged. One large “check” was on display, indicating a substantial cash donation by one of the state’s larger utilities. Kids coming off school buses for their State House tour carried armloads of things to donate to the effort.

State employees, elected officials, just plain folks, those wonderful fourth-graders: everyone on the plaza was on the same page. This was a relief effort in every sense.

The Governor was on the scene, delighting the schoolkids with a photo op, and someone said to him, “Will any of this actually get where it’s supposed to go?” He said reassuring things. I hope he’s right. Distribution: that’s the sticking point. How will this get to Puerto Rico? How will the Red Cross allocate things among the multiple disasters it’s addressing these days? I wish I knew the answers.

The people on the plaza weren’t being paralyzed by discouragement or uncertainty over what comes next. They were doing their best with what they had. They left me inspired, refreshed, challenged. That was a fine midday course correction.

Ellen is a New Hampshire pro-life activist and writer who blogs at ellenkolb.com

Here is a transcript of  his remarks.

CNN’s John King Slams Trump Press Conference as ‘Love Fest’. Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez traveled to the island on Air Force One with the President.

My FB and Twitter feeds lit up over Trump’s remark on the budget. Here’s the actual quote (emphasis added),

Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives.

Trump also stated that “we’ll have to say good-bye” to Puerto Rico’s debt

“They owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we’re going to have to wipe that out,” Trump told Rivera. “You can say goodbye to that.”

Puerto Rico was facing a $74 billion public debt load prior to Maria and was struggling to recover from a decade-long recession that has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to leave for the U.S. mainland.

I expect there will be a lot of discussion on the debt restructuring.

Right after the hurricane I posted that

You can kiss the debt good-bye.
. . .
Puerto Rico has no money.

Most of the island has been destroyed by the elements.

I thought that was pretty obvious, but received several emails and comments at my blog from people who thought that meant that Puerto Rico should bear no responsibility. To the contrary, on the same post I clarified that reconstruction efforts should entail outside supervision and full transparency.

Any debt restructuring should require strict federal oversight.

Puerto Rico must, in order for any rebuilding to work, embrace full transparency and accountability, and end corruption. That is a bigger task than any rebuilding.

Meanwhile, help continues to arrive: The Mercy-class Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Puerto Rico to assist in humanitarian relief efforts, Oct. 3.

Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 800 personnel embarked for the Puerto Rico mission including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.

The hospital ship has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CAT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants.

Here’s a photo with the official caption,

171003-F-EK767-0002
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Oct. 3, 2017) The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. Comfort will help support Hurricane Maria aid and relief operations. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Christopher Merian/Released)

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

Sign inside Niles, Illinois supermarket

By John Ruberry

I’ve written a couple of columns at Da Tech Guy, one here and one here, about Cook County’s hated one-cent-per-ounce soda tax championed by County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle, a left-wing Democrat. But the question I’ve been only alluding to here and on my own blog is this one: Why is this money needed?

And the soda pop tax is only the latest outrage. Like other counties, Cook levies property taxes, but it also mugs residents and anyone who buys something here with a 1.75 percent sales tax, along with gasoline, liquor and tobacco taxes.

(Those cheers you just heard come from retailers with shops on the other side of the Cook County line.)

Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle

County government in most places means the operation of a court system and a jail, providing law enforcement, particularly in unincorporated areas (Cook has few of those), and road maintenance. But in Cook County–Chicago is its seat–county government means building a massive health care network, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, paid for by long-suffering taxpayers such as myself, and one that caters to the estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants living here.

Chicago is a sanctuary city and Cook is a sanctuary county.

A DNA Chicago article about plans for a new county health facility on Chicago’s Northwest Side that will replace a much smaller one, contains a revelation on where all of that tax money is going.

Once it’s running at full capacity, Carey [a county official] expects the site — one of 17 free clinics [emphasis mine] operated around the county — to host about 37,000 doctors’ visits annually, she said.

Keep in mind, this is just one clinic.

More…

The proposal has been brewing since at least 2015, when doctors told newly elected Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. that they had “outgrown” the Logan Square facility, Arroyo said.

Instead of expanding it, county health officials began looking for a new location, where more immediate neighbors could take advantage. They landed in Belmont Cragin, whose estimated 12,000 undocumented residents [emphasis mine again] has one of the largest clusters of uninsured people in the city, Arroyo said.

Leftism is expensive. Sure, some of what is spent on county health care for illegal aliens is reimbursed by another arm of government. Emergency visits at county-run Stroger Hospital come to mind as does the expensive state-funded All Kids program. Hey, they get me coming and going in Illinois, that’s for sure. But who pays for the salaries and generous benefits for the county doctors, nurses, dentists, and administrators? Not Kim Jong Un, that’s for sure.

Princely but underfunded county worker pensions are another reason “Taxwinkle” needs her taxes.

As a political blogger I natural follow current events. But I don’t recall the conversation about the need for Cook County to transform itself into a welfare state, particularly for illegals, as well as a retirement program for not-working-so-hard county employees. But that’s what county government has evolved into here.

And taxes and spending keep soaring, even though the population of Crook County, oops, I mean Cook County, peaked around 50 years ago, when the county last had a Republican running it and when none of these taxes existed.

Yes, leftism is very expensive.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Cook County resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

While we fight the kneeling culture war and NFL ticket sales plummet, it’s been an interesting week in the news.

Appeasement never works: Following Obama’s deal, now the U.S. plans major withdrawal of staff from embassy in Cuba. Why? Because of mild traumatic brain injury, permanent hearing loss, loss of balance, severe headaches and brain swelling among embasssy staff (emphasis added),

Diplomats have complained about symptoms ranging from hearing loss and nausea to headaches and balance issues after the State Department said “incidents” began affecting them in late 2016. In total, the State Department says there are 21 medically confirmed cases. The attacks were directed at their homes, which the Cuban government provides. The last reported incident was in August.

The Communist regime says it’s not involved with whoever is trying to fry the Americans’ brains.

Over at the Old Country: Spain and Catalonia are at loggerheads over Catalonia’s upcoming independence referendum. This is a dispute that goes back to the days of Ferdinand, King of Aragon, and his wife Isabella, Queen of Castile, but, adding a modern twist, now El País reports that Russian “hackers” help keep banned Catalan referendum census site online. Mueller? Mueller?

Good news: The percentage of Argentines living in poverty fell to 28.6%, indicating that President Macri’s policies have begun benefiting lower-income families, says the WSJ. This is very good news, as it marks a departure from the prior administration’s ruinous 21st Century Socialism economic policies in one of South America’s larger economies.

Disingenuous news:

North Korea claims that 4.7 million of its citizens have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military since leader Kim Jong Un threatened to “tame” President Trump “with fire” last week, North Korean state media reported.

Not that any North Korean citizen – including Kim Jong Un’s uncle – ever has any choice.

It would be a grave mistake for North Korea to shoot down an American aircraft.

I keep hoping that whatever bomb Kim has, won’t make it off the launch pad.

All this and a volcano, too: Mount Agung in Indonesia is likely to erupt, but no one can say when. A massive 1883 volcano eruption in Krakatoa affected the weather worldwide.

So far so good:

Two books for your weekend reading: Snowbirds are arriving in Florida, and, as I sit in the back porch watching them ride their carts on the golf course, I’ve been reading The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt, a quick read with useful practical advice. (No, not reading it because of the snowbirds’ arrival. But it may be useful.)

I’ve also started Daniel Silva’s The Unlikely Spy, a WWII thriller. A word of caution: Silva’s addictive!


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