By John Ruberry

Season four of the post First World War-set British gangster drama Peaky Blinders returned to Netflix ten days ago. It aired last month on the BBC.

Read my review of the first three seasons here.

For the uninitiated, the show is about, yes, the Peaky Blinders; who are named for the razor blades sewn into their flat caps which they use to attack their foes, that is when they are not shooting them. They are a Gypsy organized crime family headed by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). In 1919 Shelby Family Limited is a nothing more than a bookmaking operation based in the grimy Small Heath neighborhood of Birmingham. When season four begins at Christmas in 1925 the Peaky Blinders operation has expanded into London and it has extensive legitimate business holdings.

Hyman Roth told Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part Two, “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.” Tommy has no such line Peaky Blinders, but it would be credible if he did.

The next paragraph is worthy of a spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the first three seasons.

Season three was a mixed bag for me as the Russian caper that dominated it was a road to storyline-nowhere. That season ended with a bang as Tommy rats out the rest of the Shelby family–and season four picks up from there. And that’s not the only season three hangover. New York mafioso Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) is seeking vengeance for the murder by the Peaky Blinders of his father and brother. Brody’s performance ranks among his best work. As Changretta, there are traces of Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone accented with the psychoses of Joe Pescsi in Goodfellas.

The 1920s weren’t roaring in Great Britain–the economy struggled and communism gained a foothold within the political sphere. An attractive young communist woman. Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy), is stirring up trouble in the Shelby factories. Hmm, I wonder where that is heading? Tommy clearly hasn’t forgotten his gambling business roots–he hedges his bets in the struggle by also scheming with the 1st Baron Stamfordham, the king’s private secretary.

To fight Changretta Tommy hires another Gypsy, Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen), whose reputation for evil even unsettles the other Peaky Blinders. Yes, Gillen is Littlefinger from Game of Thrones.  Gold and Tommy hatch a boxing match caper involving Jewish mobster Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy).

There is much bloodshed much betrayal. But Tommy perseveres and like a snake slithering up a flagpole, he keeps climbing despite the odds against him in class-obsessed Great Britain.

Will Tommy fall? If he does, we’ll have to wait until at least until season five to find out.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Merry Christmas, I say, since I stubbornly hold that the Christmas season begins on December 25. Happy New Year as well, keeping in mind that each day begins a new year.

I’m grateful to readers, fellow writers, and DTG himself for this spot on the blog.

To all, I commend these words from Pope Francis, spoken to a group of laypeople in 2015. The words are on my own blog’s home page as an epigraph to that particular project. Even if you and I don’t share a religious faith, I suspect we have in common a commitment to our nation’s political culture. As Pope Francis says, get to it.

Engaging in politics is martyrdom: truly a martyr’s work, because one needs to go the whole day with the ideal of building the common good, always carrying the cross of many failures and carrying the cross of many sins. It’s difficult to do good in a society without getting your hands or your heart a little dirty…Don’t allow this to discourage you. 

…You can’t watch from the balcony! Get involved! Give it your best. If the Lord calls you to this vocation, get to it, engage in politics. 

Cheers and best wishes to all!

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist from New Hampshire.  

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On Sunday, Guatemala’s President announced plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Guatemala follows US in planning Israel embassy move

Guatemala, along with 12 other countries, had their embassies in Jerusalem until 1980, when they moved them to Tel Aviv after Israel annexed East Jerusalem, in a move not recognised internationally. All other countries still have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Guatemala and Israel have a long history of political, economic and military ties.

Guatemala is the first country after the U.S. to announce this decision.

The facile answer to “Why Guatemala?” is, of course,

The Central American country is also a major recipient of US aid – something which Donald Trump threatened to cut to states that voted in favour of the UN resolution.

But Raphael Ahren looked into historical reasons:

Guatemala played a key role in the Jewish state’s creation and has enjoyed Israeli security assistance ever since. It doesn’t hurt that its leader is deeply religious.
. . .
There are several reasons for Guatemala’s dramatic step. The country’s well-established historic friendship with Israel and ongoing deep security and trade ties are one key part of the story. The personal character of the country’s current leader is the other.

Specifically,

Seventy years ago, Guatemala’s ambassador to the UN, Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, played a crucial role in convincing Latin American countries to vote in favor of General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.
. . .
Guatemala was one of the first countries to recognize the nascent State of Israel in 1948, and the friendship has remained strong ever since.

Ahren lists intelligence teams, security and communications specialists and military training, along with civilian technology – including agriculture – and tourism among the ties between the two countries.

The BBC reports that Israel is in talks with more than 10 countries — including some in Europe — about potentially moving their respective embassies to Jerusalem, according to officials.

Guatemala’s announcement beat them to it.

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

Chicago’s “holiday tree” in 2011

By John Ruberry

The War on Christmas, the secular-progressives’ assault on Christmas and yes, religion, is fading away. And Christmas is winning.

In today’s video message to our military, some of whom of course belong to faiths other than Christianity, President Trump beamed, “I just want to wish everybody a very, very Merry Christmas, we say Merry Christmas, again, very, very proudly. Very very Merry Christmas.”

Nearly two years ago then-candidate Donald Trump mused, “When was the last time you saw ‘Merry Christmas?’ You don’t see it any more. They want to be politically correct. If I’m president, you’re going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me, believe me. You’re going to see it.”

And you know what, I’ve seen “Merry Christmas” in department stores this year. Yesterday at the end of the weekly meeting at my job my boss, who is Jewish, wished everyone “a very Merry Christmas.”

And I’m hearing more “Merry Christmases” this year than I’ve heard in years. Believe me. I figured this would happen, as I posted in this space on Christmas Day last year.

True, the counter-attack in the War on Christmas goes back at least five years, but Trump is the first prominent politician to embrace it, so the president is entitled to a victory dance as he rocks around the Christmas tree.

Blogger outside of Chicago’s Trump Tower

Closer to home, for me that is, comes this Christmas triumph. In 2011 for the first time there was a “holiday tree” at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. Rahm Emanuel is Chicago’s first Jewish mayor–and he’s also the city’s first secular-progressive one. And it was in his first year in office when the concept of a Chicago Christmas was axed. But this year it’s a Christmas tree again. I’m not sure when the switchback occurred, but it’s ironic to note that a couple of weeks ago the embattled mayor declared Chicago a “Trump-free zone.”

An hour ago, subbing for the usual host on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Jonathan Karl wished viewers “a Merry Christmas” at the end of the show.

And from Morton Grove, Illinois I will do the same this Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to you!

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Happy Christmas weekend!

I want to write about the Obama administration alleged cover up for Hezbollah in Latin America story, since I’ve been blogging about Hezbollah‘s (Hizballah Hizbollah) inroads in our hemisphere for the last decade. It’s 8:30 in the morning and this post is due at noon, so I’m doing a bit of research while having breakfast, and will remain in pajamas until I’m finished with this post.

A story from the NY Post related to the Obama-Iran deal popped up in my Facebook feed, so I go to the NYPost, and find the op-ed by David Harsanyi, A deafening media silence on the Obama-Hezbollah scandal,

Even when outlets did decide to cover the story, they typically framed it as a he-said/she-said. “Politico Reporter Says Obama Administration ‘Derailed’ Hezbollah Investigation,” reads the NPR headline. Did Josh Meyer of Politico say something about Obama or did he publish a 14,000-word, diligently sourced, document-heavy investigative piece? If you get your news from NPR, you’d never know.

The investigative story Politico published has two on-the-record sources, and myriad well-sourced details.

I have been blogging on Hezbollah and Iran in Latin America for well over ten years. Before I did yesterday’s post at my blog, I printed out and carefully studied Mayer’s long article.

I could not find one thing that contradicted what information I have read on Hezbollah and Iranian presence in Latin America during the past decade. As far as I could see, his information on the drug trade is rock-solid.

More importantly, the revelation that the Obama administration not only threw obstructions in front of investigators but failed to prosecute major players in the enterprise is a Very Big Deal, a bigger deal than Iran-Contra, where

The Reagan administration was forced to admit that it had covertly continued to fund the [Nicaraguan] Contras by means of arms sales to Iran which were themselves illegal and in breach of a trade embargo against that country.

Indeed, with billions of drug trade money funding terrorists, and tens of thousands of lives ruined, The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook makes Iran-Contra look like pikers.

But, as Harsanyi puts it,

The preponderance of editors, journalists, pundits and bookers, on the other hand, still coddle Democrats. They may do it on purpose or unconsciously, but it’s destroying their credibility. Because as David Burge once noted, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.”

On the other hand,
I am elated that Meyer’s thoroughly researched piece came out. He deserves accolades for this.

Little bloggers like myself come across information – such as Hezbollah’s inroads in our hemisphere – that makes us wonder why none of the big fish ever write about. It really is a big deal when one does.

Will the story, having come out during the holiday season, continue to be ignored?
That remains to be seen. It may be up to alternative media to keep it in the limelight, but, no matter what, The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook warrants a most rigorous congressional investigation.

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

The Senate passed the Trump tax reform bill last night. The House has to vote on it again due to some changes in the bill.

Nancy Pelosi calls it “Armageddon,” and Libs are breaking into hives over newly-found concerns over budget deficits.

Paul Ryan says Tax Reform Means Your Paycheck Will Grow. I’m all for that.

Conservatives realize that the U.S. has the very uncompetitive highest corporate taxes in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Out of the 34 countries in the OECD, America ranks first with a 39.1 percent corporate tax rate, compared to an OECD average of 24.1 percent. The OECD figure is what’s called the statutory rate, meaning the base rate applied to corporate profits.

Drudge has a 

Followed by a less exultant side bar,

Christmas Comes Early for Trump With Tax Win…

Biggest overhaul in 30 years…

After elation, hangover may loom…

At the WSJ,
GOP Nears Tax Victory as Bill Passes in Senate. Measure will return to the House for a final vote Wednesday

Real Clear Markets has,

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of the Trump Tax Bill

The WaPo goes Interactive: Will your taxes go up or down under the GOP bill? Had I stayed in New Jersey, they would have gone up.

Stuart Varney praises it as “a return to politics of growth.”

The NYPost had one small headline halfway down the page.

The BBC asks,

Elsewhere (h/t Instapundit),

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Hardly “Armageddon.” But if it is, at least I’ll get some reading done.

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After all,
Wasn’t the world supposed to end last week because of net neutrality?

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

By John Ruberry

I was out of town in July when Detroit, the movie about the destructive 1967 riot and a police attack on a small group of guests at the Algiers Motel, hit the theaters. Directed by Kathryrn Bigelow, who is best known for Zero Dark Thirty and the Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker, is again teamed with scriptwriter Mark Boal. It stars John Borega, renowned for his role in the Star Wars reboot, as a torn African-American, who despite good intentions gets pulled into the carnage and the aftermath of the upheaval.

But by the time I got back home and found the time to see Detroit it was gone from theaters. Even before the Harvey Weinstein-ignited sex scandals, 2017 was an annus horribilis for Hollywood. Yes, Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast were tremendous hits, there were many notable flops, and among them was Detroit. That’s a pity because it is a masterful piece of filmmaking.

Last night I watched it by way of OnDemand on Xfinity.

The 1967 Detroit Riot is the demarcation line in history for that city, just as the Potato Famine is for Ireland and the defeat of the Armada is for Spain. It’s the Motor City’s before-and-after moment. “Ah, but that was before the riot,” or “riots,” sometimes the plural form is used, is something all Detroiters of a certain age say. Prior to the riot Detroit was America’s fifth-largest city, but now, for the first time since 1850, Detroit is not among America’s twenty-most populous cities. In 1950 Detroit was America’s most prosperous municipality, now it is one of its poorest. True, Detroit’s problems were evident in the 1950s and early 1960s, but at the time the few people paying attention to such things viewed that period as a rough patch or perhaps nothing more than a modest transitional period.

Fox Theatre one month ago

The world premiere of Detroit took place at the Fox Theatre two days after the 50th anniversary of the start of the riot, the old movie palace is the setting of one of the scenes in the movie. The film begins with an undermanned police raid of a black-run speakeasy–called a “blind pig” in Detroit–that quickly turns into a widespread tumult of looting, arson, and death. Archival news footage shows the devestation followed by a clip of Governor George Romney, Mitt’s father, announcing that the Michigan National Guard has been called out. By the end of the five-day riot Michigan state troopers and federal troops had been dispatched to Detroit as well.

Among the riot scenes is one with now-disgraced US Rep. John Conyers (Laz Alonso) urging a crowd for calm–they ignore him. Five months ago Conyers was still a civil rights icon. Now Conyers is shunned.

But most of the movie is centered on police tormenting suspects and witnesses at the Algiers, the reputed site of a sniper attack. After a performance by the Dramatics–who later gained fame for the hit “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” one of the group’s members, Larry Reid (Algee Smith), along with his personal assistant, take refuge at the Algiers, which is located just outside of the Virginia Park neighborhood, the heart of the riot zone. For a while it seems that despite the haze of the smoke from the arson fires and the constant sirens, the Algiers is the smart choice to have a party while Detroit burns. That is until an evil Detroit police officer, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), his two racist partners, troops from the National Guard, and Melvin Dismukes (Borega), a security guard, storm the Algiers in search of a sniper, who we know is Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), who simply but recklessly fired a track and field starting pistol. What follows is a series of intense torture-filled series of interrogations. Two young white prostitutes, one of them is portrayed by Hannah Murphy, who plays Gilly in Game of Thrones, are among those brutalized.

“I’m just gonna assume you’re all criminals,” Krauss tells them. One of those “criminals” is Robert Greene (Anthony Mackie), a Vietnam veteran who came to Detroit like hundreds of thousand of others before him–he is simply looking for work. Don’t forget, the blind pig raid busted up a party welcoming two other Vietnam vets home. Krauss denigrates Greene, says he “probably just drove a supply truck” while serving and accuses of him of being the pimp for the prostitutes.

Later Krauss asks the women, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves, having sex with n*ggers?” The other prostitute replies, “It’s 1967, a**hole.” But the mixing of blacks and whites was still a problem for many 50 years ago.

Blogger at the site of where the riot started

Finally and tragically the Algiers incident ends but the legal ramifications please few. Conyers appears again. And one of the characters finds deliverance.

Like Zero Dark Thirty, the feeling of Detroit is claustrophobic, which of course is intentional. The lighting isn’t perfect, that approach undoubtedly was chosen to enmesh Bigelow’s scenes with the archive footage.

Understandably Detroit is still coming to terms with the ’67 riot. I visited Virginia Park last month, while there are still many abandoned homes–this is Detroit after all–there are some new ones too. The site of the long-ago razed blind pig and the neighboring stores where the riot broke out is now a park–albeit one that no children were playing in. To be fair it was a chilly autumn afternoon. In July a Michigan historical marker was erected at that site. On the flipside, sandwiched between New Center and the mansions of Boston-Edison, where Henry Ford, Ty Cobb, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy once lived, Virginia Park’s future appears bright. Deliverance may be coming there soon too.

Besides Xfinity OnDemand, Detroit is also available on DVD. The trailer is viewable here.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

If you decide to join the jerks who visit cool countries and travel to the island-prison, there are a couple of things you may want to keep in mind.

First, there are the weird symptoms: On Sept. 29, the State Department recalled 21 employees of the American Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

The group (along with three Canadians) were all suffering from an odd combination of symptoms: “hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ticked off in an official statement.

On Wednesday, an upcoming report to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by doctors at the University of Miami, the University of Pennsylvania, and government medical experts was reported by the AP to include evidence that the 24 victims showed clear patterns of brain abnormalities.

Whether they were due to sonic attacks or poisoning remains to be determined.

Two: Reuters reports (emphasis added),

American tourists strolling the ample squares and narrow streets of colonial Havana may not know it, but from novelist Ernest Hemingway’s famed Floridita bar to Sloppy Joe’s eatery, they are probably patronizing businesses owned by Cuba’s military.

Three: Big brother will be watching you.

Including that quaint house at El Vedado you saw at Airbnb,

Airbnb over the last week has suspended or banned hosts—both in Europe and the United States—for violating a strict Airbnb prohibition on undisclosed cameras on the properties.

However, the company has not responded to several Washington Free Beacon inquiries about whether it warns U.S. or other tourists traveling to Cuba about the potential for Cuban government’s electronic surveillance of guest quarters and long history of the Castro regime’s security police gaining access to rented rooms.
. . .
The government can easily track foreign guests because it requires Airbnb hosts to report their passport numbers to Cuban immigration authorities, according to a report last year in the Miami Herald.

The latter article has more information on the dismal financial arrangements the oppressive communist regime imposes on its people.

And last,
If you insist on spending a winter holiday in the island prison, remember the old phrase, forewarned is foretold.

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

I’m not in Alabama, I don’t read tea leaves, and I can’t tell apart the My Pillow guy from Larry Sabato.

However, I’ve been reading enough social media and news editorializing that I can observe the following, Roy Moore or no Roy Moore:

One: American politics is clearly a bare-fisted blood sport. Mitt Romney-like gentlemen are not going to win against full-Alinsky “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

The only difference between Fight Club and present-day politics is the first rule of Fight Club; we must talk of politics because it affects us.

Two: I have to agree with Andrew Klavan, all the news is one big scam:

From the sex scandals to Russian collusion to climate change, we are being distracted from the great moral question of the age

And what is the great moral question of the age? FREEDOM.

Klavan explains it in his podcast, and asks, among other things, which candidate would restrain the growth of all-intrusive government?

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Three: Like Klavan, I’m done with the sex scandals

prosecute, eject or slap. Otherwise, I’ll take each case in context as it comes.

The more you focus on this, the less attention you pay to the issues.

Four: Moore’s looss may end up becoming a net-positive for the GOP, but, as a Facebook friend put it, “If you’re a Republican who isn’t worried about the 2018 midterms yet, you’re a Republican who isn’t paying attention.”

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

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.