Back in 1950 Akira Kurosawa made Rashomon, IMDB as describes the plot,

A heinous crime and its aftermath are recalled from differing points of view.

Thus, the Rashomon effect,

The Rashomon effect occurs when the same event is given contradictory interpretations by different individuals involved. The effect is named after Akira Kurosawa‘s 1950 film Rashomon, in which a murder is described in four mutually contradictory ways by its four witnesses.[1] More broadly, the term addresses the motivations, mechanism, and occurrences of the reporting on the circumstance, and so addresses contested interpretations of events, the existence of disagreements regarding the evidence of events, and the subjects of subjectivity versus objectivity in human perception, memory, and reporting.

We live in Rashomon times.

On the one hand, there’s the Wolff book, where the author admits he’s lying (emphasis added):

Wolff’s sourcing note in an excerpt explains many of the myriad inaccuracies, saying, “Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.”

Anti-trumpers aiming to throw Pres. Trump out of office through a “25th Amendment solution” by declaring him mentally incompetent are relying in this book’s anecdotes.

On the other hand, there’s yesterday’s meeting, aired live for the full 55 minutes. Some things you need to see for yourself, so I encourage you to watch,

Try, if you may, to focus on not on what was said, but on how he managed the meeting:

He invited nearly everyone at the table to have their say. He urged bipartisan cooperation, promising to sign whatever bill Congress brings him.
. . .
He joked, listened, accepted flattery, told anecdotes and presided over a positive tone on an issue that has eluded a legislative solution for a decade or more.

Call it political theater, if you may, but, as I tweeted yesterday,

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Check out the reactions to that tweet.

Wolff could ask, ‘Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?’ “ By now even CNN is skeptical.

Kurosawa would have had material for a great movie.

UPDATE
Michael Knowles highlights what Pres. Trump was doing during the meeting. Pay attention,

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

Illinois bicentennial flag on the bottom

By John Ruberry

Illinois will have one of the most-closely watched gubernatorial contests this year. Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner has been a tremendous disappointment to me and just about every conservative voter I know. I enthusiastically backed the then-political newcomer in 2014, but this time around, as I explained here at Da Tech Guy, I’m supporting Rauner’s Republican challenger, state representative Jeanne Ives in the March primary election.

Ives is attacking Rauner, and to be fair, the Dems are too. Rauner has much to answer for. Actually he has little to answer for–as Rauner has not accomplished much of anything. For her part Ives is promoting common sense reforms that only public-sector union bosses and their enablers oppose, such as amending the state constitution so pension benefits can be changed, that is, so payment increases can be lowered, and having new state employees enroll in 401(k) plans.

Meanwhile Democrats are battling scapegoats, used here in the classical sense, that is, using something else to accept the sins of a people.

Deals with the Democrats’ state worker wing, the public-sector unions, that some Republican governors signed off on–but not Rauner–have burdened the Prairie State with $250 billion in pension debt. Retiring at 50 with full benefits is nice–except for chumps like me who have to pay for it. Illinois’ current budget is $36 billion and a whopping one-quarter of it goes to government worker pension payments. Illinois has suffered from the worst credit rating among the states for years, currently that rating is just one level above junk.

Illinoisans are responding sensibly and predictably–for four straight years Illinois has had negative population growth.

There is little to celebrate during Illinois’ bicentennial year.

Two candidates on the Democratic side are getting most of the attention from the media and presumably it’s a race between them, as there is currently no polling data on gubernatorial race. Billionaire investor JB Pritzker, a scion of the family that own the Hyatt Hotel chain, has collected the lion’s share of endorsements from prominent Democrats and the party’s union allies. He the only Democratic candidate regularly running ads on radio, television, and on the internet. The other prominent contender is Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy who used to run Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

Neither have much to say about Illinois’ long-running fiscal crisis and solutions for it, other than “taxing the rich.” But they don’t even talk much about that.

Pritzker on the left protesting Trump

Pritzker’s web advertisements are a daily presence on my Facebook and Pandora pages–in these Pritzker almost always attacks Donald Trump, as he does for instance in this YouTube ad. Trump has not visited Illinois since he was elected president.  Last year, in front of Chicago’s Trump Tower, Pritzker released his five-point plant to resist the president. And when the inevitable spring tornado tears through Illinois bringing death and destruction, who will Governor Pritzker call for help?

Since Trump has been monopolized as a scapegoat by Pritzker, Kennedy is left with smaller prey. One of his targets is a worthy one, at least for scorn. That one is Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is also the chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as the Chicago Machine.  Pritzker owns a mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast. He purchased a smaller mansion that sits next to his. The billionaire didn’t maintain it–and then he successfully appealed his property tax assessment with Berrios’ office because the other mansion was “vacant and uninhabitable,” saving Pritzker a bundle of cash. Berrios has been under attack by the Chicago Tribune for his assessing practices, which the Chicago Tribune says favors the rich over the poor. Kennedy is calling for Berrios to resign as assessor, but the tiny yet powerful law firm where the longtime state House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman, Michael Madigan, is a partner was hired to lower the property taxes of a company owned by Kennedy’s Merchandise Mart.

Oops.

Last week Kennedy moved  on to another unpopular target, Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

“I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration,” Kennedy said at a press conference held in a predominately African-American neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. “I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes,” he added.

Phrased succinctly, Rahm, according to Kennedy, is driving blacks out of Chicago.

Oops again.

For a variety of reasons, including most notably high crime and execrable unionized schools, in sheer numbers and by percentage, the black population of many large cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and even Detroit has been falling, as I stated in my own blog when I reported on this story. Kennedy’s claim is tin-foil hat stuff.

Blogger at Chicago’s Trump Tower

And what does Trump and Emanuel have to do with Illinois’ pension debacle? Nothing with the former and a just a little bit in regards to the latter, since Rahm, a longtime prominent Illinois Democrat, was silent about the festering fiscal disease that is devouring ILL-inois. As for Berrios, I’ll place the party boss somewhere in the middle.

But the role of scapegoats, using the term in the modern sense, is to defer attention away from larger problems. And Kennedy and Pritzker don’t have solutions–or if they do they don’t care to share them with voters.

Boss Michael Madigan’s use of “Illinois math” to kick the pension problem down the road isn’t an option anymore. Illinois has reached the cliff.

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

Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, was released today, amid a bombogenesis of free publicity. Winter storm Grayson’s flurries were nothing compared to the controversy.

During his short stint, Steve Bannon apparently had Wolff at the White House, blabbing away on everything and anything concerning his employer.

Debunked,
The NY Mag article preceding the book’s release has Bannon explaining that “Trump didn’t want to win,” for starters. Trump was spending his own money and flying his own plane to six rallies daily, but, that aside, I’d be curious to know how that jives with the Russia collusion story. Either you are “treasonous and unpatriotic” (in Bannon’s words), plotting with Russia-Russia-Russia to throw the election in your favor, or you don’t want to win: you can’t have both.

Conservatives who know Bannon have turned on him, and they are not kind. Ben Shapiro considers him a bad person who should not be at Breitbart,

Bannon is far more of a liability than an asset: he doesn’t have the ear of the Breitbart-investing Mercers, he doesn’t have the ear of the White House, and he doesn’t have the ear of the base.

Andrew Klavan states in his podcast that “The press goes crazy over Michael Wolff’s new book “Fire and Fury,” but what we’ve seen so far is absurd crap.” Klavan started yesterday’s podcast with “the meeting [Bannon] didn’t attend during campaigns he hadn’t joined” and lets it rip,

Klavan debunks several other points; as he puts it, “Fire and fury signifies nothing,” while the media perpetuates its narrative. Just bear in mind that if it’s too good to check, it probably isn’t true.

Bothered,
President Trump has a nickname for Bannon,

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Bewildered,
Following the above tweet, a bewildered Michael Moore took exception and thinks Pres. Trump is unfit to serve because Moore was sloppy first,

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Althouse has an explanation for Moore,

I get the impression that he [Trump] feels disgust toward men who are fat and don’t discreetly encapsulate the fat in a standard business suit (as he himself does).

Good tailoring matters.

On a separate topic,
I see that my post on Hurricane Irma preparation was one of the duds of 2017. Luckily, the hurricane did not cause any damage.

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

I am typing at top speed with a deadline looming, and I’m sure to be late (sorry, Pete). The workday ran long. My day job’s current assignment has me watching state legislative action, and today kicked off the 2018 season.

The State House hallways were full of citizens sporting buttons and scarves emblazoned with symbols of this or that bill, thumbs up or thumbs down. An impromptu press conference about a particular bill temporarily blocked access to one hall. Twitter was ablaze with coordinated targeted messages on various measures. Typical stuff, on a day with lots of bills up for votes.

It made for great press, and it all served the long-term goal of influencing public opinion. What it didn’t do, as far as I could tell, was swing a single vote on the most controversial bills.

That work had been done earlier, in one-on-one conversations with those representatives who were cheerfully trying to work their way through the crowd to their seats. This is how things are done close to home.

Conversations without cameras, with no social media posts at stake, one neighbor to another. As occupied with politics as I am, I can’t afford to forget how important those conversations are.

Why be concerned with how things are done on the local or state level? Isn’t that little league stuff? Not to me.

For one thing, these state legislators make up the bench from which parties draw candidates for bigger if not better offices. The more one-on-one conversations a legislator has, the greater the legislator’s sense of accountability to the people who’ve been talking with him. Professional lobbyists know all about that. Smart voters know it, too.

For another, we need the practice. I know I do. I tend to resort to social media even for messages to state representatives. That’s not the most effective way for me to do my job as a constituent. For that, I need face-to-face conversation, or even a brief phone call (remember those?), with the people who claim to represent me at the State House.

When a family has a story about how a bill would affect them, they use media appearances to share that story. That helps shape the environment within which a vote will be cast. If they really want to lock down a particular vote, though, they’ll have a private conversations with a legislator, without cameras or mics in the room.

For the two bills with which I was most concerned today, people on all sides worked relentlessly on such old-fashioned communication, as well as on social media, right up to the minute the votes were cast. The same-day work was important.

And yet it wasn’t as important as the low-key conversations that started back when the bills were introduced (and even earlier). Today’s votes reflected relationships built long ago. Those relationships started with conversations.

It may sound odd for a keyboard warrior to admit, but I’m glad conversation still counts.

Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues and New Hampshire politics at ellenkolb.com and leavenfortheloaf.com. You can support Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Writers by hitting Da Tip Jar. Thank you!

Florida!

The Sunshine State . . . but not this week.

Florida temperatures this week are certainly not tropical: As I write this post, it’s 37F. “Feels like 30,” says Weather.com. The UV Index is 0 out of 10 due to the pouring rain.

Yesterday they had snow in Titusville, south of where I live. The forecast shows ‘Bomb cyclone’ to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold late this week, but at least the “bomb cyclone” is expected to affect coastal locations from Georgia to Maine. Or so we hope.

Floridians are in full freak-out mode.

Tourists at the Orlando amusement parks are shivering.

People are lining up at Walmart buying windproof jackets lined with fleece, sweaters, hats, and what gloves and scarves they can find.

Snowbirds laugh at the panicking locals, remarking that, “back in Fargo, we’d be wearing flip-flops and shorts when the temps hit 30.”

Everybody is talking about the weather. But what to do during bad weather?

I stole this post’s title from Carlos Eire’s magnificent Waiting For Snow in Havana. If you want to curl up and read a good book during the storm,  read this beautifully incandescent memoir. Goodreads describes it,

Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in our lives when we are certain we have died — and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.

Eire earned a National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003. The New York Times (of Duranty Pulitzer fame) never reviewed Waiting For Snow because it did not meet the Times’s narrative on Cuba.

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

A 2010 report that said most journalists used Twitter, Facebook or blogs as vital news sources didn’t receive much public attention, but it noted what has become a huge shift in how the mainstream media operates.

The survey – conducted by Cision, a public relations firm, and Don Bates of The George Washington University’s Master’s Degree Program in Strategic Public Relations – said journalists viewed social media as an essential tool for gathering news, but they were aware the information they found could be unreliable.

No kidding. Although social media hadn’t yet degenerated into the stinking dumpster fire it is today, reporters and editors eight years ago knew most of the tips they found online had to be independently verified before they could be reported. Based on the embarrassing number of “fake news” stories in the past year, that no longer seems the case.

I’ve always been particularly suspicious of Twitter as a news source. In days gone by, cranks and fanatics had to stand on a soapbox in a public park to spout their views. Thanks to the internet, these zealots don’t just have a megaphone but the equivalent of a cable TV network to spread their warped and often insane ideas around the globe.

Yes, online communities can be marvelous creations where like-minded folks can share concerns, offer each other support and pass on expertise to those who need it. But cyberspace also provides a place where lunatics and perverts, who would be powerless in the real world, can band together and become a force in pushing their agenda.

While their overall numbers may be small, crazies can make a splash when their tweet catches the eye of a reporter who decides to turn it into a news story. That’s especially likely to occur if the tweet wins support from others in the form of re-tweets and likes.

And that’s my problem with reporters using Twitter as a news source. In a country of more than 325 million people, is it truly newsworthy if several thousand fools like a tweet? And I’m being generous – I’ve seen tweets that drew the attention of only a few hundred people developed as news stories.

One of the websites I’ve found helpful in following Twitter’s influence on the media is twitchy.com, a conservative site founded by Michelle Malkin in 2012. Twitchy re-posts threads that develop after a leftist make a tweet that incites withering responses from right-wingers. It’s usually very amusing.

But Twitchy does more than that. It offers a path into Twitter itself that non-tweeters like me can use. I quickly discovered that tweets by celebrities and pundits often collect only a couple hundred combined re-tweets and likes. Even President Donald Trump, who has 45.6 million followers, sometimes gets fewer than 100,000 combined responses and re-tweets to his posts.

It bothers me when something that might interest so few people can result in news stories that get national or even international attention. It’s almost as if news coverage in the pre-internet age could be decided by what appeared in letters to the editor.

Indeed, Twitter, Facebook and other social media can generate real news, but journalists have to exercise discretion before they sit at their keyboards and tap out their stories. And while the internet has made the process much easier, nothing beats old-fashioned shoe-leather doggedness when it comes to accurately reporting the news.

***

Happy New Year! May you enjoy joy, prosperity and good health in 2018.

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.  

Support independent journalism by hitting DaTipJar on Da Tech Guy blog. Thank you!

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.