faustaBook review by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz

Eyes On Target: Inside Stories from the Brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALs by Scott McEwen and Richard Miniter, is a gripping read in many ways:
It tells the story of a group of men who will give their all to protect our country, from the point of view of several of the men themselves.
It is the history of the most-feared anti-terrorist force in the world.
And, as the book jacket aptly describes, it

is an inside account of some of the most harrowing missions in American history-including the mission to kill Osama bin Laden and the mission that wasn’t, the deadly attack on the US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi where a retired SEAL sniper with a small team held off one hundred terrorists while his repeated radio calls for help went unheeded.

The book could be divided in three sections: The history of the SEALs, and how they evolved ‘from pirates to professionals’; the missions in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Benghazi (which actually was not a mission); and the Appendix and notes, which includes The US House Republican Conference Interim Progress Report on the events surrounding the September 11, 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi.

Not to be missed is chapter eleven, “Why the Unique Culture of the SEALs matters,” where McEwen and Miniter make the case for why

We must, as a society, keep a group of warriors free of politics and bureaucracy, free of the distractions that keep them from doing their vital work.

While the Obama administration and its apologists continue to refer to the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi as a fake, phony scandal (a Google search yields 553,000 results on benghazi fake scandal), the details of the attack, as itemized on chapter ten, belie this “fake, phony scandal” narrative.

Authors Scott McEwen and Richard Miniter thoroughly researched the official timelines of the Defense Department, the State Department, congressional reports, Arabic-language newspapers and American media to construct the most detailed timeline of the 9/11 attack in Benghazi. They go back to April 5, 2011 and start with Ambassador Chris Stevens’s arrival in Benghazi, ending with the September 12 arrival of the Marine FAST platoon in Tripoli at 8:56PM, a full twenty-four hours after the attack began.

Eyes On Target is a gripping, well-researched, moving account of a group of heroic men, a book both for history lovers and especially for the general reader who wants to know the facts on Benghazi.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on US and Latin America politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

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Olimometer 2.52

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By Timothy Imholt

In order to understand a problem, as a scientist I like to look at fundamentals, or origins, of the problem we are faced with.  These days this ‘Culture War’ that the far reaches of the political spectrum seem to be fanning the flames of (to the point of a bonfire now) is a real issue.  So where did this culture war start?

My first memory of the use of the culture war term and analogy was in Pat Buchanan’s speech at the 1992 Republican convention. I then traced some of his ideas to James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book “Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America.” Hunter was a University of Virginia sociologist who viewed politics as an increasingly uncivil arena split into two sides that share little but mutual antipathy. The book made use of a lot of war descriptions and metaphors and leaves a distinct idea that American politics was in a steep decline.

But while I was checking these references, I found a more serious connection with a darker past.

Part of the path leads through Herbert Baxter Adams (1850-1891). He taught poly sci and history at Johns Hopkins, and is sometimes referred to as ‘America’s first professional historian’. He was the first active academic to gain a PhD in history, and he earned it at Heidelberg, Germany in 1876. This meant that he was in Germany during their culture war. What follows is a sort of review of the book this led me to read.

Bohm’s Der Kulturkampf: 1871-1873

Wilhelm Bohm published his “Rise of Bismarck” in 1887-1889. This book is volume 6 of that 8 volume set and gives a detailed look at the events of the three or four years after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. This volume is entitled “Fȕrst Bismark als Redner… der Kulturekamph…” (Culture Struggle) and it expounds on the actions taken to create the modern state of Germany. Parsing the text and the multi part compound nouns make it a slow read (or reveal my barely adequate German). Some of the twists and changes in political alignment are also hard to follow. But comparing the time with our modern culture war is certainly informative.

Bismarck was manipulating and forcing change on people’s fundamental ideas, and he largely succeeded. There are certainly actions we would view as alarming: people and clergy were imprisoned, property was seized or destroyed, and Bismarck certainly earned his nickname of ‘the iron chancellor’, but with consideration he comes off pretty well as the good guy. While he did create Germany as a country, he also had a good number of unintended consequences.

Before Bismarck Germany (the area) actually contained a number of countries, and the views of a Hamburger, Prussian, Bavarian, Palatinate (I skipped a fair number) were different. After him they were melded into one Reich. We would see his actions as harsh and abrupt, but his challenges were also very great. He was coming out of 250 or so years where those little nations had been walked over, or fought in, looted and burned by their neighbors. They had been hit by the French, the Spaniards, the Netherlanders, the English, Austrians, Italians, Poles, Swedes, and Russians among others. After Bismarck, Germany was a world power, although they would start colonization about 100 to 150 years later than the majors had moved around the globe.

As a obiter-dicta (by the way comment); these wars gained some experience for the Germans but reduced them to such relative poverty that the only viable ‘export’ for some of the rulers in these countries was to lease out their own conscripts as mercenaries… the ‘Hessians’ in the American Revolution.

It is interesting to think about Bismarck’s results compared with our culture war especially that set of unexpected consequences. His ideas of government were more democratic and open than the state that resulted in the Kaiser’s Germany of WWI or Hitler’s Reich in WWII. He also wound up with ‘Secularism’ as a sort of religion, and this seems to be an intentional target of our Collectivist activists. Overall I found the book worth while, although most would prefer a more modern translation.

Back to Adams

We never hear this anywhere, but I will look into Herbert Baxter Adams further in a later post. He figures in several trends that contributed to our modern society: the specialization and fragmentation of education (he was the first PhD); defining history and sociology as a domain belonging to trained specialists, and had lots of his ideas printed and distributed by the U.S. government. Thus he affected both high-school and college teaching of history. This blog is already too long, so for now just look him up in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Baxter_Adams.

Defining Some Terms

In order for any two people to actually agree on something (or even discuss it) the words or phrases that they use must mean the same (or at least very similar) things to each of them. This can get to be very slippery for two reasons: 1) definitions change over time, or 2) the definition is the same but the context changed. For example, “all men are created equal” once allowed some men to still hold others as slaves. Likewise, the understanding of the meaning of ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ has changed from the times of our founders.

Another concern occurs when we use terms like ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’, particularly in a political context. The concern is that so many related concepts and ideas are lumped in with the idea that a short definition is not actually clear. A frequent notion when complicated or involved agreements are needed is to use an attorney. But I’ve rejected that idea ever since seeing Bill Clinton twist on “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”; a master performance by a trained lawyer.

Since these blogs are about agreement and ideas, we’ve got to be clear on terms. I do not ask that everyone agree with these definitions (although it sure would be nice), but do ask that you consider them, and remember that they apply across these blogs.

Liberty Defined

Lincoln once remarked that “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one.” In the 145 years since then, we haven’t got one yet. But since this purports to be a collection of my thoughts about liberty, I decided early on that I needed a clear idea of what liberty was. I always try to keep the following definition in mind:

Liberty is a condition enjoyed by the members of a society in which every person has the absolute right to think, speak, and act with no limits other than those needed to secure the same right to every other person.

Having evolved and struggled with that definition, I was very pleased when late in my work I found support from Jefferson:

“Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”

Liberal and Conservative

If at all possible I intend to avoid using these terms. Generally in politics and other fields a ‘Conservative’ is someone who supports the status-quo or a return to the recent past, while a ‘Liberal’ is one who wants to change things to match some vision they believe is better. The problem is that this always defines a shifting target. A Conservative in 1780 wanted to return to the kingdom, while a Liberal wanted the Articles of Confederation.

To further confuse things, various writers add adjectives and phrases, such as ‘Classical Liberal’, ‘Neo-con’, or ‘Compassionate Conservative’.

Left and Right

These terms are also used to describe political positions. I personally have three problems with them. First, I refuse to be classed based on the seating arrangement in the assembly of the 1848 French revolutionary government. Second, they are frequently used as an image of the two wings of an airplane. But if you don’t like the plane’s direction, which side you sit on is irrelevant.

Lastly, they also give rise to other terms, like ‘Middle of the Road’. A Texas humorist defined the problem here best by his book title: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos”.

Democracy and Republic

These terms describe forms of government. Many activists today seek to restore us to a ‘Republic’, but that doesn’t clarify the meaning. The meaning and definition is so involved that it will serve as the subject of several later blog entries. However, at considerable risk of disagreement, the short definitions used throughout this work are:

A republic is a government where each person, as an individual, is sovereign.

A democracy is a government where the people as a whole or a majority are sovereign.

Notes

What follows would be footnotes if this were a book, so if you’d skip them there, go ahead and skip them here. (If anybody knows a better way to do this, I’d love to hear from you).

Bill Clinton’s comment is in his video testimony of August 17, 1988 and was delivered to the grand jury in the Lewinsky affair.

Lincoln’s quote was part of a speech delivered in Baltimore in April of 1864; I took it from page 121 of volume 7 of “The Writings of Abraham Lincoln” published in 1906.

Jefferson’s quote showed up late because it wasn’t in any of the standard collections, such as Ford’s Centennial Collection of Jefferson’s Works in 12 volumes. It came from a letter to an Isaac Hall Tiffany, Esq. written on April 4, 1819. You can get a look at it of the Library of Congress website under The Jefferson Papers, Series 1, and general correspondence. Grey scale image is at

http://memory.loc.gov/master/mss/mtj/mtj1/051/0400/0462.jpg

The funny book title can be found in a number of places. It was by Jim Hightower, published by Harper Collins in 1979, entitled “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos”, (ISBN 0060187663). P.S. If your mind is a strange as mine you might find the book worthwhile for a plane ride.

Outside the Box – Time to Change?

This set of observations doesn’t seem to match anybody else’s thinking. While change happens every day, we seem to undergo a major shift at very broad intervals. The interval, in terms of our Federal government seems to be every 72 years. This is just long enough that almost all direct memory of the previous shift has gone to the grave. What I propose here is to briefly outline these shifts as noted by presidential elections, then describe the resulting governments.

Seventy-two years is also 14 presidential elections. For us this means 1788 Washington, 1860 Lincoln, 1932 (Franklin Roosevelt), then 2008 (Obama). The last one seems four years late, which I attribute to the unsettling effect of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Nature of the Shifts

Before looking at each shift, I want to point out that each shift also resulted in a change in terminology. We went from a Federation to a Republic, to a Democracy, then to the Progressives. Strangely enough each referred to itself as an example of the earlier stage and governed under principals of the next,

1788 -1860 was the Federal Era. People spoke of a federation, and referred to ‘these states are’. But during much of the period we were evolving from a federation to a national republic.

1860-1932 might be spoken of as the Republican Era. But once again we sent most of the era evolving from a national republic into a democracy. By the time of FDR the transition was completed.

1932-2008 is usually spoken of as the Democratic Era, but we spent much of it evolving from a Democracy into the ‘Nanny State’ of the progressives.

2008-? So far is called the progressive era, at least by many congress critters. We don’t know yet how it will turn out, but most features so far seem to be communistic. What this really means is subject matter for many more discussions….

By Timothy Imholt


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Olimometer 2.52

It’s Tuesday and with 7 days left to the month I start the day $856 shy of the mortgage.

That means DaTipJar has to generate 122 a day for seven days to pay the bills in full.

We can do it but only you help. If there was ever a time for you to kick in if you were thinking of it, it’s now.

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by Linda Szugyi

Following state and local politics is a pretty tough thing to do when you move every couple of years.  Since we don’t have cable and I rarely turn on the local channels, Florida’s 13th District special election slipped right by.  All I managed to do was make sure it wasn’t my district.  It was an important election, though.  At least until David Jolly won.  With a GOP victory, maybe it wasn’t so important after all.

Regardless of its value as a harbinger, the special election did spark enough interest in me to look up the prospects for my own district, Florida’s 14th.  The spark was quickly doused by the lack of information about those running against Democrat incumbent Kathy Castor.

Both Politics1 and US Elections list two Republican candidates, John Mark Grey and John Coney.  While most folks listed as candidates for office in the state of Florida in 2014 already have a website linked, neither of these gentlemen do.  I know, it’s still early in the year.  The primaries aren’t held until August.  Still, it’s frustrating when even the oddballs have websites up and running.

The news about my district is even more disheartening:  No Obstacles To Kathy Castor’s Progress.  And look at this map of House races, where Castor floats safely in her little blue boat amid a red sea.  She won reelection in 2012 with 70% of the vote.  The closest race she ran was in 2010, when she got 60% of the vote.

Is my district as hopeless as it seems?  Since Kathy Castor continues to wear her support of Obamacare as a badge of honor, she should be vulnerable.  For heaven’s sake, she continues to display on her congressional website Politifact’s 2013 Lie of the Year:  If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.  (Hat tip.)

Kathy Castor

Are either of the listed Republicans serious candidates?  Will more candidates surface?

By the way, another special election will be held on June 24th, in Florida’s 19th District.  Will it get as much attention as the 13th District did?

We’ll see.  Stay tuned.

I’m one of Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Seven guest writers.  If you like our writing, please consider subscribing to Da Tech Guy’s Blog so that he may continue to host The Magnificent Seven.  Thanks.

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Olimometer 2.52

It’s Monday and with 8 days left to the month I am still over $850 shy of the Mortgage that’s due in a week.

That’s why you don’t see the weekly goal this morning, because if I make that goal I’ll still be nearly $700 shy to pay the bills this month.

We had a good start yesterday but I still need a minimum of four $25 tip jar hitters every day for the next nine days simply to come up a mere $100 short.

It is still possible to make our goal but only you help. If there was ever a time for you to kick in if you were thinking of it, it’s now.

So I’m asking you to hit DaTipJar below if you possibly can.

 

With 61 more $20 a month subscribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year.

I would ask that you do subscribe by hitting the button below. If your finances allow it, consider choosing Hat level or better. A subscription comes not only with exclusive commentary, but on a weekly basis you will have the opportunity to get direct access to me by phone to provide feedback or suggestions to make sure this site is worthy of your financial support and patronage.


 

By  Pat Austin

Hillary Clinton is still being coy about a 2016 presidential run.  When asked at a student conference in Tempe, AZ this week, Clinton said she is “obviously thinking about all kinds of decisions.”

I think it is inevitable that she will run; I think the inevitability of it is too much for her to resist. Assuming that, it seems more important than ever that we remember Benghazi 2011 and continue the fight to determine what really happened there.  It is certainly an issue that will come up should a Clinton 2016 campaign actually happen.

There are still far too many questions about what really happened in Benghazi.  What we know for certain is that four Americans were killed in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

We know that in the aftermath, then U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice made the Sunday talk show rounds for the purpose of reiterating the administrations talking points that the Benghazi attack was the result of an obscure YouTube video.

Recently, Donald Rumsfeld spoke to Breitbart TV and placed the blame for Benghazi right where it should have been all along:  on Hillary Clinton:

In this instance, there was widespread knowledge, as was pointed out by Congressman Issa, the British knew that there were al-Qaeda threats, and they pulled their people out because they knew they couldn’t protect them.”

“Our people knew there were al-Qaeda threats, and they not only did not protect them, but they didn’t pull them out. That, in my view, is a neglect of important responsibilities. The idea that it falls to someone down the line, I think, is a misunderstanding. Clearly, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the person responsible.”

 It is unconscionable to think that she is somehow not responsible for the death of those four men in Benghazi.  How is it possible that she was unaware of the lack of security at the consulate?  At best, if in fact she had no idea, it is a dereliction of duty on her part and should certainly preclude her from consideration as our Commander in Chief.

The entire Benghazi fiasco was a shameful enterprise from beginning to end; why was that consulate in place at all?  Why not in Tripoli?  Why were we using unarmed Libyans to guard the consulate?  How were they supposed to ward off an attack with bats?  Why were requests for increased security ignored?

For her part, during Congressional testimony Secretary of State Clinton denied knowledge of any cables requesting assistance.  Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) posed the question:

McCaul:  …Similar to September the 11th, 2001, there were warning signs prior to Benghazi September 11th. There was an April 6th, 2012 crude IED thrown over the wall of the U.S. facility in Benghazi. On May 22nd, 2012, Red Cross building in Benghazi hit by two RPGs. The brigades of the imprisoned Blind Sheikh took responsibility for that attack. On June 6th, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was targeted by an IED (inaudible) a big hole in the perimeter wall. Again, the Blind Sheikh brigade taking credit.

And then on August 16th, we have this cable that’s been widely reported — a classified State Department cable warning that the Benghazi consulate could not withstand a coordinated attack. And the regional security officer believed our consulate could not be protected at an emergency meeting less than one month before the attack on 9/11.

A contingency plan was supposedly drafted to move the operations to the CIA annex about a mile away from the compound. This cable is presumed to have been shared by senior staff. It was sent to your office. It was sent to the NSC. And even on September 11th, the day Ambassador Stevens was killed, he personally warned about, quote, “a growing problem with security in Benghazi and growing frustration with security forces and the Libyan police.”

Were you aware of this cable — this August 16th cable?

CLINTON: Congressman, that cable did not come to my attention. I have made it very clear that the security cables did not come to my attention or above the assistant secretary level where the ARB placed responsibility. Where, as I think Ambassador Pickering said, “the rubber hit the road.”

How is that possible?

Taken in conjunction with Clinton’s infamous “What difference, at this point, does it make,” it’s easy to understand why she never saw a cable, never followed up on it, and to this day passes the buck to others.

In recently unclassified documents, it is clear that the Benghazi attack was not about a video at all. General Carter Ham, who at the time was head of AFRICOM, made it clear that his command considered it “a terrorist attack,” information he shared with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Yet Susan Rice went out and told the American people this was about a video.  Why was Susan Rice even out on the talk circuit at all?  Shouldn’t that have fallen to Secretary of State Clinton?  Could it be that Clinton just didn’t want those video clips used in Republican ads in 2016?  When asked, Rice said that Clinton had had a bad week, been under stress, and therefore she willingly picked up the slack.

Just the kind of woman we need for president, eh?  Lies to Congress, ignores cables from diplomatic outposts, passes the buck to underlings, and collapses under stress.

I doubt very seriously that Clinton was asked about Benghazi in Tempe this week.  While one young student asked, “If you don’t represent women in politics in America as a future president, who will?” I really wish she had asked “If you don’t tell us the truth about Benghazi, who will?”

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Rauner

By John Ruberry

Pity the Land of Lincoln–four of its last eight elected governors have been convicted of federal crimes–one of them, Rod Blagojevich, is still in prison. He’s inmate 40892-424. Blago’s successor and two-time running mate, fellow Chicago Democrat Pat Quinn, is running for a second full term.

The Republican nominee is Bruce Rauner, a multi-millionaire venture capitalist who survived a surprisingly tough primary battle last week over state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who is best known outside of Illinois for his appearance in a 2007 Barack Obama campaign commercial.

Running against “corrupt union bosses” has been a theme of Rauner’s campaign. Public-sector unions have destroyed Illinois, which once enjoyed a rare American economic trifecta–it was an industrial, financial, and agricultural powerhouse. The Prairie State now suffers from America’s second highest unemployment rate, nearly $6 billion in unpaid bills, and over $100 billion in public employee pension debt.

Quinn’s “temporary” 67 percent income tax hike was supposed to fix all three problems–but it failed, failed, failed.

Since he has no record to run on, Quinn unleashed an Obama-style class warfare attack on Rauner immediately after the primary, focusing on the GOPer’s muddled stance on raising the state’s minimum wage and businessman’s immense wealth. Last week in a rare press conference, state House Speaker and party boss Michael Madigan, yet another Chicago Democrat, proposed a millionaire income tax.

Four years ago, off-topic attacks on the anti-abortion stance of his Republican opponent Bill Brady served Quinn well, he eked out a win over the downstate state senator who ran a sloppy campaign and who was largely AWOL in the key battlefield in all Illinois elections–Chicago’s suburbs.  Rauner is pro-choice and a moderate on gay issues.

And this year’s Republican nominee lives in the suburbs and as he proved in the primary election, Rauner won’t let attacks on him go answered–and he’s willing to spend his own money to do so.

Cutting taxes and attacking what former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg identified as the toxic “labor-electoral complex” will be the heart of the Rauner general election campaign.

AFSCME anti-Quinn poster
AFSCME anti-Quinn poster

What will Big Labor do? Line up behind Quinn? The surprising answer is ‘maybe.’ Quinn can count on the support of trade unions such as the United Auto Workers, but the public-sector unions, who contributed over $5 million to his campaign for the 2010 race, might ignore Quinn this time. Government unions donated over $1 million to the Dillard campaign, and the public-sector unions are angry with Quinn for signing a pension fix bill late last year, one that Rauner says does not go far enough. Those unions are suing Quinn to have the new pension funding law overturned– they claim it is unconstitutional.

But the public-sector unions will probably continue to run anti-Rauner ads. The Illinois Freedom PAC, largely funded by government labor groups, spent over $3 million on ads attacking Rauner during the run-up to the primary. Democratic crossover votes for Dillard almost succeeded in Big Labor’s goal of stopping Rauner.

In November Quinn faces the threat of Democratic crossover votes ending his political career. Newton N. Minow, John F. Kennedy’s FCC chairman who famously dubbed television “a vast wasteland,” quoted his old boss when declaring his support for Rauner on Thursday, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”

Illinois’ 2014 gubernatorial race: it will be one for the ages.

John Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By Steve Eggleston

The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Earlier in the week, after a sham of a referendum that purported to split the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, Russia annexed the peninsula. Now, with Russian troops not only consolidating their position in Crimea with prejudice but also remaining along the entirety of the border between Russia and Ukraine, ethnic Russians are agitating for the rest of eastern Ukraine to split off from Ukraine and join Russia. The Donbass region, which certainly appears to be the next Russian target, has the heart of Ukraine’s industry and mining.

On the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 front, the focus has shifted to an area about 1500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia, after analysis of images from both American and Chinese satellites suggested a rather expansive debris field. NBC News reports a civilian plane participating in the search spotted some sort of debris, but poor visibility conditions and the great distance from land otherwise hampered the search in that area, and nobody else has found anything, much less debris definitively from the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the airline’s CEO admitted that some of the cargo on board was lithium-ion batteries, which has caused a not-insignificant number of fires aboard aircraft and the craash of 2 cargo planes. The Daily Mail notes that the last positively-known altitude of the airplane, 23,000 feet, is a prescribed altitude designed to limit the spread of a fire on an aircraft.

Finally, if it’s late March, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is going on. While it took only 25 “second-round” games and 3 major upsets to wipe out every single bracket in Warren Buffett’s $1 billion challenge, Yahoo Sports, which is managing the contest for Buffett and Quicken Loans, had one bracket not entered into that challenge that survived the round of 64. Unfortunately, that bracket was busted in game 37, when 11th-seed Dayton knocked off 3rd-seed Syracuse.

by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz

The Economist‘s cover story:

Mr Putin’s new order, in short, is built on revanchism, a reckless disdain for the truth and the twisting of the law to mean whatever suits those in power. That makes it no order at all.

Some of the more unsavory heads of state in Latin America have been borrowing a page from Putin: Last year I posted on Mary O’Grady’s article on how Cuba Studies ‘Putinismo’ for Survival Tips

behind the scenes, putinismo blends authoritarian political control and crony capitalism to produce a lock on power.

It’s not only indirect “putinismo”: Putin has been interested in Latin America all along.

Russia has been cruising through the region for quite a while. On November 2008, the day before Thanksgiving, I was at Fox News talking about Russian warships holding military maneuvers with Venezuela in the Caribbean, and a Russian ship was docked in Havana last month.

Following John Kerry’s announcement last year that the Monroe Doctrine is over (thereby sticking a “Kick me” sign on America), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced in February this year that Russia is negotiating with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua for establishing permanent military bases in those countries.

One could say that Putin interpreted Kerry’s announcement as a license to ride on in the Americas.

Frances Martel at Breitbart reports on PUTIN’S SLOW AND STEADY RECONQUISTA OF LATIN AMERICA

While the United States has maintained close ties with Colombia and Chile, helping the former end a guerrilla warfare crisis perpetrated by left-wing leaders in the nation, the generation of leaders calling themselves Bolivarian socialists in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and, to a lesser extent, Peru have all expanded their ties with Russia.

You must read Martel’s article in full. She is definitely not exaggerating when she concludes,

Vladimir Putin has spent more than a decade investing in the loyalty of a continent often left behind by the puppetmasters of international diplomacy. When–not if–he decides to continue his westward expansion, he will be able to rely on the support of the assorted wayward leftist regimes of Latin America.

Venezuela’s oil props up Cuba, so Putin (at least for now) doesn’t have to bother supplying Cuba’s ruined economy for as long as Venezuela does. But for his long-term game, Putin’s been gaining the loyalty of a continent the US seems to neglect.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on American and Latin American politics at Fausta’s Blog.

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Olimometer 2.52

It’s Friday the tip jar sits still at $155 for the week.

Only 8 $25 tip jar hits stand between me and not only this week’s goal but an outside chance of making the monthly goal and the mortgage.

We’ll have at least a fighting chance if you hit DaTipJar below.

 

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I would ask that you do subscribe by hitting the button below. If your finances allow it, consider choosing Hat level or better. A subscription comes not only with exclusive commentary, but on a weekly basis you will have the opportunity to get direct access to me by phone to provide feedback or suggestions to make sure this site is worthy of your financial support and patronage.


 

By A.P. Dillon

How many of you missed the news blip Ben Jealous left the NAACP to go be a Venture Capitalist?

He declined to specify his new salary but said it was about the same as it was at the NAACP — $285,000 in 2011, according to tax forms.

When he announced his departure from the organization in September 2013, Jealous said he planned to pursue university teaching and spend time with his young family. But Jealous says the opportunity to work with Kapor Capital was just too tempting, putting him on the cutting edge of helping people who are slipping further behind as the national economy grows. – CNS

Well, of course there’s the money. The article also says he’ll be commuting once a month from coast to coast. That’s pricey.

This isn’t just any venture capital firm. This one is about social justice and is called The Kapor Center For Social Impact (KCSI) which is, in part, funded by Kapor Capital. Kapor Capital was founded by Mitchell Kapor, who some might recognize at the founder of Lotus 1-2-3 and whose home was the subject of a lawsuit. Kapor’s wife, Freada, is involved with KCSI but also with “Level Playing Field Institute” (LPFI) which recently had Van Jones at one of their events.

KCSI and LFPI, from it’s ‘About Pages’ section seems to be very focused on STEM issue. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and, for many kids focusing on those areas, is a ticket to a university. That was until Common Core came along and set kids back in math — a reality that supporters won’t even acknowledge. In fact, Bill Gates is now so panicked over the opposition, he’s dragging teachers in as human shields. Flashback:

“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” – Bill Gates, September 21, 2013

Gates has Paul Krugman Syndrome. You know, that affliction where because you are successful at one thing, you must therefore be an expert on all other topics? Meanwhile, Microsoft has battled with more bugs in their never-ending series of Windows revamps than people can count and Gates never finished college…but he’s is an expert on how kids learn, or something.

Common Core & STEM

So where KSCI and LFPI stand on Common Core? That’s kind of a mystery given what I found — or rather didn’t find — on their websites. When searching KSCI’s site for “Common Core” it looks like this group is not missing the dollars signs. A jobs posting blog entry is what I found:

Curriculet (www.curriculet.com) is looking for smart, savvy educators, English teachers in particular, to write curriculum for a long list of K-12 books using our digital reading platform. See the job description here.

Curriculets are layers of interactive curriculum consisting of Common Core aligned questions and quizzes, plus videos, images and text annotations. We pay as much as $500 per book… average length titles earn $250.

When I searched the LPFI site for “Common Core” only one hit came back and it became clear that LPFI is very highly connected.

Just a few reminders on STEM and Common Core from those actually involved in it:

By 8th grade, Common Core State Standar5ds will put our students about two years behind those of the highest-achieving countries.” – Dr. James Milgram, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Stanford University & former Common Core Validation Committee member

“If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.” – Jason Zimba, Common Core Standards Mathematics Writer

Just so we’re clear, here’s Caleb Bonham demonstrating how Common Core math is overly complex. Common Core Math is really the old failed “new math” just recycled because… this time it will work or something.

Paging Bill Gates! Those of us opposing Common Core aren’t trying to ‘send out kids back to what we had before‘, we want high standards but APPROPRIATE ones, PROVEN ones. Our kids are not code for you to play with. We’re not trying to send out kids backwards, but it would seem YOU are.

 

If you enjoyed this article, you should really check out other pieces written by Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Seven writers and maybe hit that tip jar!

A.P. Dillon (Lady Liberty 1885), is a Conservative minded wife and mother living in the Triangle area of North Carolina. A.P. Dillon founded the blog LadyLiberty1885.com in 2009. After the 2012 election, she added an Instapundit style blog called The ConMom Blog. Mrs. Dillon’s writing, in addition to Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent 7, can also be found at StopCommonCoreNC.org, WatchdogWireNC and WizBang. Non-political writing projects include science fiction novellas that are, as of yet, unpublished. Her current writing project is a children’s book series.

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Olimometer 2.52

It’s Thursday and the tip jar sits at $128 for the week.

Only 9 $25 tip jar hits necessary to make the weekly goal and give us a good jump into the final week of the month.

Let us know we’re doing the job, please consider hitting DaTipJar below.

 

With 61 more $20 a month subscribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year.

I would ask that you do subscribe by hitting the button below.  If your finances allow it, consider choosing Hat level or better.  A subscription comes not only with exclusive commentary, but on a weekly basis you will have the opportunity to get direct access to me by phone to provide feedback or suggestions to make sure this site is worthy of your financial support and patronage.


 

by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz

Lefties firmly believe the deceased Hugo Chavez “improved the economy drastically and ameliorated poverty drastically” because GDP went up, and fewer people were living below the poverty line by the time he died last year.

The numbers are there: GDP did go up, and yes, fewer people were listed as living below the poverty line. Whose numbers?

The numbers came from the Venezuelan government.

The International Monetary Fund keeps a List of IMF Member Countries with Delays in Completion of Article IV Consultations or Mandatory Financial Stability Assessments Over 18 Months. As of the writing of this post, Venezuela hasn’t held an Article IV consultation with the IMF in 99 months.

Let me translate that into plain English: The Venezuelan government has not allowed its own numbers to be verified for almost a decade.

It also stopped reporting a number of standard indicators several years ago:

Heavy government spending has fueled rampant inflation, which averaged an annual 22% during Mr. Chávez’s tenure. Its anticapitalist rhetoric and broad state intervention into the economy have led to a dearth of investment. Gross fixed capital formation declined to 18% of gross domestic product in 2011, from 24% in 1999, according to the World Bank. Net inflows of foreign direct investment stood at 2.9% of GDP during that same year, his first in office, nearly double the 1.7% in 2011. Capital flight from Venezuela intensified as Mr. Chávez pursued more interventionist policies, including capital controls and a fixed official exchange rate that — if you can get it — offers dollars at a quarter of the exchange rate that the greenback fetches in the black market. Stock market capitalization of companies listed on the Caracas Stock Exchange has gone from a paltry 7.6% of GDP in 1999 to a minuscule 1.6%.

Rather than pursue policies that might stimulate investment, the government’s response to shrinking productive capacity and high inflation has been price caps. The result? Shortages of food and other basic necessities, periodic electric brown- and blackouts, and far fewer jobs: the labor force participation rate has dropped from 52% to 46% in the Chávez era.

Does that sound like a “drastically improved” economy?

But let’s look at GDP some more, with the numbers that are available: Chavez made the Venezuelan economy increasingly dependent on oil exports. In 1999, oil accounted for 80% of all exports. Back then the Annual Average Domestic Crude Oil Price (AADCOP) was $16.56. By the time of his death last year, the number had risen to 95% at an AADCOP of $91.17. GDP had to go up, if only because all the eggs in that one basket got pricier; even then Chavez didn’t do all that well:

There was strong economic growth from 2004 to 2008 but GDP fell in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010. From the time Chávez took office in 1999 to 2011 Venezuela’s economy grew by an average of 2.8% per year. During this same period Latin America as a whole grew by 3.3% per year and Brazil grew by 3.4% per year.

While Venezuela’s oil production decreases, Cuba still receives 100,000 barrels of its oil per day.

How about reducing poverty?

According to the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America, the percentage of the population living under the poverty line in Venezuela fell from 49.4% in 1999 to 27.8% in 2010. That is a pretty good record but there were similar trends across Latin America. In the region as a whole poverty dropped from 43.8% in 1999 to 31.8% in 2010. A few countries, like Peru, Brazil and Panama, faired even better than Venezuela. Poverty rates in Peru dropped sharply from 54.7% in 2000 to 31.3% in 2010—all three have solidly capitalistic economies.

There are no verifiable data available on income distribution, but again, according to government numbers

The country now boasts the fairest income distribution in Latin America, as measured by the Gini coefficient index.

In 2011, Venezuela’s Gini coefficient fell to 0.39. By way of comparison, Brazil’s was 0.52, in itself a historic low.

So every Venezuelan now has a more equal slice of the cake. The trouble is, that cake has not been getting much bigger.

“Venezuela is the fifth largest economy in Latin America, but during the last decade, it’s been the worst performer in GDP per capita growth,” says Arturo Franco of the Center for International Development at Harvard University.

The Gini numbers do not include moneys kept by corrupt officials or “Tier II Kingpins” drug lord Cabinet members.

Venezuela ranks 181 out of 189 in the World Bank Economy Rankings.

Chavez’s true legacy is a ruined country with murder rates doubling or tripling over a decade, Communist control of all institutions and media, falling oil production, crumbling infrastructure, a moribund private sector (what little is left of it after the expropriations and nationalizations), soaring inflation, fleeing capital, power outages and food shortages, and now, electronic food rationing cards.

Drastically, yes. Improved, no.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on Latin American and US politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

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Olimometer 2.52

It’s Wednesday and yesterday a pair of tip jar hits moved us to $101 toward our goal of $365 to pay the mortgage and the writers.

After two dismal weeks it’s vital to get those 11 $25 tip jar hits necessary to make the weekly goal to even have an outside chance of making the mortgage this month

We’ve done a lot in the last 10 days from CPAC to NLRC. but it can’t be done without you.

 

With 61 more $20 a month subscribers this site will be able to cover its bills for a full year.

I would ask that you do subscribe by hitting the button below.  If your finances allow it, consider choosing Hat level or better.  A subscription comes not only with exclusive commentary, but on a weekly basis you will have the opportunity to get direct access to me by phone to provide feedback or suggestions to make sure this site is worthy of your financial support and patronage.


 

By Tim Imholt

Every time I turn on the news Experts and Intellectuals appear and present opinions on a large number of subjects on which they are ignorant. It is particularly tragic when their opinion serves to limit future debate on a subject, as for instance the current global warming (oops, that’s now climate change) debate.

I need to warn you that a this blog entry is partially a rant, but I feel qualified to do this since for a large part of my career I have been and still am considered an expert. Staying at the top of my game in my field as well as virtually any field takes a good bit of study in the field.

Besides my direct work, for many years I have read a technical work and 8 or so magazines each week. Then I’d read technical manuals, proposals, project definitions, etc. I constantly learn new computers, languages, software, and data-base methods. This is what leads to the ignorance for subjects outside my immediate area.

After doing this 6 days a week, I am exhausted. In my newspaper I go the comics and sports page first; maybe to skip the others. What little spare time is available goes to my house and kids, then a James Bond novel or to something on television.

This same rut and 70 hour work-weeks apply to most ‘Experts’. What this means is that they can’t keep up on current events or politics. Then we add to the mix those experts who are also classed as ‘Intellectuals’.

Most of this idea comes from Thomas Sowell’s excellent thought in his book “Intellectuals and Society”. He defines an intellectual as someone who works with an idea or opinion as his final product. University professors, critics, and expert consultants never need produce anything but the idea; and having produced it they move on never waiting to see an outcome. It may take as much intellect, study, and practice to be a neurosurgeon, but he is not an intellectual and typically lacks the time to present ideas.

Eric Hoffer’s Opinion

Eric Hoffer was a longshoreman and philosopher. His books were insightful and remain in print. During the height of his popularity (the 60s and 70s) he was interviewed in several hour long TV shows, twice by Eric Sevareid and twice by Bill Moyers.  These can be found on the net in various places if you use Google and are well worth seeing.

The interviewer commented on Hoffer’s ‘seeming dislike’ of intellectuals. Hoffer first paused to clarify the current use of the term in government and academia. He defined that ‘Intellectual’ as someone who by virtue of his background (education, college, etc.), ancestry (parents or teachers), or position (expert or bureaucrat) feels he is more qualified to run my life than I am.

Then he exploded; I don’t DISLIKE them, dislike does not begin to describe my feeling, I HATE THEM, I LOATH THEM, I DESPISE THAM.

Role of Experts

I don’t hold ENTIRELY with Hoffer’s attitude. I don’t mind that they think they could run my life better than I. I am slightly irritated when people like a boss’s wife take that position. I am inconvenienced when someone like an administrative assistant at a church takes that position.

But major problems begin when that expert writes government laws or regulations… now it becomes do it their way of face fines, jail, etc. There are more problems with regulations, but that is for another blog.  For today I will leave you with this thought.  Do we trust the ‘talking heads’ on opinion shows more than we trust ourselves?  More than we trust our own opinions?  These talking heads make their living giving opinions about the opinions of these other Intellectuals and Experts who we just showed don’t really do much of value.

The government Intellectuals and Experts don’t produce anything and we seem to take as Gospel the words of others who don’t produce much.  So I implore everyone who reads this.  Do you own homework.  Form your own opinions.  Please don’t just regurgitate the opinions of others then yell at those who disagree with those opinions.  It is our civic duty to be an informed electorate.  Do your duty.

Tim Imholt PhD is a scientist, an occasional contributor Pj Media and  the author of several works of fiction.  You can buy his latest,:  The Forest of Assassins and more below.