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

Mueller:
First,
Last Wednesday I posted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had spent $3.2 million in his first four months investigating Russian meddling in last year election and any links between President Trump and Russia.

But that’s not the real number: the Department of Justice spent $6.7 million, saying it’s not “legally required to figure out this total”(emphasis added),

according to a report released Tuesday.

Of the total, only $3.2 million was spent directly by Mueller on salaries, travel, rent and equipment through September.

The other $3.5 million was spent on DOJ operations and would have been spent on its own pre-existing Russia investigations if Mueller hadn’t been tapped to take over in mid-May. DOJ said it wasn’t legally required to figure out this total, and past special counsels didn’t tabulate it.

Second,
Peter StrzokAndrew Weissmann, and now Jeannie Rhee,

. . . this week, details of Rhee’s client relationships emerged, revealing that she representedObama Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes during the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s investigation of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.
. . .

Also this week, it was reported that Rhee represented the Clinton Foundation in 2015 against a racketeering lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist group Freedom Watch in 2015. Rhee also represented former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a lawsuit seeking access to her private emails.

You read that right: The Clinton Foundation was her client, and Rhee represented Hillary in a lawsuit involving the missing emails. As if that were not enough, her husband served as special assistant to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

You can’t make this up.

Hey, when you’re hiring Dem buddies from WilmerHale, they don’t come cheap. No wonder Mueller’s spending big bucks.

Conflict of interest, your name is Mueller.

UPDATE
MUELLER’S “RIGHT HAND MAN” IS THE GUUY WHO TOOK A HAMMER TO HILLARY’S BLACKBERRIES:
Debra Heine finds yet another Dem defender on Mueller’s team,

Aaron Zebley served previously as Mueller’s chief of staff at the FBI and as a senior counselor in the National Security Division at the Department of Justice.

. . . in 2015 when he was a lawyer, he represented Justin Cooper, the IT staffer who personally set up Hillary Clinton’s unsecure server in her Chappaqua home

Zebley went the whole nine yards, and, are you sitting down?

is also the aide who destroyed Clinton’s old BlackBerries with a hammer.

CORRECTION WITH APOLOGY: ZEBLEY WAS THE LAWYER FOR COOPER, THE AIDE WHO HAMMERED THE BLACKBERRIES.

Deb points out that he is often referred to in the media as Mueller’s “right-hand man.”

John Le Carré could not make this up.


The economy: Three headlines, 1 news (emphasis added)

WaPo neutral: The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, showing strong growth amid historically low unemployment

WSJ stats: U.S. employers hired workers at a strong rate in November and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low, signs the economy is on its firmest footing in at least a decade.

NYT nostalgic: The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, a sign that hiring remains strong eight years into the current recovery.


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

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

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

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

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

Ben Shapiro listed,

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

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

He also interviewed Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Drudge says, developing . . .

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

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

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

And I am thankful.

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

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

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

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

It was about Willie Horton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patterico, who is a prosecutor, posted,

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

Why did the jury reach this decision?

Sarah Rumpf looks at the case:

These two facts are undisputed by the prosecution and defense:

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

The complicated part is pretty much everything else.

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

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

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

I urge you to read Rumpf’s lengthy post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gertrude had fourteen full-time gardeners doing the maintenance.

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

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

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

The deer had eaten them down to the roots.

Gertrude and her fourteen needed a 10′ fence.

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

Thankfulness is not the same as gratitude.

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

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

Let’s look closely at those words.

Acknowledging with grateful hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the headlines have discovered sexual harassment.

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

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

There’s another problem: Andrew Klavan mentions that

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

Klavan continues,

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

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

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

As it always has been.

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

The 30 members of the all-Democrat Congressional Hispanic Caucus denied Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s membership, since to the Caucus you’re not “Hispanic” enough unless you are a liberal:

CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) said the group’s decision wasn’t just based on the Dream Act but also Curbelo’s support for Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare and the GOP tax bill.

“Many of those votes in this climate gave members who voted no, and maybe other members, pause about whether or not this was a good time for changing membership,” Lujan Grisham told reporters after the meeting.

I’m sure the Dems are not pleased that Curbelo won in Hillaryland, too.

But I digress.

Never mind that there’s a new member of Congress; if you’re not a Dem, you’re not welcome,

In a statement after the decision, group spokesman Carlos Paz tried to dispel the notion that the CHC should admit Curbelo simply because he is Hispanic.

“This vote reflects the position of many of our members that Rep. Curbelo and his record are not consistent with those values,” Paz said.

I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I believe there’s no such thing as Hispanic. On the other hand, policy making comes through alliances.

Either way, it’s useful that the Caucus again shows itself as a group of partisan hacks.

Several Florida Republicans walked out years ago over differences on Cuba policy and formed their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

The Congressional Black Caucus accepted Republican Mia Love as a member.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus ought to make it official and rename itself as the Democrat Hispanic Caucus.

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