faustaI lived in the North East for most of my life, having moved to the region right after graduating from college; first, upstate New York, then, New Jersey.

New Jersey, contrary to what the despicable Woody Allen thinks, is a beautiful state, home to the wealthiest zip code in the United States. I was blessed to have owned houses not in that zip code, but in Morristown, Convent Station, and Princeton, three towns that are affluent and charming.

My son is a true Princeton native, having been born, raised, and lived in the town (and township, before consolidation), who, once it was time for college, went away to his top college choice, graduating with honors this year. Because of his occupation he must live in New York City – otherwise he would subject himself to a very long commute at all hours of the night. Like both his parents, he is ready to make his own way into the world.

At the same time, my mom is in her nineties and lives in Florida, and I must spend time with her. Most of my relatives live in Florida.

While all this was going on, my real estate taxes went up by $2,000 last year, a 14% increase, bringing the total to $16,000 in annual real estate taxes. While the law says that there’s a 2% ceiling on annual property tax increases, there are a plethora of reasons why your property will get whammed with more (for instance, if you do certain improvements on your property). Properties are assessed at market value, which means that your assessment may go up now that the market is up, so your tax bill increases, while the tax rate itself has remained unchanged. And on and on.

Fighting such increases is expensive – you need to hire a lawyer – and time consuming, and the odds are it may not work.

Then there’s what lurks in the horizon: School taxes make up 1/2 of the total property tax bill (the current budget is $86.9 million), and the school district wants an additional $100 million for sundry projects, which they are likely to get. After all, a prior $100 million was approved ten years ago. Such an increase in debt brings more tax increases.

And let’s not forget that New Jersey has a 7% sales tax, a state income tax, inheritance taxes, and estate taxes.

So I sat down, did a rough calculation of what it was costing me to stay in New Jersey versus what it would cost to move to Florida, which has a 7% sales tax but no state income tax, no inheritance taxes, and no estate taxes. Florida won.

It looks like I’m not alone:
Northeast loses 40% of House seats as people flee high-tax states

The Census Bureau reports that population growth has shifted to the South and the result is that the 11 states that make up the Northeast are being bled dry of representation in Washington.

The 11 states that make up the Northeast have been bleeding dry their constituents, so many of us did the numbers, talked to our families, and moved.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

First, a definition:
mercenary
[mur-suh-ner-ee]

adjective
1. working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal.
2. hired to serve in a foreign army, guerrilla organization, etc.
noun, plural mercenaries.
3. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.

I have been blogging for years on the current administration’s dereliction of their duty to secure national boundaries at the borders. It comes, however as an unpleasant surprise to find theses stories in today’s Drudge Report:

Say again?

Under the Dreamers Act, as many as 1,500 recruits per year

will have an opportunity to join the military for the first time in decades under a new Department of Defense policy unveiled Thursday.

The new rules will expand an existing program allowing recruiters to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mostly rare foreign language expertise or specialized health care training.

Earlier this year, other headlines read, U.S. visa backlog leaves Afghan interpreters in limbo, while

the class of 2014 … will face more difficulty qualifying for the armed services than ever in the 40-year history of the all-volunteer force

as the service cuts the active force by 20,000 soldiers in 2015.

On the one hand, as many as 1,500 recruits per year (for starters?) may be illegal aliens because of an executive action; on the other hand, 20,000 experienced soldiers will be laid off because of budget cuts in these times of the rise of SPECTRE.

It makes you wonder what the priorities are, but the rule of law is not one of them.

I had quoted the estimable Mark Steyn in a prior post:

One of the reasons why so many Americans oppose amnesty and a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens is because, even if one buys it in utilitarian terms, to accept that an honorable American identity can be born from an illegal act seems to mock the very essence of citizenship and allegiance.

Compound that feeling with the news about the dreamer recruits.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s blog.

While Venezuela, at one time arguably the richest country in the region, sells itself to Cuba and careens into disaster, and Argentina, another has-been, defaults yet again, it is easy to despair about the state of things in our hemisphere.

It comes as a relief to read about the Pacific Alliance, a common market in the making between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Do not confuse the Pacific Alliance with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an ambitious, 21st century trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).

The Pacific Alliance is about getting things done, with the presidents of the four countries attending meetings with specific statements and detailed timelines to advance agreed-upon goals (emphasis added):

Also in contrast to the underlying purpose of other groupings—including economic blocs such as Mercosur—Pacific Alliance members have achieved consensus on a model of economic and political integration aimed at attracting investment and creating export platforms for the global market. All have opted for a pragmatic relationship structured around bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the U.S., the EU and Asian countries.

The Pacific Alliance is perceived as a geopolitical counterweight to ideological and political trends on display in countries ranging from Brazil to Venezuela. It looks outward, acting in some ways like a free-trade zone (through the several bilateral accords among its members). But it is also oriented toward promoting greater cooperation and partnership among member countries. Another key objective is facilitating entry into the Asian market and, particularly, creating greater bargaining power than any of the individual countries could muster separately when approaching China. At the same time, the Pacific Alliance seeks a competitive edge for its members when competing with Asian countries for trade with the U.S. by providing better—and cheaper—products.

Last March I wrote about Vice-President Biden’s meetings with the four Pacific Alliance presidents.

Now in New York for the UN General Assembly, the presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru issued a joint article , Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru: Better Together summarizing the Alliance’s purpose (emphasis added),

We firmly believe that the main purpose of the Pacific Alliance is to improve the welfare of all our citizens through the promotion of growth and economic development, and the improvement of the competitiveness of our economies.

Among the measures: reviewing foreign investment laws so they are more attractive to foreign companies, agreeing on zero percent tariffs for 90 percent of traded goods, cooperating on environmental and social issues and scientific and technological innovation, police and customs cooperation to track cross-border criminal activity.

The Alliance has many challenges ahead, not the least of which involve political populist tendencies among their leaders, but, considering what it has accomplished on its first three years, that’s pretty good news to celebrate.

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

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

It’s been a week for headlines:
Danger at the Southern Border with Islamic terrorists operating in Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez

Eight bodies found after attack on Guinea Ebola education team

Iranians sentenced to 91 lashes for Pharrell ‘Happy’ video
A group of six Iranians is sentenced to six months in prison and 91 lashes for releasing a music video in which they dance along to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy”

State Dept. Filtered Out Some #Benghazi Documents

Scotland Rejects Independence in Vote, a good thing in my opinion, but the prelude to the vote was fraught with anxiety among many because of national security implications since the UK’s Trident nuclear missile submarines are based in Scotland.

France is ditching the ‘Islamic State’ name — and replacing it with a label the group hates: “Daesh.”

And on and on.

Mankind has always lived in a state of chaos. The above headlines are examples of contemporary chaos, but one only has to browse through Barbara Tuchman’s excellent book, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century to realize chaos is nothing new.

Whether the chaos is more or less imminent or more or less acute, the truth is that war, disease, and the Seven Deadly Sins (the vices known as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony, not the TV show) are part and parcel of man’s constant struggle on earth.

But so is gratitude. The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful,” but I have in mind a more specific form of gratitude.

By gratitude, I mean gratitude for God’s Grace granting us the ability and the strength to rise above our nature, to overcome hurdles, to struggle against evil.

So I today I’m starting the weekend with Psalm 118:24, which opens the Episcopalian Mass on Easter Day:

This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

In times of struggle, Psalm 118 always comes in handy. It is also very timely.

Blogging on politics shall resume shortly.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

While all the headlines about criminal pro players blazed, my sister and I went to see the ultimate football movie, When the Game Stands Tall the other night. The main reasons were that Jim Caviezel stars, and it’s not a chick flick since I hate chick flicks.

Most of the movie takes place on the field. Mind you, I’m a graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens (where alumni buy condos with a view of the football field), and my sister’s son and her husband both are avid Miami Dolphins fans (and proud owners of season tickets), but neither one of us is keenly interested in sports.

The movie was fascinating.

Unlike most sports movies, it’s not about an underdog (Rocky, The Champ), charming losers (Tin Cup), or fantasy settings (Field of Dreams), and the hero doesn’t die of a tragic illness (Bang the Drum Slowly, The Pride of the Yankees).

It’s based on the true-life story of high school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who, as the movie blurb says,

took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport.

Ladouceur coached the Spartans to consistently “give a perfect effort from snap to whistle” indeed. The winning streak was an extraordinary accomplishment for any coach, by any standard, but that is not the reason why this film is a must-see.

The reason why this story is so compelling is that Ladouceur leads his team members to live by an ethic that transcends sports:

I have often heard it said that football builds character. I disagree; I believe it reveals character. There are many different people, events, and experiences that contribute to character formation. Every single person at this gathering has a special talent. Mine I think happens to be coaching – many times I wish that I had certain talents my students possess but that’s what God gave me. This point could not be better illustrated that in Jesus parable of the Three Servants in Matthews gospel. In it, a wealthy landowner gave three of his servants a certain sum of money to see what each would do with it. The first two returned the money with profit. They used their courage and ingenuity to parlay their sum into something more. The third hid the money and just returned what he originally received. The landowner didn’t expect much – he just wanted the servants to have the courage to use what talent they had and do something. The key point to the story is and I quote, “The land owner gave to each servant according to his ability.” The assumption here, is that each of us has some sort of ability: talent. Now it’s our responsibility to discover what that is and what’s more, have the courage to use it.

Ladouceur believes in integrity and Christian values as a way of life for each member of his team. As Erik Daniel points out,

Where most high school football movies are about sex, pride, drinking, and disobeying your parents, When The Game Stands Tall stresses the importance of purity, humility, and family.

The film shows the entire team reciting the Lord’s Prayer in unison, with reverence, which, as of itself, will probably bring out an atheist hissy fit or two. (That may be why 78% of the audience liked it but only 17% of the critics did at Rotten Tomatoes.)

While the poster tag line reads “It’s not how hard you fall, it’s how you get up”, I also find in When the Game Stands Tall an especially American theme: It’s not just about how you play the game, it’s how you win.

Add to all this a great team of perfectly-cast engaging young actors, and you have a winner.

Go see it.

Rated PG. Suitable for the whole family, but leave the preschoolers home since there’s a shooting, and realistic, rather violent, scenes during the games may frighten some of the youngest viewers.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

According to many Obama supporters, pretty much all criticism of Obama is racist; you can add the New York Times, that arm of the VRWC (Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy) to the racist list: Today they have Bruce Ackerman in the op-ed page,
Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution

PRESIDENT OBAMA’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.

That was the opening salvo; Ackerman ends with,

He is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war.

In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.

You could argue, as some of the NYT commenters, that Obama has not declared that the U.S. is going to war against a nation, just that “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”

Whatever that means.

For now, Obama’s sending only “an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq,” but “these American forces will not have a combat mssion” to fight “terrorists [who] are unique in their brutality.”

John Kerry assures us it’s not war, “it is a major counter-terrorism operation.” David Corn calls it a “nuanced war”.

I guess that explains why the Turks, the Germans, and the Brits are not joining in Obama’s broad coalition of partners. Germany will provide support to the Kurds, but Germany and the UK won’t be providing airpower for American airstrikes. They are not nuanced enough.

Then there’s Obama’s line, delivered with a distinct lack of affect, about

This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

Yemen and Somalia, two failed, strategically marginal, states, with active untamed insurgencies, while, as Dr. Krauthammer points out,

The Islamic State controls a vast territory in the heart of oil-rich Mesopotamia, threatening everything of importance in the Middle East.

How will this glaring mismatch of ends and means all turn out? As Pete put it,

This is by design because no matter what President Obama and the Democrats say, the only way to beat ISIS is boots on the ground and they know it. However they are determined to avoid that responsibility.

Richard Fernandez is gloomy, “My own view on the matter can be summarized in a word: Libya. Libya on a gigantic scale.”

Clearly, the Islamic State is Islamic. What is not clear is whether the Commander in Chief realizes that the Constitution does not grant him unilateral authority to declare war . . . because, nuanced or not, war is war.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s blog.

John Hinderaker summarizes

Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, has subjected Governor Scott Walker and nearly every conservative group in Wisconsin to a four-year campaign of harassment in the form of a “John Doe” investigation that has now been branded as illegal and enjoined by a federal judge. That case is on appeal

Under Wisconsin law, a “John Doe” is essentially a gag order, since it allows prosecutors, with a judge’s approval, to require complete secrecy from all involved. It has the effect of preventing targets or witnesses from publicly defending themselves or responding to damaging leaks.

Stuart Taylor, Jr. of the American Media Institute reports that the District attorney’s wife drove case against Wis. Gov. Walker, insider says

Now a longtime Chisholm subordinate reveals for the first time in this article that the district attorney may have had personal motivations for his investigation. Chisholm told him and others that Chisholm’s wife, Colleen, a teacher’s union shop steward at St. Francis high school, a public school near Milwaukee, had been repeatedly moved to tears by Walker’s anti-union policies in 2011, according to the former staff prosecutor in Chisholm’s office. Chisholm said in the presence of the former prosecutor that his wife “frequently cried when discussing the topic of the union disbanding and the effect it would have on the people involved … She took it personally.”

Eric O’Keefe, one of the directors of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, has argued that the investigation violates First Amendment protections on free speech.

Guy Benson agrees, and links to former FEC official Hans Von Spakovsky, who (emphasis added)

Last week, I joined three other former members of the Federal Election Commission in filing an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief for the organizations unfairly targeted. Based on our extensive experience interpreting federal campaign finance law, we argue that issue advocacy is at the core of our rights to free speech, to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

To allow an investigation of issue advocacy based simply on allegations of collaboration between elected officials and the public would chill core political speech. The right of citizens and their membership associations to directly engage elected leaders is all the more important on politically charged questions of public policy. Such collaboration is the norm in the political arena, where there is extensive interaction between citizens groups and elected officials about proposed legislation. In fact, such coordination is vital to a functioning democracy.

The Left is engaging in a campaign to criminalize political disagreement; whether that conflicts with civil liberties doesn’t matter to them. After all, they are guided by rule #12:

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

As Russia continues its grasping, President Obama is in Wales for the NATO meeting . . . but he was “noticeably absent” from the start of the meeting,

Obama was late to the Ukraine meeting because of other meetings on Afghanistan and a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, according to a White House official.

Considering that NATO meetings are scheduled months in advance, the conflicting schedule signals incompetence, or, more tactfully, poor management skills.

But fret not, he more than made up for being late by making sure you could spot him in the group picture,

This has been a typical week for the Obama administration. Joe Biden, who has been Vice President for almost six years and was Senator for thirty six, gave a speech on Labor Day saying, “It’s time to take back America”,

From whom?

Taking back America is an explicit call to punish the man who’s making this very call.

Too bad Joe doesn’t realize that, just as he hasn’t explained how we’ll follow ISIS “to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice,” considering the plan to reduce the military to pre-World War II levels.

An aside: Am I alone in wondering if following ISIS “to the gates of hell” is part of the leading from behind foreign policy? Shouldn’t it be chasing ISIS “to the gates of hell”? And what about the “until they are brought to justice” part? Whose justice? What kind of justice can there be, besides total extinction, when you’re dealing with a deadly enemy?

But I digress.

Over in Nantucket, Secretary of State John Kerry was kiteboarding while the world burns but took some time to think about global warming, so, on Wednesday he connected the dots:

The Secretary of State pointed to Scripture, claiming it is the United States Biblical “responsibility” to “confront climate change” to help protect “vulnerable Muslim-majority countries.” Kerry did not, however, cite Bible passages to support his argument that this responsibility “comes from God.”

Never mind that John Kerry is as familiar with the Bible, any bible, as he is with the Koran or the Constitution; “Vulnerable Muslim-majority countries” have a heck of a lot more to immediately worry about than climate change.

As the IBD editorial put it,

Great leadership isn’t necessarily about intelligence, expertise or background. It’s more about wisdom and judgment.

Americans should be very concerned indeed.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

For his Labor Day speech, President Obama floated the concept of “immigration rights“:

Cynicism is a bad choice. Hope is the better choice. Hope is what gives us courage. Hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights, and worker’s rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and immigration rights.

Let’s go back fifty years or so, to the days when union activist Cesar Chavez was advocating farmworkers’ rights:

Mr. Chavez, perhaps the best-known Mexican-American activist, fought for better wages and conditions for workers but held complex and evolving views on the status of unauthorized immigrants, some of which would be at odds with the changes many Hispanics and others are seeking today.

What the NYT reporter euphemistically calls “complex and evolving views” was decades-long opposition,

These days, Chávez is revered among Mexican-American activists and others as a civil rights figure. Yet that’s not who he was. Chavez was primarily a labor leader, and so one of his main concerns was keeping illegal immigrants from competing with and undercutting union members either by accepting lower wages or crossing picket lines. When he pulled workers out of the field during a strike, the last thing he wanted was a crew of illegal immigrant workers showing up to do those jobs and take away his leverage.

So Chavez decided to do something about it. According to numerous historical accounts, Chavez ordered union members to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service and report illegal immigrants who were working in the fields so that they could be deported. Some UFW officials were also known to picket INS offices to demand a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Exactly what does Obama mean by immigration rights? asks John Hinderaker

Legally, of course, no one has a right to violate our immigration laws, whether the Obama administration enforces them or not. So what does the president have in mind here? It seems clear that Obama isn’t suggesting that immigrants are somehow being denied their actual rights under American law. Certainly he made no such explicit claim. Rather, his point appears to be that some people–not everyone in the world presumably, but some unspecified group of people–have a “right” to enter the United States, or stay here, even though it is illegal to do so under U.S. law, as long as Barack Obama opposes the law in question.

“Immigration rights”, for whom? It doesn’t matter, as long as Obama’s talking points are repeated.

For a Labor Day speech, however, it’s worth remembering that Chavez recognized that flooding the labor market with low-wage, low-skill laborers worked against his unionized farmworkers.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American news, politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

NYT: Obama Urges Calm in Face of Crises in Ukraine and Syria, while admitting that

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” he said. “I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.”

Well, some folks indeed “are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.” As Richard Fernandez so aptly puts it, Predators have always gone for the weak and defenseless prey from the beginning of time.

Putin:
Ukrainian PM: ‘Russian Military Boots Are on Ukrainian Ground’

ISIL:
ISIL has claimed responsibility for bombing attacks in Iraq going back to 2010.

ISIS:
WARNING: GRUESOME PHOTO
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