Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vermont: Green Mountain State Going Red?

Looking over the final voter tallies, the winners and losers for state and federal offices, there remains one undecided gubernatorial contest: Vermont. Unlike other states, if a gubernatorial candidate, whether incumbent of challenger, fails to win a simple majority, the state legislature appoints the next governor out of the top three contenders. Incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin, won by 2,000 votes, yet got less than half the total vote in the 2014 election.

Governor Peter Shumlin (D-Vermont)

Presently, the legislature sits firmly in the Democratic camp, although Republican gained a few seats. Still, Shumlin has weathered some troubling controversies in Vermont. In his 2014 State of the State Address, Shumlin identified a heroin epidemic in his state. So much for healthy, environmental living. Then he tried to force a single-payer system onto his state, using the state's Obamacare health insurance exchange (Green Mountain Care) as a stepping-stool.  Blue Dog Democrats balked at the proposal, indicating that no one would put up with the necessary tax hikes to fund it. Some of their comments:


Scott Milne (R-Vermont)

"The deadlines for proposing financing have been missed two years in a row now, so to me that’s very disappointing. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that there is no financing plan,” Condon told Vermont Watchdog." -- Rep. Jim Condon, Colchester

Another fiscal conservative resisted single-payer because of the cost:

Sen. Bobby Starr, another Democrat who voted against Act 48, told Vermont Watchdog in January there’s “no way” single-payer can work without new taxes. Indeed, no lawmaker has introduced any bill that would finance single-payer health care without also raising taxes.

Recent news reports reveal that Shumlin has not only given up on his single-payer scheme, but he admitted that it was “the greatest disappointment of my political life so far.”  Why did he back away from the program, despite promises to Vermont Progressives? The Daily Signal reports:

At an unannounced news conference, Shumlin said he received the final modeling for financing single-payer health care on Tuesday and concluded the taxes required to fund a publicly financed system were simply unaffordable.

No matter how Left a legislature or a governor leans, they cannot run away from the laws of supply, demand, and scarcity. Even progressives don't want to raise taxes, knowing that they will face the wrath of the voters for driving up the cost of living. Notice also that Shumlin's "Bad News" conference was unannounced, an attempt to diminish his embarrassment and loss of political capital. He even tried to keep this failure secret, but another Democratic lawmaker sued him to disclose all the information on this failed, progressive, venture.

 Breitbart contributor Michael Leahy has detailed another damaging controversy: Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber. Vermont hired the same arrogant academic to supervise Green Mountain Care and its single-payer transition: the same academic who cited the stupidity of the American People as the key component for passage of Obamacare. Not only was Gruber forced to apologize for then defend his remarks and his legislative legacy, now former Vermont officials and current representatives are demanding names, information, and accountability.

In the face of rank joblessness, heroin epidemics, budget short-falls, bond downgrades, and rising energy costs, Shumlin promotes the demise of single-payer as his biggest loss? He might need to revise that assessment with the loss of the governor's mansion.

With so much bad news mounting in the Green Mountain State, could Shumlin could lose reelection at the hands of an otherwise like-minded state legislature? Brooke Paige, an affiliate of the Vermont Tea Party, and Shumlin's primary challenger in 2014, discussed pressuring the Montpelier lawmakers to elect the Republican Scott Milne:


Brooke Paige

The legislature is charged with the responsibility of selecting the next governor from the three highest vote-getters from the election in November. I will attempt to attach my editorial Character Counts which I am having some difficulty in getting published, "a little too hot to handle". I am writing a second "Responsibility not Merely a Rubber Stamp" which hopefully will make it to print the week before the Legislature reconvenes. "Forcing the Legislature" is a judicial path, which is probably impossible to do given the short time that remains, however cajoling them to do the right thing is a social political path to the goal.

Is it likely that Vermont Democrats working with their conservative, right-thinking Republican colleagues will support Republican Scott Milne for Governor in January 2015? With the growing concerns that Vermont Democrats could face a backlash left and right for supporting an increasingly controversial (and seemingly incompetent) governor, Democrats may install Vermont's first Republican governor in over four years.

Vermont going red again? Anything is possible


McLaughlin's Take on Cuba, Korea, and Pakistan

"Issue One! Issue Two! Issue Three!"

Taking a foreign policy turn, the 12-19-2014 episode of the McLaughlin Group touched on three distinct developments, all of which connected to foreign relations. Because the Republicans have not officially taken over the US Senate, the internal federal machinations are not yet on full display, and the Group has praised or excoriated Obama's extralegal executive actions on immigration

Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro

Cuba

I have written at length on this topic, but I would add my displeasure with Mort Zuckerman's fawning over Cuban Dictator emeritus Fidel Castro. The media mogul and international investor described the aging cartel thug as a mesmerizing speaker, compelling and influential, yet Zuckerman did not understand one word he was saying.

Buchanan and Rogan remind their co-hosts that the Castros are political criminals, murders, chaotic types. Revealing some latent foreign policy realism, Clift chided her conservative counterparts reminding them that the United States has engaged in diplomatic relations with despotic regimes for decades, and they cannot start demonizing one country.

North Korea

Sony Pictures produced an action comedy spoof "The Interview", starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as TV producers who land an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The CIA then approaches the two producers and hires them to assassinate the dictator.

File:Kim Jong-Un Sketch-cropped.jpg
Sketch of Kim Jong Un

A mysterious hacking enterprise infiltrated Sony Studios, the firm which produces "The Interview", dumping thousands of confidential, sensitive emails onto the Internet a la Wikileaks.

The same hacking group announced targeted terrorist attacks against movie theaters which presented the movie. Fearing the worst, Sony Pictures cancelled the Interview.

Commenting on this backward move, Tom Rogan was the most critical, citing the cowardice of the company, and the negative precedent which such measures induce. Buchanan also landed on the political correctness which has taken over Hollywood. Movies go out of their way not to offend anyone. Strangely enough, Academy Award nominated films often touch controversial, even offense topics, and get nominated for those reasons only (read, "Brokeback Mountain").

Eleanor Clift and Mort Zuckerman considered the liability of the producers and the theaters should something violent occur at any showing of the money. Clift faulted Sony Pictures for making the film in the first place, since North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a "nut ball" who had his mentor uncle executed (eaten alive by ravenous dogs). Rogan's rebuttal was well-taken: "That's not your decision, is it?"

I found Rogan's take on the Sony-Korean fiasco the most agreeable and sentient. Sony Pictures should not have pulled away from releasing the film. They should have invested in more security, or reach out to city police departments wherever the film was playing.

Pakistan

One hundred and fifty Pakistani children were systematically slaughtered by the Pakistan Taliban. Rumblings about American military efforts in Afghanistan had discussed the potential blowback in the region for Pakistan. Once a reliable ally in the War on Terror, Pakistan has become unreliable, and now unstable.

The recent attack was retaliation of Pakistan's military strikes against Taliban terrorists. John McLaughlin observed that terrorists were turning "centers of learning into factories of death." There is no greater threat to freedom, prosperity, and democracy in any country than undermining education for young people. Taliban fighters want to undo education and wreak havoc on local communities. Politicians are demanding not just their own people but the international community intervene and stop this violence.

The conflict with the United States centers on Pakistan's counter-terrorism operations, which rely on extremists and Taliban fighters to upset India, Afghanistan, and even the United States. Pakistan can denounce the cruel, callous attacks on their children, but not they cannot justify teaming up with limited terrorist cells to advance diverse national goals out of sync with United States former policy.

Foreign policy received full attention on this episode if the McLaughlin Group. The heated, diverse, and intriguing views of the four guests prove that despite his lame-duck status, President Obama's flapping, and the consequences of his policies, will get plenty of analysis. Also, Obama's remaining years in office now focus on establishing a credible legacy abroad, much like his predecessor. However, the Democratic Party's terrible losses in 2010 and 2014, plus his declining political capital and rising unpopularity, suggest that what little good he creates will do little good for his reputation, or compensate for his growing irrelevance (and incompetence).



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Church Without Christ is Not Church at All

Like a growing number of people in the Body of Christ, I find that Jesus is not central, let alone mentioned, in our churches.

This trend is disturbing.

I have read reports in states like Rhode Island, that churches are closing all over. What can one expect if people are not hearing about Jesus, their living Savior?

Notice that I said: "Living Savior"

Did you know that Jesus is alive today?

"20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2: 20-21)

Yes, even in many churches, or rather buildings with the Cross on an altar or on the walls, there is a lot of talk about Jesus, but who He was when He was on the earth, before He died on the Cross.

Many people do not know that He is now our High Priest FOREVER!

"Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Hebrews 7: 16-17)


He is still ministering on our behalf today.

This neglected subject is not good. 

There is no power in ourselves. We need Life, and we find this Life in Christ Jesus:

"In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1: 4)

and

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10)

and then

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14: 6)

The subject of life and death does not get the much needed treatment in houses of worship either. To this day, men and women are turning the grace of God back into law and religion, which inadvertently brings back sin and license into our lives:

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3: 20)

and also

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Galatians 3: 10)

Not the law, but the grace of God must be ministered to us:

"11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2: 11-14)

and

"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15: 10)



Church attendance does not save us, and in fact, if there is no place where Jesus is not proclaimed and revealed, then that is not church.

Bob George of People to People Ministries could not have put it better [53:00-54:00]:

"Man says: 'Look at what I am doing for you!' Jesus says: 'Look at what I did for you
!' Man says: 'Look at how I went to church.' God says: 'Look at how I went to Calvary'."

Bam! So many people shame others about church attendance, when they have rejected everything else:

"23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." (Matthew 23: 23-24)

The word "judgment" does not speak directly of condemning people, but rather God's divine standard, which no man can keep, and then the grace of God which grants us faith to live by righteousness (Romans 1: 17)

Now, there is the passage in Hebrews 10: 25:
"
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10: 25)

Yet that is one verse out of many verses which promote Jesus, grace and truth which define all that He is, and our growing in grace and knowledge of Him.

Assembly is not about keeping people in line in terms of doctrine, for we are all called to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2: 15), and because of the Holy Spirit we have received all knowledge and direction (1 John 2: 20, 27)

The Word of God is our standard, not the traditions of men:

"But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15: 9)

Let us put aside the traditions of men, and rest in the eternal truth of God's Word, which reveals one Person: Jesus!

If the building you go to on Sunday, or Saturday, or whatever day of the week does not reveal Jesus, then it is not a church.

It's not about what we do, but what Jesus has done!

Church with Christ is not church at all, and many people will defend their houses of worship without blinking, the same way that they root for their favorite football team.

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (John 8: 32)

We are not set free because of church attendance. We are set free because of the truth of God's Word, which reveals Jesus!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Islam in South Bay Schools

Islam is coming to a school near you. Should we be worried about it? The latest article in Easy Reader News invites some unique insight as well as discussion for parents and local leaders concerned about the state of public education in the South Bay.



Easy Reader News reported on the controversial at a Manhattan Beach School Board Meeting:

A group of protesters asked the Manhattan Beach Unified School District to review how it teaches Islam at the school board’s meeting on Dec. 10.

A couple stood outside the building’s entrance with signs that said “Stop teaching Islam,” and “No Islam en la escuela” [sic]. As people entered, they handed out pamphlets that said in all caps, “TEACHING ISLAM WITHOUT WARNING LABELS IS LIKE STORING DRAINO IN A SUGAR BOWL.”

A protest with diverse tracts attended the school board meeting.

During the meeting, 11 individuals explained how they thought the school board should change or eliminate its teaching of Islam.

“Mein Kampf reads like a love story compared to the Quran,” said Steve Amundson. “I propose Islam be removed from the curriculum. It’s more akin to Nazism than a religion.”

Ouch! Heated remarks, to put it mildly. I have spoken with ardent activists deeply concerned by Islam. I share their concerns. The more that I learn about this religion, the more evident the violent nature of the faith is borne out.

The parents of a Manhattan Beach Middle School seventh grader said that they became concerned when their son showed them his homework, which asked students to write down the five tenets of Islam.

“This is the homework that set us off,” said Judy Diethelm as she held up the worksheet. “He had to write down ‘Allah is the one true God.’ The curriculum being presented is indoctrination, and we are opposed to this.”

If students write down the tenets of a religion, does the individual became an adherent of that faith? Students learn about Judaism, they learn about Christianity, and other faiths (especially in Sixth Grade). No one raises a fuss during those years.

However, parents do share concerns with their school principals and board members if their students do not learn about Christianity in the Sixth grade, yet they get the learning in Seventh Grade. Sometime, the previous teacher neglects to talk about the other faiths.

Still, the argument that Islam as merely a different religion is less convincing for concerned parents and local leaders.

The boy’s father, Keith Johnson, said that they had asked the school’s principal to remove the textbook, Medieval and Early Modern Times.

“We are not anti-Islam, but pro-equality,” he said.

Numerous rules in the Koran enshrine inequality, the poor treatment of women, children, and foreigners. The historical realities, and the present political implications, of Islam are erupting around the world, and in the United States.

Later, Gary Aven of Redondo Beach asked where the principal, John Jackson, was.

“He’s right here,” said a man, indicating the man next to him.

“Why didn’t you respond to that parent?” he asked, pointing at Jackson.

“Oh, I did,” said Jackson before Bill Fournell, the newly elected president of the school board, interrupted.

“Sir, this isn’t an inquisition,” he said to giggles from a group of high school students.


Superintendent Michael Matthews

Once public comment ended, Superintendent Michael Matthews said that the textbook and curriculum were “specifically prescribed” by the state, and that he supported that mandate.
“Scrutiny can be a great thing,” said Matthews. “I’m proud to be a place where people can come to us to speak their mind. But in terms of banning a certain part of the curriculum that people don’t agree with, I’m not going to go along with that.”

I agree with this sentiment in general. It is a dangerous precedent for local representatives to complain about any material, and right away the school board and superintendent must acquiesce.

A deeper problem arises, though, which parents and students should care about. Why is it that school boards must take on the prescribed material?

He invited the protesters to give their feedback to the state.

It's called an election, and in 2014, Democrats lost their supermajority. Will they lose their grip on public education soon, too?

After the meeting, Jackson and a couple of others discussed how they would exit the building. When asked if other parents had contacted him about the Islam issue, he said no.

“Outside the board meetings, they’re the only ones,” he said.

In the hallway outside the meeting, Diethelm said that she wasn’t surprised by the school board’s reaction and that she planned to take the issue to the state and possibly, to court. She said she was working with attorney Bill Becker, who was fighting the same issue in Tennessee.

“We’re disappointed but we expected it,” she said. “We were warned.”
Mira Costa High School senior Dana Sternthal, who went to Manhattan Beach Middle School, attended the meeting for her school newspaper. She gave her thoughts in the parking lot after the meeting.

This reporting gives us more insight into the individuals who attended the meeting, and their reaction to the school board's take on their concerns.

“As a person who went through the curriculum, I didn’t feel like I was being indoctrinated,” she said. “We learned what Muslim people believe, just like Judaism. It was all evenly taught. They always gave the disclaimer that they were not trying to convert you.”

Education about other people's beliefs is essential for anyone to thrive in the adult world.

She said that she thought that the fact that so many of the protesters were from outside of the school district showed that it was “not an issue a lot of people in the district see.”

This concern deserves more attention. Is it really true that residents in Manhattan Beach are not concerned about the teaching of Islam? I have spoken with local leaders, and many parents are intimidated by the school board. There are some parents who do speak up and challenge the school board's decisions. Most people unhappy with their local governments are afraid to speak up for a number of reasons, but their silence does not mean approval.

Her fellow newspaper staffer, junior Diego Marcucci, didn’t attend Manhattan Beach Middle School but attended the meeting. He took issue with a couple of protesters’ focus on a source that said that the Muslim prophet Mohammed married a six-year-old girl.

This is not "a source": it's a historical fact. Does the middle school curriculum need to teach it, though?

“That has nothing to do with the tenets of Islam,” he said. “They’re trying to villainize Islam.”

Parents have every right to be concerned about the content of their children's education. Teachers face many heavy demands on their time, and often they cannot sit down with every parent and respond to their concerns. Nor can the school board. More parents are choosing to homeschool their children because of their lack of authority over school curriculum. Moreover, the sclerotic nature of school boards makes it almost impossible to effect real change in a timely fashion.

One other concern stands out from the protests over Islam in local schools. Aside from one parent sharing her distaste with the material, most of the people in the audience were not from the school district, nor did they have kids enrolled in Manhattan Beach schools. Conservatives who are worried about the content and direction of local schools need to work with Parent-Teacher Associations and their supporters before trying to make inroads in changing curriculum, procedures, or long-term goals of South Bay schools.

Cruz' Bumpy Moves

US Senator Ted Cruz

US Senator Ted Cruz' tactic to force a vote on Homeland Security funding did not go as planned:

But the strategy backfired: Not only did Congress clear the $1.1-trillion spending bill without restrictions on immigration policy, but Democrats used the rare Saturday session to speed up the confirmation process for nearly two dozen nominations that would have otherwise languished.

If Cruz and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) let the issue go, and a simple up-or-down vote passed the CRomnibus, the Senate would not have voted the twenty Obama nominees waiting in the wings. Forcing a vote allowed the soon-to-be-Minority Leader Harry Reid one last Majority agenda, and advance a vote on those nominations.

The long-term game is just as important as the smart, short-term plays. Senator Cruz seems to be forgetting this political reality.

When pulling together the final elements of HR 83, House Majority Leader McCarthy's office suggested that partial funding would place the Republican-controlled Congress in a position of strength against the President. There was some good as well as bad in the CRomnibus, as well. While Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee have advanced principled and effective alliances on the Senate floor, Senator Cruz' solo ventures are not accomplishing anything.

No conservative in the US Senate will effect real change attacking other Republicans. Consensus for comprehensive reforms is essential. Bold measures should have bold consequences. Otherwise, celebrity grandstanding is just show, and provides little relief for Americans fed up with a Washington political class promoting their interests foremost.

US Senator Rand Paul

US Senator Rand Paul filibusters against CIA Director Brennan because he did not get a satisfactory answer from the Attorney General about drone strikes. US Senator Ted Cruz did not give a filibuster, as much as a twenty-two hour talk-a-thon. Did it accomplish anything?

Yes: Cruz established conservative credentials with a fired-up base. Where were the other US Senators to oppose the measure? How did he intend to bring Democratic Senators to join his cause to limit, reform, and repeal the Affordable Care Act? Senatorial antics are entertaining, but are they accomplishing anything?

Where is the unity among concerted members of the House as well as the US Senate? The lower chamber passed legislation without funding Obamacare. Great, but the Majority Leader was willing to sit on the legislation, and force the House to provide proper spending bills. Did anyone think through the shut-down? What did the Republicans want to accomplish?

The good news is that more Republicans at the local level are outlining plans for growth, expansion, and influence. Working in the background with key interest groups, gaining the confidence of frustrated independents, and commanding influence on the values, local candidates are gaining ground, and getting the attention of the national political class.

The last thing this country needs is another political grand-stander. For all of Cruz' convictions, and the concerns for his constituents, ideology and enthusiasm are not enough. If he has nothing else but to make a show of his fearless nature, Senator Cruz may have little to offer this country sitting the White House, where he would have to govern with stubborn majorities in both Chambers, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats.

Gun-Control Surgeon General Vivek Murphy

Surgeon General Vivek Murphy

Conservatives, and Second Amendment supporters in particular, are worried about the recent appointment of Vivik Murphy as the next surgeon general.

Aside from the argument that a national doctor is a vestigial concern, what really is there to worry about? President Obama has lost his second Secretary of Defense, and the GOP-controlled US Senate will hold up the appointment of the next Attorney General because of executive amnesty.

Now, what can Surgeon General Murphy do?

Any executive action on guns will fail. Murphy can be as pro-gun control as he pleases, but President Obama is burning through his deficient political capital already. His latest attempt to normalize relations with Cuba has received a bipartisan backlash.

What is Vivek going to do? Write a prescription to the American people to remove two bullets from their neighbors' firearms, then call him in the morning?

On a related note, The LA Times article about Murphy took efforts to paint Republicans as the big losers in the confirmation hearing, then added the rhetoric of the Democrats, who will move to minority status next year.

But his confirmation, coming almost two years to the day after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, allowed Democrats to wrap up their majority control of the Senate with a victory.

The paper had to mention Sandy Hook. What about Fort Hood, or other gun massacres? The insistence to bring up gun violence, within the context of a political event combined with emotional history, is a telling failure of the liberal media, depicting Republicans as harsh and backward, but presenting the Democrats as victors. Apparently, the Times' editors forgot about the nine-seat US Senate sweep for the GOP, plus added seats in the House.

Supporters have defended Murthy, saying that his views are not extreme and that most Americans support tougher gun-control laws. They also argued that the nation needs a surgeon general at the forefront of the nation’s public health team, noting the recent Ebola crisis.

Most Americans do not support gun-control laws. Gun-control advocates, campaigners, and candidates lost in large numbers in 2014. Colorado residents had recalled two state senators last year for their gun-control measures. Three to one, constituents voiced their opposition to the Toomey-Manchin background check legislation, too. Furthermore, what difference does a Surgeon General make in combating Ebola, when President Obama refuses to quarantine travelers from infected countries? A federal bureaucrat is not going to transform the United States into an anti-septic emergency room.

The missing debate in Washington is not about which Surgeon General to confirm, but why confirm another official in the first place?

McLaughlin's Tortured Debate in CIA Torture

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California
The CIA report, released by liberal US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) criticized the agency of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques which apparently did not work.

It shows that the CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history. The release of this 500-page summary cannot remove that stain, but it can and does say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it's wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes. 


Yet the McLaughlin Group's heated discussion on the topic indicate that the subject of torture, terrorism, and the national security occlude any concerns over the humanitarian concerns, as well as the motivations and integrity of the report.


John McLaughlin
Buchanan called out the political  motivations for Feinstein's release of the report:

[She] hoped to damage the CIA, which had surveillance on her. She hoped to damage the Bush administration. 

He also slammed the one-sided nature of the report:

But I'll tell you what she did, what she's got here is really a pretty vicious attack. It's a vindictive prosecutor's document. She didn't talk to CIA people. She didn't talk to the alleged people who did these grizzly things. She talked about things we've known about for 10 years. She said it was a decade ago. 

Tom Rogan of National Review was no less condemning:

Yes, there is intelligence that was provided and the CIA has been dragged through the mud for partisan reasons. The report in my opinion is a joke. And I use that word deliberately. I know that's a serious issue, but I -- for reasons that Pat mentioned, not interviewing officers, it's slander. 

Rogan's statement was spot-on. For a member of the US Senate to denounce a key agency in the War on Terror, and just before her party would enter the minority, without any evidence or counterargument, was slander.  And where was she to condemn the President as well as the agency for spying on US Senators?

Mort Zuckerman

Even the more liberal commentator Mort Zuckerman took exception to the CIA report:

Yes, what astonishes me is somehow or other the assumption that we live in this kind of innocent world that where this kind of response in terms of trying to gain intelligence is simply off the moral table, shall we say.

I think as a country when we are up against some of the most vicious kind of people, we've got to do things like this. It's not pleasant. It's not, you know, a gentleman's games, OK? But we're not playing on those rules and nor are the people on the other side. We've got to do some things that we wouldn't like to do but are necessary.
 

Following his realist take on the torture report and its implications, liberal Daily Beast commentator Eleanor Clift tried to interrupt Zuckerman. Normally, she has to fight off heated disagreement from her conservative colleagues. Zuckerman rebutting her butting in, and asserted that liberal pretenses about global egalitarianism have no place, or merit, in dealing with terrorist cells, or their arrested, incarcerated accomplices.

Her vehemence on the subject, combined with the stern frustration of conservatives with Feinstein's poorly-timed release, reveal on a smaller scale the wider debate on torture to combat terrorism, and the strong views, however controversial or flawed, which the Left hold on the matter.

Clift finally shared her point, in spite of extended cross-talking:

Well, as a lone voice here on the other side, I would point out that the United States of America has signatories to a lot of international agreements. As creators of international rules, we are hardly in a position to just ignore those rules when it's inconvenient.

Secondly, the Senate staffers went over 6 million documents. They didn't talk to the CIA agents directly. They had transcripts of when those agents were interviewed and they went through every one of the cases and they found -- excuse me -- they found no basis for a piece of intelligence that came as the result of an -- excuse me -- as a result of an EIT --


John McLaughlin should be commended for allowing diverse, strong and conflicting points of view on his program. Even though  many conservatives find Clift's views execrable, they do need to be heard in a free society, where individuals can make proper choices, then resist the poor thinking and the Left's moral relativity.

On a specific note, Clift's international rationale means nothing when terrorists are attacking skyscrapers and killing thousands of people. Terrorism which morphs into state-sponsored tyranny cannot be mitigated or contained by the Gentleman's Rules of Warfare of  Carl von Clauswitz' ideological dictates on military combat.

A Cartoon Critical of American Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
Zuckerman was right to denounce the petty, amoral sensitivities of humanitarian critics, and Buchanan reminded his colleagues that Al-Qaeda operatives are trained to conduct the most vicious, serially violent attacks on innocent civilians. Besides, the enhanced techniques, from water-boarding to sleep deprivation, to aggressive pressure through exaggerated threats, are nothing compared to the unspeakable evil perpetrated by ISIS and their terrorizing allies and subsidiaries throughout the Middle East.

While arguing about the political niceties and moral complaints of this issue, the McLaughlin missed relating that the United States has maintained  the rule of law to adjudicate then condemn the terrorist suspects. This point of order led to widespread outrage with the Obama Administration when they discussed moving the 9-11 conspirators away from military tribunals to civil courts in New York City. For the record, the terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay have been on trial for more than a decade, still waiting for trial, still represented by defense council.

Because terrorism, and its long-standing impact, hit to the core of national security, and human frailty, no one should be surprised at the heated, even tortured nature of the McLaughlin Group's eventful clash on Senator Feinstein's report.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

RI'S Raimondo for President in 2016?

Gina Raimondo (D-Rhode Island)

Nearly two months later, I am still broken up about Cranston Mayor Allan Fung’s loss. He was not a bad candidate (although the Blockhead commercial was a bad move). In comparison, Raimondo was no better, since she ran against her reform record, could not court strong union support, and sports an elitist streak no matter how many ‘Gansetts she has sold or drinks. Besides, she won only a plurality of the votes. Following a run-off, Fung would have run her off without trouble. 

One could blame Fung’s loss on the Cool Moose turned Moderate, but Republicans must do more than complain about their bad luck. Hopefully, they will work behind the scenes more extensively as well as gradually, restructure the party from the ground up, dispense with the brutal primaries (and the traitorous candidates who run for mayor of Providence only to endorse and benefit Democrats), plus do something to minimize future third party spoilers.

Still, Rhode Island politics remains ever in turmoil, with the Chafee name in tatters, but Republicans are back in the black (or red) with more seats in the General Assembly.

As for the Democrats in 2014, they got shaken, rattled, and shellacked, especially in the gubernatorial campaigns. Aside from the protest-vote win of Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania, and the deeper blue hue in Oregon (where a corrupt governor, with a mail-order bride and a failed Obamacare website, won reelection along with broadening Democratic majorities in the state legislature), Governor-elect Gina Raimondo is the only Democratic winner with outstanding credibility (on paper) as a reformer as well as a progressive liberal. General Treasurer Raimondo ascends Smith Hill to become the 75th Governor of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the state’s first female chief executive, the weakest governor in the country, yet with the strongest Democratic record.

Her profile, position, and political ground-game could catapult into a wider campaign. Congress? Sure, but why try to bump off petty place-holders like Jim Langevin or Grand Theft Auto Cicilline? She already won a statewide office, so why settle for something half-way? US Senate? Certainly, but the next election, barring sudden death or resignation, won’t be until 2018.

Perhaps the Presidency. Gina in 2016? Sounds implausible, even laughable.

Think again. Former First Lady, US Senator, Presidential contender, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been seeking the White House for six years, and is wearing thin on voters, pundits, and the media class. The inevitable candidate of 2008, she lost by slim margins because of identity politics, including the stadium-level endorsement from Oprah for Obama. The Queen of Day Time only solidified that race would define the Democratic nominee as opposed to gender, or character and experience. Six years later, and the failed Obama Administration drifting into irrelevance, partisan progressives are disappointed with Obama’s victory for K Street and Wall Street. They feel played (and played out) over the race card. Today, a rising tide of low-information (and low-intelligence) Democratic voters are ready to pride themselves on electing the First Woman President.

Will it be Hillary, the inevitable nominee once again? The polling suggests that she has all the support, but Iowa focus groups want someone more progressive, more populist. NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd is tired of Slick Willy’s Better Half, too. From Benghazi, to terrible People Magazine sales, to the return of apathetic voters looking for the next thrill, ancient-looking Hillary is past her prime.

Enter senior US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Complete with Eleven Commandments of Progressivism, she could lead her progressive peers out of Hillary fatigue. Her frequent denials of interest in a Presidential bid assure us of the exact opposite. Her last-minute fiery speech against the CRomnibus, including attacks against Big Banks and Wall Street, sent a tingle up populist spines, left and right. Now MoveOn.org has drafted a petition for Warren to run, the latest threat to the Democrats’ version of Mitt Romney.

Yet US News’ Mort Zuckerman predicts doom if the Democratic Party drops Clinton and props up ultra-leftist Warren. They could find in New England another progressive Democrat of deep convictions, but praised by the New York Times, lauded by the National Review, and attacked by the discredited Rolling Stone, who reformed pensions, took on the unions (who are losing all over the country), yet prevailed running with rather than away from President Obama. Such a candidate could outshine Hillary, unite the liberal base and centrist Democrats for the nomination, then fight for the Presidency without embarrassing her party.

That candidate is Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. She is one of few Democrats still siting on a thin bench of potential Democratic contenders, replete with academic, business, and governmental connections, plus Bill Clinton photo-ops. Besting a three-way primary against pedigree (Clay Pell) and diversity (Angel Taveras), Rhode Island’s Governor-elect can translate partisan unity toward national comity for a 2016 primary victory.

Plus, Raimondo is a woman, satisfying the substantive need of liberal voters to gratify their quest for identity equity in national politics.

Gina for President? MoveOn.org should post another petition for Raimondo, and see how many sign on.

Congress, then Cuba


 

In a rare display of unintended bipartisanship, Cuban-American US Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) vocally criticized President Obama's announcement to normalize relations with the Communist Castro regime in Cuba.

“I think it stinks,” declared Menendez. “Obama is the worst negotiator”, Rubio retorted.

Both Senators should not fault the President for discussing comprehensive changes to the five-decade Cuban embargo, which Congress has peeled back piecemeal over the last few years.

Normalization of trade and diplomatic relations always benefits free countries. Furthermore, open trade undermines tyrannical regimes. For example, the world witnessed this powerful transition when USSR’s last premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, reached out to the United States and Western Europe. Because Gorbachev desperately needed to revive his country’s flagging economy, President Reagan understood that the Soviet Union was crumbling from within. He knew fully well what United Kingdom’s conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had asserted: “The problem with socialism is that governments run out of other people’s money.”

Without diminishing their nation’s defenses, Reagan, Thatcher (and indirectly Pope John Paul II) shared freedom of trade, press, and religion with the Soviet people, who then brought down the Communist Soviet regime. Similar outreach will help the Cuban people to end Castro’s dictatorship, too.

However, Senators Rubio and Menendez should fault President Obama for his unilateral, even dictatorial pretensions. Having ignored and attempted to rewrite federal law on health care and immigration, Obama must submit to Congressional approval. Before easing tensions with Cuba, the President should normalize relations with Congress.

Obama: Normalize Relations with Congress

President Obama has announced his intentions to normalize relations with Communist Cuba, a nation with which the United States has maintained a no-travel embargo for decades.

The Latin American island's current leader, Raul Castro, even suggested that Obama lift restrictions through executive order. Nothing like one dictator egging on another to act on policy without the consent of the governed, or their representatives.

NPR reports:

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

He added: "These 50 years have shown, isolation has not worked. It's time for a new approach."

Frankly, I am all for liberalization of foreign policy. When individuals get a taste of liberty, they no longer settle for tyranny or autocracy. The more Cubans who visit the United States freely, and vice versa, the more unstable the Castro regime will become, unable to suppress demands for free elections, a free press, and open trade among Cuban residents.

However, if Obama wants to go it alone, he will find not just a hostile America, but opposition from members of Congress.

Rubio on Obama's Policy Shift: "It's based on a lie."

US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) vocally criticized this move:

The announcement by President Obama on Wednesday giving the Castro regime diplomatic legitimacy and access to American dollars isn’t just bad for the oppressed Cuban people, or for the millions who live in exile and lost everything at the hands of the dictatorship. Mr. Obama’s new Cuba policy is a victory for oppressive governments the world over and will have real, negative consequences for the American people.

The first argument from Rubio is not based on fact. Just because the United States extends diplomatic relations to another country does not immediately justify every policy enacted by that country. In the wake of fifty years of silence, however, the United States has declared their own cold war against the Communist regime still dominant (yet growing dormant).

The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.

When reviewing the history of the collapse of the Soviet Union, reports suggest that Russians were getting well-acquainted with foreign goods, trade, and culture. Pop music, consumer products were infiltrating the nation, but because then Soviet Primier Mikhail Gorbachev recognized that the Stalinst economic system was a complete failure, and the USSR had to open up its trade with other countries in order to survive.

Senator Rubio is not alone with criticizing the Obama Administration.


About Obama's Overture to Cuba: "I think it stinks."
So has US Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey):

"I think it stinks," Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants and the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said at a press conference on new financial help for Hurricane Sandy residents. "I think it's wrong. I am deeply disappointed in the president."

"Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people," the president said. "Isolation has not worked."

Menendez often has supported Obama, a fellow Democrat, on foreign affairs, though he has pushed for additional sanctions on Iran if negotiations over its nuclear plants fail and recently steered through his committee a resolution authorizing U.S. military force against the Islamic State albeit only for three years and with restrictions on the use of ground troops.

Angry over Obama's failure to consult him on the talks involving Cuba, which lasted more than a year, Menendez said he would not approve easing the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, which can only be done by Congress, and called on the incoming chairman of the committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to hold hearings when the new Congress convenes in January.

"Its a reward that a totalitarian regime does not deserve," Menendez said. "I reject the notion that somehow it is the United States that has created hardship on the Cuban people."

Senator Menendez' justified upset stems from two observations. First, President Obama failed to consult him. Frankly, the President has fallen into the lazy tyranny of ignoring Congress and announcing the widespread restructuring, delay, or change to federal law. Menendez should not be surprised that his liberal peer in the White House would do something like this, but at least he has announced his frustration.

Members of Congress have signaled their intent to block the President, but other members have shown support with the move, and even rode along with three of the recently-released Cuba hostages. News outlets are asking whether Congress can block the President's plans:

But a full restoration of diplomatic relations, including unlimited travel and trade, lies with Congress. And if the bipartisan fury unleashed at Mr. Obama Wednesday was any sign of things to come, lawmakers will do everything in their power to limit his aspirations.

President Ronald Reagan with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev

The bipartisan opposition suggests that Obama will no longer play the executive order card without serious consequences. Agricultural interests in Congress, however, may welcome the change in Cuban-American diplomatic relations. Liberal proponents have also argued that the President can reframe the relationship of the two countries, based on prior legislation, while Congress an attend to the fine points of streamlining this change in diplomacy:

I endorse completely what Michael said, that the president’s ability to lift the embargo through licensing and rule making is essentially unfettered. The Helms-Burton Act—and it would require a longer discussion—comes into it at the very end, but the principal role of Congress is going to be to tidy up all the loose ends of permanent trade status for Cuba, investment protection agreements and so on.

While free market conservatives should welcome the expansion of trade, which will undermine dictatorial regimes, the proper legislative process must be defended. Instead of normalizing relations with Cuba, President Obama needs to restore the proper order of Constitutional checks and balances, and submit to Congress before establishing the next steps for redefining the United States' relationship with Havana.