Sunday, December 10, 2017

Foreign Digest: Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq


Update: Zimbabwe
            The new President of Zimbabwe was sworn in a late last month.  He had served as the Vice President as a member of the Marxist-oriented party that had ruled since full independence for the former colony of Rhodesia from the British in 1980 under former tyrant Robert Mugabe.  The socialist Mugabe negotiated terms for his resignation which included immunity from prosecution for his crimes and a large payoff.  Mugabe had angered his ruling party by attempting to have his much-younger wife succeed him.

            Meanwhile, in an encouraging sign, a prominent human rights activist was acquitted of all charges, after having been prosecuted by Mugabe’s regime for non-violent political expression. 

Bolivia
            The Supreme Court of Bolivia last week nullified term limits for the President.  Bolivians had rejected in February of last year a constitutional referendum to eliminate presidential term limits. 

The socialist Bolivian President was inspired by the Venezuelan socialist regime of late dictator Hugo Chavez that had been elected democratically, but seized authoritarian powers.  The Venezuelan tyrant had been attempting to spread socialist revolution throughout Latin America.  The elimination of presidential term limits is one of the hallmarks of Chavism and a critical step toward authoritarianism.  Rigged elections and restrictions on basic liberty had been typically occurring in an increasing number of states.   A few such democratically-elected left-wing authoritarians have since been voted or forced out of power elsewhere in Latin America, as I have been posting, but several remain.

Updates: Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq 
There were more protests in Russia, led by the opposition leader.  There have been many more arrests in Turkey, as the purge continues by the authoritarian Turkish leader, who continues to use last summer’s attempted military coup as an excuse to silence dissent.  The civil war continues in Syria.  In both Syria and Iraq, the last significant pockets of the Islamic State have been cleared.  As I had posted, major strongholds had been liberated by various forces, but a few minor ones had remained, especially in the desert area between the two states.  A few affiliates in Africa and Asia remain loyal to the self-declared caliphate based in Syria that was an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, while others around the world have kept their oaths to the parent organization.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ninth Anniversary of My Blog; Blog Hit Report


           I entered my tenth year of posting to my blog, as its ninth anniversary was yesterday.  Thank you for visiting, especially those who visit regularly and those who follow, comment or provide feedback offline.

            The dramatic increase in pageviews to my blog tracked by Blogger, the host of my blog, that first began in July of last year has continued into this year, despite a decrease in the number of posts.  Totals range from over 700 to more than 1,650 per month, not including my own visits, with an average of well over a thousand.  The less specificity about the hits than those tracked by StatCounter, however, make more detailed analysis difficult.  As usual, there is a substantial volume from Europe, in addition to the United States (from which hits are unspecified from which State), as well as pageviews from around the world, including from every inhabited continent.  Every post is viewed multiple times, with the homepage receiving the largest share of hits.

            Being able to exercise the freedom of the (printing) press, in electronic form, is especially appreciated and necessary in these challenging times.  

           Please continue to visit my blog regularly, or follow, comment, or provide feedback or ask questions offline.  Thank you for your patronage!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank God for the Safeguards of the Blessings of Liberty


           Happy Thanksgiving!  As always, in addition to personal blessings, I am thankful for you who visit my blog.

A thanksgiving was first federally proclaimed, in commemoration of the one celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 in Plymouth colony for the harvest and for amity with the Native Americans, by United States President George Washington, in thanks to God for the blessings of liberty. 

We Americans should be especially thankful that we have been able to keep those blessings to the extent we have, despite the increased threats to them from hostile foreign interference and authoritarianism, in addition the usual ones.  This year, I am especially grateful for the constitutional checks and balances established by the Framers of the Constitution that have safeguarded our freedoms.  In addition to divided government and the separation of powers, the principle of limited government through federalism, have proved at least somewhat effective, especially when bolstered by public pressure, as these principles have been proven only to be effective when Americans are willing to defend them.  All the public servants and fellow citizens who have been making use of them—often creatively to meet novel and unexpected threats—at a time when many public servants have failed to uphold their constitutional duties, have prevented Americans from losing sovereignty and freedom as much as was feared, but vigilance is the eternal price of liberty.  We can be thankful to them for doing their part to protect us from foreign and domestic enemies.

May God continue to bless America!

Foreign Digest: Bosnia: Ratko Mladic Conviction, Burma: Update on Ethnic Cleansing, North Korea: State Sponsor of Terrorism


Bosnia: Ratko Mladic Conviction
            The International Criminal Court late this week sentenced former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity for his responsibility for ethnic cleansing and genocide against Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina in its war of independence from the former Yugoslavia from 1992-1995.  The crimes included the largest massacre of civilians in Europe since the Second World War.  The Serb-dominated Yugoslavia was led by a Communist dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, who was using nationalist demagoguery to maintain power in the fractious Balkan state, including backing ethnic Serbs in Bosnia against Muslims and Croats.  Milosevic died while being tried for crimes against humanity, while Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic had also been convicted, like Mladic, of similar crimes against Bosniaks and Croats in the attempt to unite the Serbian parts of Bosnia with Serbia.

Burma: Update on Ethnic Cleansing
            The United States yesterday declared the Burmese military suppression of a Muslim insurgency in its northeast “ethnic cleansing,” as many civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee to neighboring states.  It is hoped that the American statement will increase pressure on Burma’s democratic government to stop the abuses by the Burmese military.

North Korea: State Sponsor of Terrorism
            The U.S. yesterday placed North Korea on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.  The Communist state’s had been removed by President George W. Bush after a lengthy period of not engaging in terrorist attacks, as a goodwill gesture during negotiations about the Hermit Kingdom’s nuclear weapons program, but, as I had posted in July of 2010 in War on Terrorism Update: Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2010/07/war-on-terrorism-update-afghanistan.html, it continues to harbor terrorists and it threatened in 2014 to blow up movie theaters that played a film mocking the North Korean dictator, which I posted about afterward in January of 2015, A Consideration of Recent Alleged Instances of Terrorism and Related Observations, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-consideration-of-recent-alleged.html

           North Korea joins Iran, Syria and Sudan as the only state sponsors of terrorism on the State Department’s list.  Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Cuba had all been removed.  Cuba should also be placed back on the list, as it continues to harbor terrorists, while Venezuela and Russia should be added to it. Venezuela assists the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization, Hezbollah, which Russia trains while supporting Bashar Assad’s terrorist-sponsoring Syrian regime.  The designation triggers a series of specific economic sanctions and other restrictions.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Update: Zimbabwe’s Dictator Has Resigned


           The longtime tyrant of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been forced to resign as president after being deposed as party leader by his own ruling socialist party, following the party-directed coup d’etat late last week that I had posted about. 

            The 93-year-old dictator, who had been placed under house arrest, had attempted to ensure his much younger wife would succeed him as president and party leader.  She was forced out as head of the party’s ladies auxiliary.  The Vice President will accede to Zimbabwe’s presidency amidst jubilation in the streets, as Mugabe can no longer oppress the people of Zimbabwe.

            The ruling Marxist-oriented party must, as the international community should insist, permit freedom of speech, press and assembly and conduct free and fair elections and accept the results if they are in favor of the democratic opposition.  It must not continue the same tyranny with which it was complicit under Mugabe, as the long-suffering Zimbabweans deserve liberty and representative government.  The last day of the dictator ought to be the last day of dictatorship.  

          The celebrations in Harare and elsewhere in Zimbabwe also ought to be heard clearly in South Africa, where the corrupt democratically-elected president has been protected by the most loyal core of his Marxist-oriented ruling party that has dominated electoral politics in Zimbabwe’s southern neighbor since blacks were granted the privilege to vote.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Conservative Analysis of the Pennsylvania 2017 General Election


           Now that the votes have been counted, it is possible to offer a brief analysis of the 2017 Pennsylvania General Election.  As I have noted previously, the vote totals published by the state and county election officials across the Commonwealth immediately after the election do not include absentee and provisional ballots, which can often change the outcome of a close contest, which there often are in statewide Pennsylvania elections.  The professional media lack authority to “declare” election winners and even concessions by losing candidates are not legally determinative. 

            Statewide, a Republican, who had been appointed to the state Supreme Court to fill a vacancy, was elected to Pennsylvania’s highest court, where Democrats hold a majority.  Democrats carried three of the four Superior Court seats in a close race, while the two parties each split the two seats on the Commonwealth Court.  Therefore, Democrats won a majority of the seven seats Republicans, but the GOP was victorious in the most important contest.           

            Although Republicans were competitive in the statewide judicial races, Donald Trump was a factor in the Pennsylvania election, as was apparent in Virginia and other American States, even in local races in the Keystone State.  The Trump effect was especially noticeable in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the election was viewed particularly as a referendum on the party of Trump.  Democrats there were motivated to turn out to vote and to vote against Republican candidates in southeast Pennsylvania, as elsewhere across the Union, which led to historic Democratic gains in county and municipal elections.

            The constitutional referendum to allow counties, municipalities and school districts to reduce real estate taxes for home owners was approved.  The amendment gives those taxing bodies the option of exempting up to 100% of the median value of a primary residence from real estate taxation.  Commercial properties would remain subject to real estate taxes.  It is uncertain how counties, municipalities and school districts would replace the lost revenue.  

           The referendum boosted turnout significantly in Berks County, where I reside, which is a hotbed of anti-real estate tax efforts, which, in turn, helped local Republican candidates.  The referendum likely helped offset somewhat the anti-Trump vote statewide. The absence of an equivalent to boost conservative turnout in the more ideological federal and state elections in 2018 will likely make it even harder for Republicans to be elected who do not break clearly with Trumpism.

Foreign Digest; Burma, China, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Syria


Burma
            Amidst a longtime Muslim insurgency in Burma, there has been ethnic cleansing of Muslims by the Burmese military.  Hundreds of thousands have been killed or forced to flee.  The democratic Burmese government has been slow to address the humanitarian needs of Muslim civilians, let alone to acknowledge genocide or ethnic cleansing.  World leaders have urged Burma to protect Muslim civilians.  The Trump Administration of the United States, however, has declined to describe the Burmese policy as “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.”

China and the Philippines
            In both China and the Philippines, Donald Trump failed to advocate for press freedoms on his recent Asian trip.  In China, he acquiesced to the demand of the Chinese Communist government not to permit questions from the press at the joint statement of the Chinese and U.S. Presidents, contrary to the practice of past American Presidents.  In the Philippines, Trump offered no response at the joint presidential press conference after the Filipino President called professional journalists “spies.”  Trump, who admires numerous authoritarians and has authoritarian proclivities himself, has praised the murderous Filipino leader for his policy of urging Filipinos to kill suspected drug dealers, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. 

Zimbabwe
            Zimbabwe’s socialist ruling party last week deposed longtime-dictator Robert Mugabe through a military coup led by the Vice President after Mugabe made plans for his much- younger wife to succeed him.  The nonagenarian strongman had ruled the former Rhodesia since 1980.  Mugabe has been forced out as the party’s leader and is being pressured to resign or face impeachment.

Taking over from a white minority government, Mugabe, instead of spreading liberty and representative government, as the Zimbabwean people had joyously hoped, became a tyrant and a thief.  After nationalizing industries and often violently stealing farms from whites, he plunged Zimbabwe into economic ruin, infamously causing the most extreme hyperinflation, necessitating the printing of notes with the record-high denomination of 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars.  One of the last remaining “Big Men” of Africa, Mugabe and his party have held power by oppression and through rigging elections.  Mugabe had praised Donald Trump during the 2016 United States presidential election.  It is hoped that Zimbabweans will finally be free and that free and fair elections will be held soon, but the ruling party’s record of tyranny makes such an outcome doubtful. 

Syria 
           The Russian Federation again has vetoed the United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by the United States, to renew the authorization for the Joint Investigative Mechanism, the agency tasked with investigating the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in Syria.  It is Russian’s tenth veto on the subject.  The agency has concluded that Syria’s Assad regime, which Russia supports, is culpable for using chemical WMDs in its civil war.  As with conventional weapons, Syria targets civilian populations.  The Baathist regime, which is also backed by Iran, is a state sponsor of terrorism.  Russia has a pattern of supporting terrorists under the guise of opposing terrorists and of labeling opponents “terrorists.”  It also has a policy, through propaganda and disinformation, to undermine confidence in the truth, in order to serve the sinister ends of its tyrant, Vladimir Putin, and the oligarchy that backs him.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 General Election Day in Pennsylvania and Across the American Union


           Tuesday, November 7 is General Election Day across the American Union, including in Pennsylvania.  The most important elections are the gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia and mayoral elections in many major American cities.   

           In Pennsylvania, the statewide offices on the ballot are for each of the three appellate level courts.  There is one Supreme, four Superior and two Commonwealth Court seats to which to elect candidates.  There are also two retentions on the ballot for Supreme Court Justices, one being conservative Republican Chief Justice Tom Saylor, the other a liberal Democrat. 

            Locally in the Keystone State, in this “municipal” election there are county courts of common pleas and countywide offices and judicial retentions.  There are also magisterial district judge, constable, municipal and school district elections.  Voters will also be electing their precinct Election boards.  These statewide, countywide, municipal and school district officeholders will affect the residents of their respective districts more directly on a wide range of issues than federal elected officials. 

            There are many conservative candidates for these offices.  Although some may be Trumpist, it is not easy to know if judicial candidates are, as they are guarded in expressing their views in order to maintain impartiality.  As for local candidates, because they often limit their expressions to local matters, it is also difficult to know their degree of agreement with Trumpism, unless they have publicly disassociated with Donald Trump or his views.  It is understandable that some conservatives would prefer to avoid voting for Republican candidates generally and perhaps skip contests or write in the names of more preferable candidates because the Party is being dominated by populists/protectionists/nativists/nationalists, but one must use one’s best judgment, guided by good conscience, in voting for the best candidate, meaning one whose character is sound and whose views are the most preferable, if possible.  And certainly it is even more critical at this time to vote for any Republican candidates who publicly reject Trumpism.

            There is also a ballot question in Pennsylvania: a constitutional referendum on real estate taxes which would allow counties, municipalities and school districts to have the option to establish a homestead exemption for up to 100% of the value of a home in that district.  Currently, there is only a homestead exemption on school real estate taxes, worth up to 50% of the median value of homes in that district.  The loss of revenue would be made up through other tax levies. 

           The polls in Pennsylvania are open Tuesday from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  Make plans today to vote in these important elections.

Foreign Digest: Spain: Catalonia Update; and Italy: Election Law Enactment


Update: Catalonia
            Last week, after dissolving the Catalan government following the referendum for independence for Catalonia in October, the Spanish Government established direct Spanish rule in Catalonia through the Vice President, with elections for a new provincial government scheduled in December.  The Catalan Parliament declared independence in the meantime.  Catalan leaders, facing arrest for violating the Spanish Constitution, have fled to Belgium, where they may be subjected to extradition. 

Many businesses addressed in the prosperous province have relocated to elsewhere in Spain.  There was another large pro-union rally in Barcelona last week.  A recent public opinion poll suggests a large plurality of Catalans favor greater autonomy over independence or maintaining the status quo.  Like the European Union, the United States is encouraging Spanish unity.

Italian election law enactment
Italy’s new election law was approved by the Italian Parliament and signed into law by the President at the end of last week.  Its main purpose was to make the elections for both the lower Chamber of Deputies and upper Senate chambers of Parliament similar.  Over one-third of the parliamentary seats will be directly elected first-past-the-post in single-member districts and nearly two thirds will be awarded proportionally in regional districts. 

The law, which is designed to encourage coalition-building, sets a threshold of 3% of the proportional vote for parties and 10% for blocks to hold any seats in Parliament.  Like the old law, the new one still uses party lists for proportional allocation, meaning voters do not have control over which party candidate is elected.  

The law was supported by the ruling center-left party, their center-right junior coalition partners and the main conservative and far-right parties.  It was opposed by the populists, the far-left and others.  The law is intended to prevent a victory for the anti-establishment populists, who insist upon ruling alone, which would be difficult without a governing majority.  The ruling party and the populists are about even in the public opinion polls for a plurality, but the combined conservative and far-right bloc would likely obtain the lead.  Elections are expected in the spring.

Pennsylvania’s 2017 Fiscal Authorization Enactment


           Several months after the approval of Pennsylvania’s fiscal 2017 budget, Governor Tom Wolfe, a Democrat, signed the Commonwealth’s fiscal authorization bill approved by the Republican-led state legislature into law last week.  The state had been borrowing since the beginning of July in the absence of the authorization to spend money. 

The fiscal authorization act includes no tax increases to cover Pennsylvania’s budget shortfall, but includes more borrowing from expected revenue from various funds and yet another significant expansion of gambling.  Commercial fireworks are legalized and will be taxed. 

There have been significant budget cuts over the last several years, but there will be no privatization of the wholesale of wine and spirits, which would have netted the Commonwealth a major increase in revenue from the sale of licenses and more volume of taxation through less illegal bootlegging.  The budget approved at the end of June did not include savings from any significant pension reform.  The increased cost of pensions is a major burden on the Commonwealth’s budget.  Other spending cuts, such as additional welfare reform, or the elimination of corporate welfare and tax credits for various favored industries would also help Pennsylvania’s budget significantly.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

More Syrian Regime Chemical Weapons Attacks; Russia Defends Syria


           The Russian Federation vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution last week to investigate the latest accusation of the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction by the Baathist Syrian regime of Bashar Assad against the Syrian people in that country’s civil war.

In the meantime, a separate UN investigative body determined that both the Assad regime and the “Islamic State” used chemical weapons in Syria earlier this year.  The Syrian government has repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilian targets, in addition to bombing civilian areas indiscriminately with conventional weapons.  It has also deliberately targeted civilian targets, such as hospitals and aid convoys.

Russia’s Security Council latest veto is the ninth time it has blocked a measure to investigate the use of such weapons in Syria.  It attempts to cast doubt on the allegations as an excuse to oppose taking any meaningful action to stop the chemical attacks.  Russia supports terrorist sponsor Assad because Syria hosts a Russian military base on the Mediterranean Sea and in order to oppose the interests of the United States.  

Syria’s five-year old civil war has claimed at least a half million lives and produced millions of refugees, which has caused the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.  Both non-Islamist Muslim rebels, such as Syrian Arabs and Kurds, who are opposed to the tyranny of the Assad regime and Islamists like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, who are attempting to take advantage of the chaos are fighting the Syrian government.  The non-Islamists are backed by an international coalition led by the U.S., while the Assad regime is supported by Russian and Iranian forces, as well as by the Iranian-sponsored Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization, Hezbollah.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Foreign Digest: Netherlands, Japan, Syria, Spain and Italy


Netherlands: conservatives formed a government
            After nearly seven months, the leading center-right Dutch parties were able to form a coalition government last week, thereby keeping the Netherlands under conservative rule.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization member is an ally of the United States.

Japan: center-right wins the parliamentary elections
           The ruling conservative party has won a majority of seats in the Japanese parliamentary elections this weekend.  Japan is an ally of the United States

Syria: Raqqa is liberated
           Raqqa, the de facto capital of the “Islamic State’s” self-declared caliphate, has been liberated by Syrian democratic and Kurdish forces, backed by the United States, in another major victory over the Islamist terrorist organization.  With the loss of Islamic State strongholds in Iraq and Syria, there remain only scattered pockets of territory under the Islamist terrorists’ control.  Some violent jihadi organizations around the Islamic world remain allied to the al-Qaeda offshoot and the organization continues to Muslims everywhere to engage in violent jihad. 

Spain: no independence for Catalonia
           Catalonia’s government did not announce independence after the referendum earlier this month I had posted about, after pressure from the Spanish government and the European Union, opposition from Catalans and economic uncertainty.  Spain revoked Catalonia’s autonomy late last week, thereby terminating the mandate of the separatist Catalan government.  The northeastern province will have an appointed Catalan government, followed by elections for a new government within six months.  The European Union announced that neither the EU nor any member state would recognize Catalonia’s independence.  Prosperous Catalonia has been losing many businesses during the independence effort.

Italy: autonomy referendums in Lombardy and Veneto 
           Referendums for autonomy were conducted today in Italy’s two wealthiest Regions: Lombardy and Veneto.  Voter turnout reached the required quorum in both Regions, with Yes overwhelmingly winning the non-binding votes.  The turnout was much higher in Veneto, where there has long been strong support for greater autonomy or even independence for the former Venetian Republic, which has maintained its cultural heritage.  Negotiations will take place between the two Regions and the State on transferring certain powers to the Region, while the State will retain certain powers to maintain national unity.  Five of Italy’s Regions, particularly those with especially distinctive ethnic identities, are already autonomous to various degrees.  Venetians speak a distinct Romance language, while Lombard is a Northern Italian dialect; both tongues are in the Gallo-Italian subfamily.  In recent years, there has been a movement, especially on the right, toward greater federalism and less centralized power.  Part of the support for the referenda in Lombardy and Veneto was in opposition to regional tax dollars being sent to poorer, less-developed Southern Italy.  The populists also supported the referenda to devolve more central powers to the Regions.  The ruling center-left party opposes more autonomy.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Celebrate Columbus Day as the Holiday for Multiculturalism


           Today is the federal and state holiday of Columbus Day, which is observed by the United States of America and the fifty American States on the Monday closest to the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World on October 12, 1492.  Although I would prefer the day be observed only on the anniversary, it is nonetheless appropriate to celebrate this day, a holiday that was intended not only to acknowledge the event that led to the many blessings enjoyed by several hundred million Americans, but the cultural and religious diversity of the U.S.A. in particular. 

            In past years for Columbus Day, I have made several observations in my blog posts.  I have explained how Columbus’ discovery, which was the result of his great observational and navigational skills, truly met the definition of discovery, with no slight whatsoever to the First Americans, as his accomplishment effectively removed the cover that was the Ocean Sea that had been dividing the two Hemispheres of the Earth, thus permanently bridging the two worlds.  Although the Genovese discover who was working for Spain did not ever see the territory that now comprises the U.S., Columbus’ achievement eventually led to its founding, as he had begun founding European colonies in the Western Hemisphere.  Note: the holiday honors Columbus’ discovery, not his whole life. 

I have observed in previous posts how Columbus brought Christianity and Western European Civilization with him, with its cultural contributions, such as modern science and the concepts of equality and liberty that developed more fully, including into representative government, the rule of law and the separation of powers—ideas that led to the recognition of slavery as immoral and to its eventual abolition.  I noted, for example, how Columbus liberated the Native Americans of the Caribbean Sea from the viciously cannibalistic Carib tribe.  Later Christian European colonists would end other abominable practices, such as human sacrifice committed on a massive scale.  I have also noted the exchange of goods and people between the Old and New Worlds that continues today. 

I have also acknowledged in posts about Columbus Day the bad consequences of the meeting of the peoples of the two Hemispheres, whether intentional or not, such as the exposure to diseases for which the other population had no immunity, as well as the mistreatment by some of the Europeans after Columbus of the Native Americans and the suppression of Native cultures.  The attacks by some Natives on the colonists are noteworthy, but because of the technological advantage of the Europeans, these were dwarfed by the atrocities, oppression and enslavement committed by the Europeans.  Columbus himself had discouraged the mistreatment of Native Americans and it ought to be considered how there have been good relations between many Natives and Europeans over the centuries.

Columbus and the holiday that honors his discovery have been for decades the main target of the recent wave of iconoclasm because of his introduction of Christianity and Western European Civilization to the New World, against which some on the Far Left and others are unappreciative or even hostile.  The opposition to Columbus has been based on ignorance, the judgment of historic figures by more developed modern standards, the unfairness of focusing only on the bad while ignoring the good, and certain biases. 

The celebration of Columbus Day as a state and federal holiday was first advocated for in the late Nineteenth Century by Catholics, particularly by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, as a way to counter anti-Catholic bigotry by the majority Protestant Christians through the acknowledgement of the essential contribution to America of a Catholic.  The point of the holiday, therefore, was to celebrate the diversity of America, as immigrants could maintain their faith and the positive aspects of their culture while accepting the American creed and thereby fully become Americans.  I note how this idea is in total opposition to the current idea of “white” European Nationalism.  Columbus Day, therefore, was intended as a celebration of the Western concept of multiculturalism.  Indeed, its original celebrations and those of the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of the New World in 1992 were culturally inclusive, which is the manner in which its celebration ought to continue.  Although other days should focus on Native Americans more particularly, they ought not to be excluded from the celebrations of Columbus Day.

Columbus Day is, nonetheless, a holiday of affirmation particularly not only for Catholic Americans, but also for Italian Americans.  The celebration of a Catholic Italian with an American holiday was opposed by some bigoted Protestant Northern Europeans, such as the Ku Klux Klan, who hates Catholics and non-Northern (“white”) Europeans, such as Italians.  Therefore, the opposition to the celebration of Columbus Day is contradictory if it is based on some mistaken notion of cultural diversity.  Indeed, the celebration of this holiday is the act of religious and cultural diversity its current opponents claim to support.  

Happy Columbus Day!  God bless America.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Representative Steven Scalise’s Return to Congress Is a Triumph for the Republic


           The return to work earlier this month of United States Representative Steven Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, the House Majority Whip, was a triumph of representative government over violence. 

Scalise had been shot, along with two others, in June at the baseball practice of the Republican Congressional team in Virginia by a leftist.  His return to the House was greeted in the chamber by much bipartisan applause.  The saving of Scalise’s and other members’ lives by his security detail, his treatment and recovery and his return to Congress thwarted the attempted assassination and the attempt to alter policy by force, instead of by liberty and representative government through public debate and free and fair elections, which is the American way.  

May God bless America and may God save the Republic.  

Foreign Digest: Spain, Iraq and Russia


Spain: Catalonian independence referendum
            A referendum on independence from Spain was held last week in the Spanish province of Catalonia.  The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of independence, but voter participation was well under 50%.  Spain does not recognize the referendum’s validity and insists that the actions by Catalonian authorities to advance independence have been illegal.  Alas, Spanish authorities acted in a heavy-handed manner in attempting to thwart the vote.

            Catalan-speaking Catalonia is the most prosperous province of Spain.  Catalan is a Romance language between Spanish and French.  Spain is a diverse country with both non-Romance speakers (the Basques) and other Romance-languages, such as Aragonese and Galician.  It has maintained its unity since the marriage of Isabel of Castile and Leon and Ferdinand of Aragon in the Fifteenth Century.
           
            Hundreds of thousands of Catalonians rallied today in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, for unity with Spain, while there were rallies in support of Spanish unity in other European cities.  The European Union is concerned about the possible breakup of Spain.  The Russian Federation has engaged in active measures in support of splitting up Spain, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to weaken the West.  Spain is an ally of the United States in the War on Terrorism.

Iraqis defeat the Islamic State
            The “Islamic State” violent jihadis were ousted last week from their last stronghold in Iraq by Iraqi government forces.  The terrorist organization, which is an offshoot of al-Qaeda, holds only some dwindling swaths of territory in Syria while a few scattered former al-Qaeda organizations throughout the Islamic world remain loyal to the its self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.  Like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State remains a threat where they are based and inspires Islamist militancy and terrorism around the globe.

Russian democratic opposition protests
            More protests by the democratic opposition have been occurring across Russia against the corrupt, authoritarian regime.  These protests were timed for the birthday of Russian Federation tyrant Vladimir Putin.  Each time, there are arrests of demonstrators, including of the opposition leader, as the dictatorship does not tolerate dissent, including the freedom to assemble peacefully.  

           The United States Congress over two months ago approved increased economic sanctions on the Russian Federation for human rights violations, which were also widely perceived as punishment for Russian interference in the American presidential election.  Donald Trump, who signed the sanctions into law, despite his opposition to the sanctions and the diminishment of presidential authority to lift them, has missed the first 60-day deadline in the process of their imposition.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Foreign Digest: Syria, Russia, Libya, New Zealand and Germany


Syrian non-Islamist U.S.-backed rebels bombed by Russia
            Russian Federation forces again recently bombed the non-Islamist Syrian rebels backed by the United States, despite the Russian claim to be supporting the Syrian regime against Islamist terrorists.  The rebels, who are not terrorists, are fighting against the tyrannical Baathist regime of Bashar Assad.  Assad is a state sponsor of terrorism and an ally of Iran.  The Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and produced millions of refugees, the most in world history since the Second World War.  The Russian goal is to maintain its military base and influence in Syria and to counter American influence.

Russian opposition protests
            The Russia democratic opposition leader has recently conducted rallies in several cities across Russia, attracting thousands who have rallied against the corrupt and authoritarian regime of the Russian Federation.  Opposition is not tolerated by the dictatorship, which violates basic freedoms, such as freedom of assembly.  Demonstrators are often arrested, fined and imprisoned for expressing support for liberty and representative government.  A small group of demonstrators in Moscow were arrested this weekend, for example.

Italian intervention in Libya
            Italy has intervened this month in Libya because of the migrant crisis by supporting the Libyan coast guard against human smugglers and by protecting the southern Libyan border.  Libya has been in civil war between its government and Islamists, including al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State.”  It has also been a point of embarkation for migrants and refugees from Libya, Syria and even sub-Saharan Africa across the Sicilian Channel to Italy.  Italian forces have saved many lives in the Mediterranean, but the voyage in sometimes less-than-seaworthy vessels, which are often abandoned by the smugglers, is frequently deadly.  The European Union has been in support of the Italian rescue mission in the MediterraneanSpain and Greece have also been entry points for refugees.  Italy is the former colonial power in Libya, where the descendants of Italian colonists continue to live.

New Zealand parliamentary elections
            The ruling conservative party won the most seats in New Zealand’s parliamentary elections last week, but the party of the Prime Minister will have to form a coalition with a smaller populist anti-immigrant party in order to obtain a majority of seats to allow the Premier to form another government, as he is expected to be able to do.  New Zealand is an ally of the United States.

Germany parliamentary elections
            The ruling center-right party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is bidding for a fourth term, won the most seats in the German parliamentary elections today, but with fewer seats than currently, thus necessitating a coalition government.  However, this coalition will likely be different from the current one.  Like the ruling center-right party, the main opposition party, which is center-left, also lost parliamentary seats, as populist parties gained significantly.  A far-right party, for example, won seats in the German Parliament for the first time, although fewer than originally projected.  It will be difficult for the ruling party to form a coalition, as the center-left has ruled out a grand center-right/left coalition. 

            One reason populist parties were blunted somewhat was because the major parties had made a pact not to use any leaked information for political gain, out of concern about Russian interference, as in the American and French presidential elections.  Germany is a strong ally of the United States.

           Ruling center-right parties have won the most seats in the elections in all three major states this month: Norway, New Zealand and Germany.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pete Domenici, In Memoriam


           Former United States Senator Pietro “Pete” Vichi Domenici, a Republican of New Mexico, died this week in Albuquerque at the age of 85.  He was a fiscal conservative whose work helped lead to the first balanced federal budget in three decades.

            Born in Albuquerque in 1932 to Italian immigrants, one of whom was undocumented, Domenici earned a degree in education from the University of New Mexico and, after serving as a public school teacher, a law degree from the University of Denver

            Domenici’s political career began with his election to the Albuquerque City Commission in 1966.  He was elected its chairman two years later, which made him Mayor, a position in which he served for over two and a half years.  Nominated by the Republican Party for governor in 1970, Domenici lost the gubernatorial election. 

Domenici was elected U.S. Senator in 1972, becoming the first Republican to represent New Mexico in the upper chamber in 38 years, to the first of six terms.  His tenure of 1973-2009 as Senator was the longest in New Mexico history.  As Chairman of the Budget Committee, Domenici led the passage of domestic spending reductions and the rebuilding of defense and intelligence under President Ronald Reagan and was later partly responsible for the balanced budgets of the late 1990s.  He continued to advocate for fiscal responsibility even after leaving office.  Another of Domenici’s legislative legacies was the requirement of parity between physical and mental health insurance.

            As one of the few Americans of Italian descent with an Italian surname serving in the Senate at the time, Domenici’s stature provided affirmation for Italian-Americans struggling against negative stereotypes.  

           May Pete Domenici’s legacy of fiscal responsibility be an example that can inspire others to achieve balanced federal budgets in order to improve the fiscal health of the United States and increase economic liberty.

Foreign Digest: Chemical Weapons Attack by Syria, More International Sanctions on North Korea, Norwegian Parliamentary Elections


Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack
            The United Nations issued a report earlier this month in which it found that the Baathist regime of Bashar Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons of mass destruction attack, specifically of sarin gas, earlier this year.  Also earlier this month, Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian chemical weapons facility.

Additional United Nation Sanctions on North Korea
            The United Nations Security Council last week imposed a new round of economic sanctions on North Korea, including an embargo on oil, to punish the Communist dictatorship for its continued advancement of its nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.  The North Koreans recently claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb and successfully launched a missile 1,500 miles into the Pacific Ocean, suggesting that the American territories of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam could be within reach, in addition to South Korea and Japan.

Conservatives Win the Norwegian Parliamentary Elections 
           The ruling center-right party won the parliamentary elections in Norway last week, obtaining another four-year mandate for the Prime Minister.  Norway, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has also been a strong ally of the United States in the War on Terrorism.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thoughts on the Sixteenth Anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks


           Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda Islamist terrorists.  As always on this date especially, we remember the dead, honor the heroes and express our gratitude for all those responsible for having preventing another attack on such a scale.

            The policies initiated by President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress after the attacks have been effective in preventing another September 11-scale attack, especially the removal of the Taliban regime, who had been providing safe harbor for al-Qaeda, from power in Afghanistan, which is from where al-Qaeda planned the attacks.  As I explained in my post last month about the War in Afghanistan, it is necessary to continue that battle of the Global War on Terrorism to prevent the return to power of the Taliban. 

            The Bush era counter-terrorism policies, which, in addition to military and covert intelligence activity, included improved intelligence sharing both domestically and internationally, increased tracking of terror financing and prevention of money-laundering, and the application of additional criminal legal procedures for law enforcement.  Although he weakened or had attempted to weaken the application of some of these policies, for the most part, Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, continued them, meaning that they have been continued across the administrations of both major political parties.  Obama’s successor, in turn, has also continued them.  The Bush administration also enhanced preparedness for responses to various potential types of terrorist attacks on the American homeland.  These preparations have been maintained. 

It is necessary that these counter-terrorism policies, including the War on Terrorism, be continued for the foreseeable future and that governments around the world continue not to give in to the demands of terrorists, lest terrorism be rewarded and encouraged.  It is also necessary to continue to condemn terrorism and Islamism and to pray for the thwarting of the plans of the terrorists and militants, for conversions, and for peace and tolerance between the Islamic world and the rest.  Through all these efforts, we can hope never to experience another day like the one sixteen years ago today, or even smaller-scale terrorist and militant attacks on the U.S. homeland or against Americans abroad.  

May God bless the United States of America and keep safe all American military, intelligence, law enforcement and first response personnel and may there never be another attack like September 11 again anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Correcting Common Current Misconceptions and Errors Re: Coal, Hispanics, Confederate Monuments and Seasons


           There have been many factual errors circulating widely of late, which are often made or repeated by otherwise knowledgeable political leaders and opinion-makers.  This post is devoted to correcting some of the most significant.

            Many politicians and political commentators have predicted the demise of the coal industry because of the decline in the use of coal as a source of energy.  Although coal may be replaced for the production of energy, after having been mostly replaced already as a source for heating or cooking, there is still one major use for coal: bituminous coal is combined with iron to produce steel.  Therefore, there will continue to be a need for bituminous coal, at least for metallurgical purposes.  However, it is noteworthy that the less common anthracite coal burns efficiently and cleanly.

            Contrary to how they are often referred to, Hispanics are not members of a separate race, but may be of any race.  Hispanics are an ethnic group who are Latin Americans who speak Spanish.  Brazilians, who speak Portuguese, and Haitians, who speak French, are not Hispanics.  The Native Americans from Latin America who speak Spanish, the Caucasians who descend from the Europeans (usually Spanish) colonists there, the blacks descended from the African slaves, and the various combinations thereof are all Hispanics.  In addition to other diverse European peoples, there are even major communities of other races in some Latin American states, such as Semitic (both Jewish and Arab) and East Asian peoples, as immigration into Latin America has come from around the world and made some states especially cosmopolitan.  Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio), of Argentina, is an example of a “white” (Italian) Hispanic.  Recent Latin American national leaders have been of Japanese, Lebanese, Italian and Polish descent.  Therefore, there is no typical “look” of Hispanics.  Because “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race, prejudice against them is ethnic, not racial.  Hispanics are subdivided by nationality, such as Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, etc.

            Another misconception about Hispanics is that they are necessarily immigrants to the United States, but Hispanics have inhabited parts of America since before those parts were U.S. territory.  Therefore, Spanish has been the native language there since before English was introduced.  Just as Hispanics should not be said to “sound” foreign by speaking their native language, as Americans, they also cannot “look” foreign.  A related note is that Puerto Ricans who inhabit the States of the American Union or the District of Columbia are not immigrants, either, as Puerto Rico is an unincorporated American territory whose residents are U.S. citizens.

            One of the erroneous arguments frequently made in support of the current wave of iconoclasm directed especially against Confederate monuments is that there are no other statues in U.S. territory honoring those who took up arms against and killed Americans or those who lost wars.  However, there are a number of statues of Native American leaders, such as the large statue being sculpted of Lakota Chief Crazy Horse, who took up arms against and killed Americans and who lost wars.  It is not unprecedented in world history for a victor to honor the valor and military leadership of a vanquished foe or to permit a defeated people to honor their own heroes.  I intend to address other false, misleading, unfair and inconsistent arguments about the relevant historical events and the meaning of symbols in another post, as the subject is far more complex than it is often being portrayed.  

           The federal U.S. holiday of Labor Day, which is observed on the first Monday in September, is traditionally or “unofficially” regarded by Americans as the end of summer, as Memorial Day is similarly thought of as the start of the warmest season, but these holidays are neither the end of astronomical or even meteorological summer.  The widespread use of the traditional, unofficial seasonal beginnings, instead of the astronomical or meteorological ones, encourages start times for academic years that are too early and thus require additional energy costs and cut short the summer tourist season, or diminish the observation of Memorial Day as a day of mourning for American veterans who died in war by treating it as a day to celebrate the beginning of summer.  The spring equinox, which marks the end of spring and the beginning of summer, occurs around March 20.  Summer ends and fall begins with the autumnal equinox (when the hours of sunlight and darkness are equal), which occurs around September 22.  Instead of being made to feel depressed over the supposed early “end” of summer, enjoy the last three weeks of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Thoughts on the Length and Status of the War in Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism


           With the announcement expected this evening from the United States Commander in Chief that he is sending additional troops to Afghanistan to help the Afghan government defeat the Taliban to prevent it from becoming a safe harbor again for al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists, it is an appropriate time to consider the length of the war.

Earlier this year, it was widely reported that the Afghan War became the longest war in United States history.  The war, which began in 2001, has lasted nearly sixteen years, longer than the Vietnamese War (1959-1975), which held the previous record.  This report proves my point in 2010 that the war in Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism, of which it is a battle, was not the longest American war, as had been widely claimed at the time.  See my post from June of that year, Afghanistan is Not the Longest Ever U.S. War, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2010/06/afghanistan-is-not-longest-ever-us-war.html

There are differences in the definitions of major and minor wars and whether to count separate campaigns or incidents in a series of conflicts as one war or separate ones.  The “Indian Wars” lasted from American independence until 1890.  The Cold War between the U.S. and International Communists led by the Soviet Union lasted for four and a half decades, from the post-Second World War period until 1991, with the Korean and Vietnamese Wars as major campaigns within the war, in addition to many minor wars and other incidents. 

The Liberation of Iraq, which began in 2003 and has continued intermittently, has been subsumed by the War on Terrorism as a battle in the latter war both because it was intended to remove a terrorist-sponsoring regime from power and because Islamist terrorists fought against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.  However, the Liberation of Iraq could be viewed as the second campaign of a longer war, as Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein never regarded the 1991 Liberation of Kuwait to have ended, which resulted in frequent Iraqi cease-fire violations and other clashes between the Baathist regime and the coalition led by the Americans over the twelve-year period between the two campaigns.  Both the Iraqi wars and the War on Terrorism are themselves part of a long war between militant Islam and the rest of the world, including the United States.  The U.S. has fought militant Muslims, who have been motivated at least in part by Islamic holy war, since the Barbary Wars of the early Nineteenth Century to the early 1980s, with the rise of terrorism and other militant attacks directed against Americans because of the Iranian Revolution, as well as clashes with Libya, Syria and other Islamist militants. 

After the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks on the United States, Afghanistan became on October 7 the first foreign battlefield of the War on Terrorism.  The Taliban de facto regime that had harbored the al-Qaeda Islamist terrorists responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack in history was toppled by 2002.  After some subsequent mopping up of the retreating Taliban and al-Qaeda, the Afghan War has transitioned from a major war to a minor one, from the American perspective, with occasional significant flare-ups.  The war has continued to be a major one for Afghans, as the Taliban, with the help of Iran, Russia and Islamists, has put up stubborn resistance.  After President Barack Obama declared an end to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, American military personnel, and those of its international coalition allies, have continued to advise, train and assist the Afghan government against the resurgent Taliban, as well as al-Qaeda and its offshoot, the “Islamic State.” 

The Afghans have fought the Taliban and the Islamists valiantly, but the war cannot be won without the additional American combat troops being sent to Afghanistan in order to prevent any other terrorist attacks, especially as deadly as September 11.  Although the Afghan war may eventually end in a victory of Islamist terrorists and their allies, the War on Terrorism will likely continue, not only in Iraq and Syria against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, where the enemy has been in steady retreat, but as at least an intermittent minor war around the Islamic world, especially with frequent drone or missile strikes and occasional covert or overt commando raids

Update: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's 2017 Finance Bill Has Still Not Been Approved


The Commonwealth’s $32 billion 2017 budget was allowed to become law by the liberal Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, without his signature, after the Republican-led legislature approved it in late June. 

As I posted at the time, no finance bill was passed for the fiscal year.  See Pennsylvania’s 2017 Budget is Approved, from July of this year, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2017/07/pennsylvanias-2017-budget-is-approved.html.  There is still no bill approved to fund the Commonwealth’s fiscal blueprint.  The legislators and Governor remain divided over taxes, particularly on natural gas extraction, an industry which has provided an economic boost for Pennsylvania.  The Governor wants to impose an extra tax on the industry, on top of the usual business taxes, which are relatively high for a state, as well as an “impact fee.”  Borrowing, gambling and privatizing wine and spirits are other options for additional revenue to avoid a nearly two-billion dollar shortfall.  

The Administration has continued to borrow funds to stave off any shut-down of state government, but, as the two-month mark of the current fiscal year approaches, the Commonwealth’s ability to continue to borrow funds is at risk, as is its credit rating.  The Governor and General Assembly must agree to fund the 2017 budget, without increasing taxes that can jeopardize Pennsylvanias economy.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pakistan Held a State Funeral for a German Nun


           Pakistan held a state funeral this weekend for Ruth Pfau, a German Catholic nun who was known as the “Mother Theresa of Pakistan” for her efforts to rid the Muslim state of leprosy, the first Christian to receive such an honor.  She died in Karachi, Pakistan on August 10 at the age of 87.

Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1929.  After the Second World War, she and her family escaped Communist East Germany to West Germany.  After discontinuing her medical studies at Gutenberg University, she joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary in 1949.  The order intended to send her to India, but visa problems forced to remain in Karachi, where she then devoted the last fifty years of her life.  There she labored to evangelize, as well as to eradicate leprosy and tuberculosis.  Pfau was honored with a number of awards for her work.

Theresa of Calcutta, who was canonized a Catholic saint last year, was an ethnic Albanian Catholic nun from Macedonia who founded a religious order that ministered to the poor and the dying in India.  The Hindu state gave her a state funeral after her death in 1997.  Theresa was a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

May Sister Ruth Pfau rest in peace.  May her legacy be one not only of health, love and peace, but of better relations between adherents of different religions.

Foreign Digests: Updates on Venezuela, South Africa and Hong Kong


Venezuela
            The democratically-elected Venezuelan Congress, which had been led by a large majority of members of the democratic opposition, was supplanted last week by a new legislature packed with both elected and appointed members of the authoritarian Socialist regime, after the rigged election earlier this month that was boycotted by the opposition.  The legislature will draft a new constitution to turn Venezuela into a full dictatorship.  In the meantime, the Venezuelan Attorney General, who had been critical of the regime, was forced to go into exile by the Socialists.  The international community, the Church and human rights organizations must continue to support the democratic opposition in Venezuela to force a return to representative government and liberty.

South Africa
            The leftwing President of South Africa narrowly survived a no-confidence vote last week in the national parliament.  He faced the vote because of allegations of corruption, but enough of his party, which enjoys a large majority in the national legislature, supported him to keep him in office.

Hong Kong
          Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were sentenced to prison for their peaceful protests in favor of democratic self-rule for the special administrative Chinese territory.  Communist China had promised self-rule, representative government and the free market in the territory when it reverted from British rule in 1997, but Peking has become increasingly intolerant of these principles.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Update: Increased Sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea


           The United States Congress nearly unanimously approved increased targeted economic sanctions for human rights violations on Iran, Russia and North Korea and limited the President’s discretion to lift sanctions on the Russian Federation and its leaders.  The President, whose opposition to the measure caused it to be delayed for weeks by the House of Representatives, signed it last week to avoid the humiliation of a veto override.

            The sanctions on the authoritarian Russian regime, which is led by an ex-Soviet spy, punish it for human rights violations and its aggression in Ukraine, but were widely perceived as punishment for the multi-pronged Russian interference in the American presidential elections to the benefit of the winning candidate, Donald Trump.  In addition to overt propaganda from Russian state-owned media, there was covert propaganda and disinformation, and even hacking and leaking.  Trump has denied the interference or Russian culpability and totally dismissed its effectiveness.  The Republican-led Congress, based on the unanimous conclusions of the American intelligence agencies and ongoing congressional investigations into Russian interference in the election, rejected his dismissals and sought the sanctions as a way to deter Russia from future interference, as well as to demonstrate their independence from a president from the same political party as the majority.  Trump and his campaign are under federal criminal investigation for conspiring with the Russians in the election, as well as for his business relationship, including possible criminal activities, with Russia, which may have compromised him and thus made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. 

Russia had already retaliated for the sanctions bill before it was signed by expelling several hundred American diplomats, which is most of the U.S. diplomatic corps in the Russian Federation.  The lack of sufficient diplomatic staff will make it difficult to represent the interests of Americans in Russia, as well as for Russians to obtain visas.  The U.S. had expelled nearly three dozen Russian diplomats and closed two Russian spy compounds in early December, after the general election for Electors, but before the Electoral College elected Trump.   

In addition to the U.S. sanctions on North Korea, the United Nations Security Council approved another round of targeted economic sanctions against nuclear-armed North Korea because of the Communist “Hermit Kingdom’s” test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching much of the American homeland.  The North Koreans have continued to develop their nuclear weapons program to bully the U.S., South Korea and the international community into acquiescing to its political demands and as a way for the cash-starved regime to earn money through weapons proliferation to other rogue regimes, like Iran.  Continued deterrence, interdiction and sanctions are necessary to contain the Communist North Korean regime.