Monday, February 19, 2018

A Majority of Americans View George W. Bush Favorably, in Contrast to Donald Trump

           A public opinion poll earlier this month suggested a majority of American, including even Democrats, now have a favorable opinion of former United States President George W. Bush. 

As I had observed in posts during the Obama Administration, Bush’s rating has been rising, as people gain perspective and partisanship recedes and they reflect on his accomplishments with more gratitude, such as keeping Americans safe from another major terrorist attack like those on September 11 and view him in contrast to his immediate successor.  Such a contrast is especially noticeable now between the conservative Republican Bush and Donald Trump, a non-conservative Republican who is viewed unfavorably by Americans, according to every major public opinion poll.

            It is worth remembering that  Bush was criticized by liberals and Democrats for making the promotion of freedom a cornerstone of US foreign policy, whereas Trump ignores, excuses and even praises authoritarianism.  For example, Trump praised the Filipino President’s policy of urging Filipinos to murder suspected drug dealers and praised the Turkish Islamist authoritarian President for the passage of a constitutional referendum, under less than completely free and fair circumstances, to increase his powers significantly to the point of making him an autocrat.  Trump pointedly refuses to criticize Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin.  Because of Trump’s praise of despots and his own authoritarian proclivities, Bush’s promotion of freedom is something that all but the most hard-line Stalinists on the left can appreciate better, even if they disagreed with the specifics of its implementation.  

           The promotion of freedom, the natural state of man, or at least the avoidance of words or actions that advance authoritarianism, is a defense of self-determination, including American independence, even if the promotion only takes the form of moral declarations.  Furthermore, an increase in freedom causes an increase in global peace and prosperity.     

The Focus on Blackmail Re: Security Checks Reminds Why Linda Tripp Blew the Whistle on Bill Clinton

           There has recently been focus on security background checks for character flaws and especially for vulnerability for blackmail for high-level federal appointees because of breaches of security in the Trump Administration because of the lack of security clearances issued to staff because of problems discovered in the applicants’ backgrounds. 

            Most liberals and Democrats argued in 1998, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment and trial of Bill Clinton that character did not matter, only policy and popularity.  The Trump Administration security scandals have led liberals to acknowledge the necessity of the security checks, in particular because of the concern about blackmail, even if not to acknowledge that character matters for officeholders, whether appointed or elected, as the background checks are also intended to safeguard against corruption, malfeasance and, particularly for those who would receive access to classified secret intelligence, disloyalty to the United States.         
            The reason former White House staffer Linda Tripp stated that she was a whistleblower against Bill Clinton and reported his adulterous affair with White House intern, Lewinsky, to the authorities was because the President had made himself vulnerable to blackmail by his misdeeds.  The mistress had told Tripp that Clinton had mentioned to her in a telephonic conversation that a foreign government had been listening into his telephonic conversations.  Clinton was not impeached for his adultery with his subordinate, which was a federal crime in the District of Columbia, and an abuse of office, but for perjury and obstruction of justice in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit in which he was the defendant, but he could have been removed from office for such reckless behavior that made him vulnerable to blackmail by a foreign government or any enemy.  

           Protecting whistleblowers is essential for security and good government.  They must be defended, whether one likes those whom the whistleblower is exposing or not.

Restore “Presidents’ Day” to Washington’s Birthday to Honor Him, Not the Presidency and Not Scoundrels

           As I have nearly every year, I again urge the restoration of Washington’s Birthday as a federal and state holiday, in both its name and scheduling. 

“Presidents’ Day” is the popular name and the typical name of state holidays for this federal holiday that is legally known as “Washington’s Birthday.”  The use of “Presidents’ Day” diminishes the emphasis on George Washington alone and only on his presidency, instead of his whole life as a military leader and Founding Father.  As a result, the focus on the holiday is on all of the other, less great, United States Presidents, including several scoundrels.  Today, as usual, for example, there are numerous media articles about the presidents other than Washington.  Because the holiday, under federal law, is never scheduled on his birthday, it further distracts from emphasis on Washington

Restoring the name of the holiday legally by the States and in popular use and rescheduling the holiday, at least to the Monday closest to Washington’s birthday, which would allow for it occasionally to be celebrated on his birthday, would allow for him to honored as intended and for contributions to be more greatly appreciated and for his example to be more inspiring. 

            This year, the foolishness of honoring all of the “Presidents” with their own holiday is even more apparent, both because it emphasizes the presidency over the other Branches of government and because of the unworthiness of honoring some of the Presidents, including the current holder of the office. 

The point I made in last year’s post about honoring the “Presidents” with a federal and state holiday and not the two other co-equal Branches of government, the legislative and the judicial, is even more fitting now, as the constitutional its checks and balances, based on the principle of the Separation of Powers, are increasingly necessary to restrain Donald Trump’s authoritarian impulses, imperiousness and kleptocratic practices. 

There degree of serious questions about the legitimacy of the election and the patriotism about a president, as with Trump, are unprecedented.  Honoring William Jefferson Clinton, who had protested the U.S. on foreign soil during the Cold War, as part of a Communist anti-American propaganda campaign, was appalling enough, even thought his actions preceded his presidency, let alone that he was impeached and ought not to have been acquitted.  But honoring Trump, who was reliant upon the assistance of the Russian Federation, a hostile foreign authoritarian state, for his election to the presidency and, in office, has remained loyal to his Russian benefactors instead of defending America proves abundantly the inappropriateness of honoring all the “Presidents” with a federal and state holiday.  Alas, even the regrettably necessary discussion of Clinton and Trump is detracting from focus on the greatness of Washington, although, in a way, it makes his greatness appear even more outstanding.  

The service and contributions of all of the Presidents, including before and after their presidencies, ought to be remembered and appreciated.  The great members of Congress and the Supreme Court deserve similar recognition, as do those institutions themselves.  But there is one person who, more than being a great president, was the indispensable man of the American Revolution and whose memory is more unifying than divisive.  George Washington the Great deserves to be honored above all other Americans with a federal and state holiday commemorating his birthday.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Foreign Digest Updates: South Africa and Russia

South Africa
            After the ruling leftwing party finally turned on South African President Jacob Zuma for corruption, he lost a vote of confidence in the Parliament and his presidency was thereby terminated.  He was replaced by a member of the ruling party. 

            Zuma’s removal from office follows the military coup by the leftwing ruling party of neighboring Zimbabwe against that country’s longtime dictator.

            The Russian Federation is blocking the website of main democratic opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after he published a video expose of bribery by a Russian oligarch, who has a business relationship with United States presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager, of the Deputy Prime Minister and discussions about relations with the Americans.  The Russian authoritarian regime interfered on Trump’s behalf in the elections.  The oligarch, who was offered special briefings by the campaign manager, was one possible liaison with the Russian government.  As I explained in my last post, Navalny, who has been arrested several times for exercising his freedom of peaceful assembly, was barred by the Russian dictatorship from standing in the upcoming presidential election, despite obtaining the requisite number of signatures.  Censorship of independent media is typical in Russia, among other violations of liberty, which no longer has any independent press.  

           Meanwhile, the United States, the United Kingdom and other states today blamed the Russian authoritarian regime for a cyber attack last year targeted at Ukraine that hit businesses around the world, causing them several hundred million dollars in damages.  The announcement follows testimony by the leaders of US intelligence agencies that the Russians interfered in the American presidential election, as the Russians do in Europe, and that the Russians regard their active measures as successful.  The intelligence leaders also announced that the US remains under Russian attack and that Russia is focused on interfering in the 2018 mid-term elections.  The leaders, who were appointed by Trump, also observed a lack of leadership from him on countering the Russian threat.  American officials have referred to cyber attacks as acts of war.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Democratic Opposition Boycotts Elections in Venezuela and Russia

           Elections in Venezuela and Russia are being boycotted by the democratic opposition of each country, as the elections in both states are not free and fair.

            The Socialist dictatorship of Venezuela has invited international observers to monitor upcoming elections for its newly-created national legislature, but the invitation is a propaganda ploy to make the regime seem legitimate, as the opposition is boycotting the vote.  The dictatorship had created the new legislature, which supplanted the Congress, using a special constitutional provision, after the democratic opposition had won a congressional supermajority, despite the violations of liberty by the authoritarian regime.  The new legislature is partly appointed and has seats reserved for regime-backed constituencies.  Elections in Venezuela are not free and fair because of the lack of freedom overall and because regime opponents are persecuted or prohibited from taking their seats.
            In Russia, seven candidates for President of the Russian Federation have been permitted to stand for election in March against tyrant Vladimir Putin, but the candidacy of the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, is prohibited, even though he had obtained the requisite signatures.  The democratic opposition to the authoritarian regime is boycotting the election.  Only regime-approved candidates or token opponents are ever permitted run for president.  Elections are also not free and fair in Russia because election campaigns do not take place in freedom, as the freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly and the press are curtailed. 

            The Venezuelan and Russian regimes were originally elected democratically, but became increasingly authoritarian.  The Venezuelan and Russian people are no longer free.  Authoritarian regimes in general, but especially those originally elected democratically, use elections as a pretense to make their regimes seem legitimate.  Because despots are afraid of being held accountable and losing power through popular elections, however, authoritarian regimes rig elections by various means in order to guarantee the outcome of the regime retaining power.  The despot then uses the pretense of the popular will in order to quash dissent even further.  

           Therefore, free countries ought not legitimize authoritarian regimes by recognizing the outcomes of undemocratic elections and must instead insist on free and fair elections.  

Foreign Digest Updates: Germany and Syria

The ruling center-right Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, her conservative Bavarian allies and the center-left socialists reached agreement late last week on a cabinet in order to form a government for Germany.  The Christian Democrats, followed by the socialists, had won the most seats in the September parliamentary elections, but without obtaining a majority.  As no party could form a coalition to govern on their own, a grand center-left-right coalition was necessary, which kept the far-right and far-left from power.  Once the proposed government is presented to the President, he will give a mandate to Merkel to be Chancellor for fourth term.  She has governed Germany since 2005.  The center-right will retain the Defense Ministry in its portfolio, but the center-left will hold that of the Foreign Ministry.

As a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Germany is an ally of the United StatesGermany also provides non-combat support to the US-led War on Terrorism.  Germany is the wealthiest member of the European Union. 

            There have been several developments over the last few days in the Syrian civil war.  The Bashar Assad regime continues to use chemical weapons against the opposition, including in heavily-populated civilian areas.  Specifically, the Syrian government uses chlorine, which, despite its history as a chemical weapon, was not prohibited in the agreement brokered by the Russian Federation to remove Syria’s chemical weapons.  Russia backs Syria, which retained and used some of its other stock of chemical weapons of mass destruction. 

            After the Syrians and their allies attacked a base of American-backed non-Islamist rebels, the United States responded with an attack on Syrian positions.  A similar incident occurred last year at an American position, which led to a retaliatory strike by the US

            After a drone was launched by Iran, which is Syria’s main ally, toward Israel from Iranian positions in Syria, Israel launched attacks yesterday on multiple Iranian and Syrian positions.  Israel has responded with attacks on Syrian positions after rockets fired in the Syrian civil war have strayed into Israeli territory and the Israelis have hit Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization backed by Iran and Syria that is defending the Syrian regime, or Syrian chemical weapons facilities, but the Israeli attacks on Iranian positions signifies that the Jewish State regards the Islamic Republic’s presence and activities in Syria as a threat.  

           The Syrian civil war began as a popular uprising in 2011 against the tyrannical Baathist regime of Assad.  Both non-Islamists and Islamists participate in the rebellion, while the Syrian government also has both types on its side.  The war has claimed over half a million lives and displaced 13 million people, creating the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.  Iran and Russia back Syria militarily, while the US leads a coalition of mostly Arab and European countries against the Islamic States and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.  The American-led coalition backs non-Islamist Syrian Arabs and Kurds.  Turkey opposes Syria, but focuses mostly on fighting Marxist terrorist Kurds.  Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism and serves as a conduit for Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Foreign Digest: Zimbabwe, Czech Republic, Russia

            The new President, who replaced longtime dictator Robert Mugabe, announced elections will be held by July.  However, the ruling party has a history of intolerance of freedom of dissent and of rigging elections. 

Update: Czech Republic
            The pro-Russian President narrowly won reelection over a pro-Western challenger, with support from the Russian FederationRussia orchestrated a smear campaign against the challenger while financially supporting the campaign manager for the incumbent.  Russia has been interfering in foreign elections and referendums throughout Europe and even in the United States presidential election of 2016.

           Thousands of protestors took the streets in several cities across Russia this weekend, attempting to exercise the freedom of peaceful assembly, which is not tolerated by Vladimir Putin’s regime.  Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, including the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, whom the dictatorship prohibited from participating in the presidential elections scheduled for this spring.  Some of the arrests even took place in raids targeting the opposition before the protests began.  The protests were in opposition to corruption and the loss of liberty, including the banning of Navalny.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Foreign Digest: Liberia, United Kingdom, Syria, Pacific Free Trade Zone, Venezuela, Czech Republic

            The peaceful transition of power from one party to another was completed this week in Liberia, as power George Weah succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberian President.  Johnson had been Liberia’s first democratically-elected president twelve years ago.

United Kingdom
            Following the establishment of an anti-disinformation committee by the European Union last week, the United Kingdom, which is exiting the EU by 2019, this week established its own task force to combat disinformation and fake news.

Syria’s Bashar Assad regime has again used chemical weapons against civilians, another report concluded this week.  Iran and Russia back the tyrannical Syrian regime, which is a state sponsor of terrorism. 

Pacific Free Trade Zone
            The eleven major Pacific states reached a free trade deal yesterday.  In the absence of the United States, after the Trump Administration withdrew from negotiations for a trans-pacific, the negotiations were led by Communist China.     

            The Supreme Court of Venezuela today barred the democratic opposition from participation in national legislative elections in April.

Czech Republic
           Presidential elections are being held in the Czech Republic today.  The pro-Russian president is being challenged by a pro-Western opponent.  There is Russian influence in the presidential elections on behalf of the   incumbent.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Conservative Analysis of the First Year of the Presidential Administration of Donald Trump

           Yesterday was the first anniversary of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.  His performance has been mixed, with some significant accomplishments and mostly minor ones, together with several harmful, non-conservative policies, as well as misbehavior with words and deeds that far outweigh the benefits of his administration and cause major damage to America, the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

            Trump’s major accomplishments have been the appointment of conservative judges and tax reform, the only major legislation he has signed into law, but even it was modest in its scope and of mixed benefit and harm.  He has continued the War on Terrorism policies of his predecessors, which have contributed to the prevention of any September 11-scale attack, among other standard foreign policies.  Overall, Trump’s beneficial policies are the sort any other Republican president might have accomplished, without all of his harmful policies and actions.  Some of his actions have been uniquely negative, both for a GOP president or any American president. They include abuses of the office, some of which are transforming the presidency into something constitutionally unrecognizable or are policies that are causing possibly irreparable harm both in terms of US standing in the world and its role as the leader of the free world.  Scandal, profiting from the presidency, white nationalism, authoritarianism and hostile foreign influence have been the hallmarks of the Trump Administration.

On the positive side of Trump’s defense and foreign policy, in addition to continuing the War on Terrorism, Trump launched a missile strike on Syria’s Bashar Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons.  The Trump Administration has continued the defense of freedom of the seas in South China Sea and prohibited federal use of a certain Russian anti-virus software that was a portal for espionage.  Economic sanctions or travel restrictions have been imposed on the rogue regimes of Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia and North Korea and military aid cut off to Burma

            On the positive side of Trump’s domestic policies, in addition to the judicial appointments, are some minor pro-life regulations, deregulation, the extension of a program for private health care for veterans and the management reform of the Veterans Administration.  The tax reform legislation eliminated the individual mandate for health insurance of the federalization of health insurance known as “Obamacare,” cut business taxes and lowered many individual taxes by increasing the standard deduction in place of itemized deductions, thus simplifying the tax code, although some individuals’ taxes will be increased.  But it did not simplify the tax code in terms of reducing the number of brackets, nor did it achieve fairness in regard to the disparity between the lack of taxation of income in the form of employer-provided health insurance versus the purchase of health insurance with after-tax dollars for those whose employers do not provide health insurance.  The tax reform came at a price of a large increase in the federal debt.

On the negative side of the Trump Administration, in terms of defense and foreign policy, there has been a pattern of poor security, in terms of the lack of proper clearances for staff and even the hiring of a foreign agent as National Security Advisor, as well as the poor security at Trump’s Florida resort where he conducts official business, as well as intelligence leaks, including by Trump himself, including to the Russians.  Trump’s pro-Russian policies are evident in his withdrawal of support for non-Islamist Syrian rebels fighting Russia’s ally, his refusal to criticize or punish the Russian Federation for election interference and his failure to defend against further Russian election interference, his lack of criticism of other Russian transgressions around the world, his repetition of Russian propaganda and disinformation and his delay of congressional passage of the aforementioned additional sanctions on Russia, which he signed only in the face of near-unanimous support in Congress, and of their implementation.  Trump had attempted to lift other Russian sanctions.  His support of Russia’s authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin, the ex-Soviet intelligence officer, occurs in the context of Russian overt and covert support on behalf of Trump’s election, and is part of a pattern of anti-American rhetoric, such as making a false moral equivalence between the US and despotic regimes that commit atrocities, and support for foreign authoritarians generally, as well as un-American authoritarian rhetoric and domestic policies, such as his undermining of judicial independence, the rule of law and the freedom of the press.  Disturbing examples of Trump’s support for foreign authoritarians were his congratulation of the Turkish president for his victory in a constitutional referendum, not conducted in the context of freedom, which granted the “Sultan” even more authoritarian powers, and supposedly “pro-life” Trump’s praise of the Filipino President’s open policy of encouraging murder.  Between the pro-Russian and authoritarian rhetoric and policies, Trump has ceded American leadership of the free world by undermining the confidence of US allies, while dispiriting freedom-lovers around the world who look to America as a beacon of liberty.

On the negative side on trade, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, thereby missing the opportunity to lower tariffs (taxes), and thereby increase freedom, which ceded economic leadership in the region to Communist China.  He has also launched a trade war by increasing tariffs on imports from friendly foreign states.  These policies make foreign states less likely to engage in trade negotiations with the US, which they now regard as an unreliable partner. 

On the negative side on travel and immigration, the Trump Administration’s expansive travel bans, abuses of the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and even valid visa-holders, permanent residents and US citizens have led to a decrease in travel by foreigners to the US.  His mass deportations, which include non-criminals, are causing the breakup of families.  These policies are constitutionally suspect and are reflective of the influence of white nationalism on the Trump Administration, as they are directed particularly at non-Europeans.  Examples include Trump’s referral of white nationalists as “very fine people,” his praise of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s nationalist policies, his promotion of a violent British white nationalist organization, pardon of white nationalist supporter Joseph Arpaio for contempt of court and funding cuts to an anti-nationalist hate program.

On the lack of constitutional fealty, in addition to Trump’s undermining of the rule of law, with his criticism that violates the independence of the judiciary and of law enforcement, and of the freedom of the press, with his threats of litigation and other rhetoric and practices, he has violated the foreign and domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution because of his conflicts of interest, which he refused to reveal, as part of a pattern of a lack of transparency, which have allowed him to profit off the presidency and to receive patronage of his businesses foreign states in exchange for favorable policies.  These violations, which also are a practice of unfair competition with private enterprises, are violations also of the constitutional requirement to take care the laws be faithfully executed.  Trump’s businesses also profit from his charging of rent to his security detail.  He uses the presidency to advertise his businesses with his frequent and costly visits to his facilities and his staff has also engaged in this unethical practice.  On a related note, Trump unethically praises and denigrates other private enterprises, which is interference in the market. 

On the negative side of other domestic matters, Trump lies or misleads to an unprecedented degree, has made numerous unbecoming statements that coarsen public discourse and degrade culture, and promulgates conspiracy theories.  He has continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the world, while increasing the debt.  Trump has also continued Obamacare.  He delayed the waiver of the Jones Act, a costly mercantilist regulation, for Hurricane Maria relief to Puerto Rico and then allowed the waiver to expire after one week. 

Trump’s deception, nepotism, profiting off his office, lack of transparency, praise and denigration of private enterprises, and undermining of the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and the freedom of the press are typical of authoritarian regimes and kleptocracies and are unprecedented to this degree in American presidential history.  Although some checks and balances and popular political pressure have prevented even worse abuses and harmful policies, these safeguards have not yet been adequately used. 

Trump’s presidency, whatever its positive accomplishments, is a threat to the Republic and to liberty in America and around the world because of his manifest unfitness, corruption, and lack of patriotism or respect for the Constitution, regardless of the question of the illegitimacy of his election through deception, intimidation and foreign influence.  His Administration is not conservative, but populist, protectionist, nativist, white nationalist, in favor of big government and authoritarian.  It is thus a mortal danger to the Republican Party and a cancer on the conservative movement, lest it be conflated with Trumpism, especially if most leading conservatives continue to acquiesce to Trumpism to the extent they already have.  It is time that Republicans and conservatives come to the aid of the United States of America and protect the Republic, their party and ideological movement by using constitutional safeguards and by beginning the process of legally ending the Trump presidency.

Foreign Digest: European Union, Italy and Germany

The European Union defends against fake news
The European Union has established an organization to defend against the promulgation of fake news.  The despotic Russian Federation regime of Vladimir Putin has been conducting a disinformation campaign against European states to influence their elections.

Italy: Russian influence on Italian political parties
            United States Senator Ben Cardin issued a comprehensive report last week on Russian interference in elections.  Included in his report was his expression of concern that some Italian political parties, such as the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right Northern League, who oppose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, are vulnerable to Russian influence.  Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza warned last week on a trip to Italy of the ties between those two parties and the Putin regime of the Russian Federation.  Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 4.  Russia typically supports such parties, overtly or covertly.

Update: Germany; the leading center-left agrees to a grand coalition with the center-right
           The German center-left socialist party today approved the grand coalition agreement with the ruling conservative bloc.  In Germany’s parliamentary elections in December, no party gained a majority of seats.  The ruling center-right bloc of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and her conservative Bavarian allies earned the most seats, but need to form a coalition in order to govern.  The coalition prevents far-right or far-left parties from joining the Government.

Freedom House Reports a Decline of Freedom for the Twelfth Straight Year; Russia, China and Donald Trump are Cited

           The continued rise of authoritarianism has caused an increase in the number of people around the world who are not free to increase for the twelfth consecutive year, according to the latest report from Freedom House:

After a period of increased freedom, liberty is under its greatest threat in decades, with free and fair elections, the rule of law, the freedom of the press and minority rights are all under attack.

            The increased global influence of Communist Russia and China, and the withdrawal of American leadership for freedom, which has accelerated during the presidency of Donald Trump, are to blame, according to the report.  Russia undermines democracy abroad through interference in elections with disinformation, while China supports despotic regimes and makes demands on other countries, including the return of refugees.  Self-rule and freedom have also been diminished by the Chinese Communists in Hong Kong.  Both Russian and China regard representative government and liberty as a threat to their despotic regimes.

           A majority of countries in the world are unfree or partly free and a majority of the global population is not free.  There has been a decline in freedom in a majority of the 195 countries assessed since 2006.  The decline in freedom in Eastern Europe and even the United States under the Trump Administration noted by Freedom House is particularly alarming.

            Freedom House’s report observes that Turkey is no longer partly free, but is now not free.  Turkey had been a secular representative republic, but has become an authoritarian Islamist state.  The Turkish President has followed a similar model to that of Venezuela and Russia of democratically elected officials becoming increasingly authoritarian.  The democratically-elected Burmese Government has been a disappointment, as it has engaged in ethnic cleansing against its Muslim minority.  The report notes progress in a few countries: The Gambia, East Timor, Uganda, Ecuador and Nepal.  Although there was some regression in Tunisia because of the postponement of local elections and a concern about the influence of elements of the former oppressive regime, it remains the only free Arab state, with most being unfree and a few only partly free.  Syria is the most unfree state in the world.  The vast majority of the world’s unfree countries are in African and Asia, as Russia and Belarus in Europe and Cuba and Venezuela in the Americas are the only other unfree countries.  Communist and Islamist states, and especially countries in civil war, account for a large share of the tally of unfree countries and are among the least free countries.    

           It is essential to take immediate action to reverse the global trend toward authoritarianism.  When liberty is threatened anywhere, it is threatened everywhere.  Freedom is also in the interest to the entire world because it leads to peace and prosperity.   The United States must lead the world once again toward liberty, through a principled foreign policy and by defending itself from interference in its public discourse and its elections from foreign adversaries.  It must also serve again as a better example by maintaining its principles, such as the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press and respect for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018 March for Life: Love Saves Lives

           The 2018 March for Life was held yesterday in Washington, DC on the 45th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that, together with the simultaneous Doe v. Bolton decision, violated States’ rights to defend the right to life by prohibiting abortions.

            Tens of thousands participated in the 45th annual March for Life.  Combined with the scores of local rallies in a majority of the States, a total of hundreds of thousands marched for life across the Union.  The March for Life is the largest pro-life rally in the world.  

           The theme this year was Love Saves Lives.  There was emphasis on healthy children who were born after doctors had urged abortions.  

           Legislation recently passed the House of Representatives to protect children born after botched abortions, but the bill’s fate is uncertain in the Senate.  Other continued areas of focus in advancing the right to life are defunding Planned Parenthood, which is the largest provider of abortions, prohibiting abortions of babies capable of feeling pain, and increased conscience protections for health care and health insurance providers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Update: German Center-Right and Center-Left Parties Agree to Form a Grand Coalition

The leading German parties have agreed to form a grand center-right/center-left coalition between the ruling conservative bloc, made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats and the Bavarian conservatives, and the main democratic socialist opposition party.

            The parties reached an agreement today on maintaining the current tax rates, restoring a regulation on health insurance that divides premiums equally between employers and employees, and on the quota on the acceptance of migrants.  The new government is expected to be in place by Easter.  The coalition will assure stability in Europe, as Germany is the wealthiest European state, especially within the European Union, of which Germany is the largest member.  In the parliamentary elections last month, the ruling conservatives won the most seats, but were short of a majority.  A left-right grand coalition previously ruled with Merkel as Chancellor. 

Left-right coalitions of various kinds have become common in Europe in recent years.  The United Kingdom had one, as do Greece and Italy currently.  

Germany is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and is an ally of the United States also in the War on Terrorism.

Monday, January 8, 2018

A Conservative Won the Chilean Presidential Election

           A conservative won the Chilean presidential election last month, as a former President returns to power after four years of liberal rule.  Conservatives are now the largest party in both chambers of Chile’s Parliament, winning nearly a majority in both, at the expense of the left.

            The election of a conservative in Chile is part of a trend I have been posting about for more than a year, which is the rejection of the Socialist revolutionary trend of the 2000s that had been led by the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez that had spread widely throughout Latin America, especially in South America.  Since, then, voters in Argentina and Peru have replaced liberal governments with conservative ones, while the liberal President of Brazil was impeached and removed from office for corruption.  Note: her popular liberal predecessor has been convicted and was recently sentenced to prison for corruption.  Venezuelan and Bolivian voters have also made clear their rejection of socialism, authoritarianism and corruption, but their will has been thwarted by their leftist leaders.  After Venezuelans elected the democratic opposition to a supermajority of the Congress and Bolivians rejected a constitutional referendum to end presidential term limits, the Venezuelan dictator used a special constitutional provision to usurp the Congress and replace it with a rubber stamp assembly while the Bolivian Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing the President to serve another term, despite the constitutional prohibition. 

           Chile, which has a free trade agreement with the United States, has long been one of Latin America’s most prosperous states.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Recent Attacks in Vietnam and Pennsylvania Were Not “Terrorism”

           There have been more incidents recently that have been called “terrorism” that did not meet the definition of terrorism as the violent targeting of innocent civilians in order to intimidate the populace to acquiesce the demands of the terrorists.  I have posted regularly about such occurrences. 

In Vietnam last week, an armed group was arrested for a bombing, as part of a plot to attack the airport.  The goal of the group was to liberate Vietnam from its Communist tyrants.  The dictatorship mislabeled the insurrection as “terrorism.”  In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last weekend, there was an Islamist attack on Pennsylvania State Police officers, which authorities referred to as an “act of terror.”  It was an act of violent jihad that may have been inspired by terrorists, but was not itself an act of terrorism.  Both attacks targeted government, not innocent civilians and, therefore, could not generate mass terror among the populace sufficient to intimidate it into demanding the government acquiesce to the demands of the attackers. 

I have made a series of posts on the mislabeling of incidents as “terrorism” because the dilution of the word terrorism makes terrorism seem less evil than it is.  Other incidents may be evil, but not as evil as terrorism.  But another concern is that despotic regimes like Vietnam, Syria, Turkey, Russia and others expand the meaning of terrorism in order to put down not only any armed rebellions, but also to quash any dissent, as any supporters of liberation are labeled as supporters of “terrorists” and their free expression is criminalized.  Similarly, the dilution of terrorism helps terrorists and far-left liberals and isolationists who agree with the terrorists’ point to invalidate counterterrorism efforts by making a false equivalence between terrorism, which is a war crime, and legitimate self-defense. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Foreign Digest: Argentina, Peru, Liberia, Italy, South Africa, Iran, North Korea

            An Argentine state investigation recently revealed that a prosecutor, who had investigated and found proof of Iran’s complicity in the 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, had been murdered during the leftwing presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. 

            Former President Alberto Fujimori, who was in ill health while serving a lengthy prison sentence, was pardoned at Christmas by the current Peruvian President for Fujimori’s human rights violations.  The former President committed the crimes in the course of crushing the Maoist Shining Path guerillas, the most brutal terrorist group in Latin America.  After his pardon, Fujimori asked the people of Peru for forgiveness.

            Senator George Weah, a former soccer star, won the presidential election this week in Liberia, defeating the ruling party Vice President under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who had been elected in 2005 over Weah, following the second Liberian Civil War.  The election was conducted peacefully and without irregularities.  Weah promised to reduce corruption to make impoverished Liberia more business-friendly.  The expected democratic transfer of power will be Liberia’s first peaceful one since 1944.

            The President of the Italian Republic dissolved Parliament this week following the completion of its legislative session and scheduled parliamentary elections for March 4.  The dissolution of the assembly was expected after the recent passage of Italy’s new election law.

South Africa
            The Supreme Court of South Africa this week ordered the national legislature to develop rules for impeachment, a necessary step in the removal of President Jacob Zuma from office.  He is accused of public corruption for having embezzled public money for personal gain and for violation of the constitution.  The loyal opposition, as well as some of the dominant ruling leftwing party, supports impeaching and removing Zuma, but a majority of the ruling party still supports him to allow him to continue in office. 

            Widespread demonstrations in the Islamic Republic of Iran this weekend that began as protests against increases in prices and included public corruption as a target are now turning against the Iranian support for Syria’s Assad regime and other terrorists and the spread of Islamic revolution abroad.  Shi’ite Muslim Iran is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism and its Islamist foreign policy is regionally destabilizing.  It supports rebels in Yemen and is involved in spreading Islamism in Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The demonstrators have even become counterrevolutionary, in calling for the overthrow of the totalitarian Islamist theocracy.   

Massive protests against the rigged presidential election in 2009 were put down by the mullahs who lead Iran, after the United States under President Barack Obama declined to support them.  Instead, Obama pursued a nuclear arms deal with Iran that included dropping economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic and unfreezing billions of dollars the Iranians used to spread Islamic revolution.

North Korea 
           Like China, whose ships have recently been intercepted by South Korea sending oil to Communist North Korea, the Russian Federation also ships fuel to North Korea, according to reports yesterday that the shipments have been detected by Western European intelligence services.  Both the Chinese and Russians help North Korea, despite China’s and Russia’s support for another round of economic sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom for its nuclear missile program.  Therefore, a more effective international policy against North Korea would have to include placing increased pressure not only on the Chinese, but also on the Russians.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Update: Russian Democratic Opposition Leader Navalny Is Calling for a Boycott of the Russian Presidential Election

           Russian democratic opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was prohibited by the Russian Federations electoral commission from standing for election for president next spring, called today for a boycott of the elections.  Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, who controls the commission, is seeking a fourth term.  

           Putins authoritarian regime does not permit free and fair elections, both by barring candidates from being eligibility to be elected, or by imprisoning, killing or driving regime critics into exile, and by generally being intolerant of dissent.  For example, Russia does not tolerate a free press, the freedom of peaceful assembly or even independent polling.  As a result, only the ruling and allied parties have significant representation in the Russian Parliament or were permitted to offer candidates for the last presidential election.  Navalny, who, like other regime critics or dissidents, has been persecuted by the Russian regime on typical trumped-up charges and for exercising the freedom of peaceful assembly, had gathered the requisite signatures to have his name on the presidential ballot under the oft-ignored Russian constitution.  The opposition boycott would remove any legitimacy for Putins reelection. 

           Putin’s regime is now threatening Navalny with more prosecution for the election boycott call.  Election boycotts have long been an effective tool of the democratic opposition in many dictatorships.  The ex-KGB agent Putin, who laments the breakup of the Soviet Union, realizes that he would never obtain political legitimacy if Russia were truly a free, representative republic.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, 2017

           I wish you all a Happy Feast of the Nativity of Jesus! 

            I especially wish a Merry Christmas those serving America abroad who cannot be with their families.  I pray especially for children in war-torn lands or who are suffering famine or disease, that be comforted by the Child Jesus.  I hope that the commemoration of the birth of Christ inspires more love for babies, born and unborn, and leads to more adoptions.  

           May the Peace of Christ be with you! 

Pennsylvania Governor Wolfe Vetoed a Pro-Life Bill in Time for the Feast of the Nativity

           Pennsylvania’s liberal Democratic Governor, Tom Wolfe, a few days ago, late in the Advent season before today’s Feast of the Nativity of the Christ Child and a little over a week before the Feast of the Holy Innocents, vetoed a bill approved by the General Assembly to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks gestation of the fetus, four weeks earlier than under the Commonwealth’s current law. 

In apparent contradictions about personhood, the acknowledgement of which is essential for liberty, the remains of a fetus of at least 16 weeks gestation are treated equally under the Pennsylvania’s Vital Records law with those of human beings who were born alive and the Commonwealth also has a fetal homicide law.

            On a positive note, Wolf did sign two less controversial bills into law that were authored by Legislators from Berks County, my county of residence.  One required owners of cemeteries to allow public access to them, which was necessary after a local citizen acquired a cemetery and prevented family members from visiting their relatives’ graves, and one to regulate previously-unregulated drug rehabilitation half-way houses, after several recent overdose deaths a local facility. 

           It is hoped and prayed for that the commemoration of the Nativity of the Child Jesus would increase people’s respect for the right to life, in all of its forms and stages, throughout the world.

Update: The Russian Dictatorship Has Barred Democratic Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny's Presidential Candidacy

           In my last post, I observed that Russian democratic opposition leader Alexei Navalny had acquired the requisite signatures to be on the presidential ballot next spring of the Russian Federation against authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin, who is seeking a fourth term.  I also observed that Putin does not respect human rights or tolerate dissent or allow for fully free and fair elections.  Today, the Putin-controlled electoral commission has prohibited Navalny from being on the presidential ballot because of the trumped-up charges against him, the kind of charges against critics, dissidents or opposition leaders typical for Russia and other authoritarian regimes.

           Like other dictators who act is if they are strong and who are intimidating in order to hide their weakness and insecurity, Putin is afraid of free and fair elections because he would not only lose power and perhaps the assets he has used his office to enrich himself with, but also face charges for his crimes against humanity.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Foreign Digest Updates: Austria, North Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia

Update: Austria agreed to coordinate the issuance of dual passports to Italian citizens in South Tyrol with the Italian Republic, in accordance with an Italian-Austrian treaty.

North Korea
The United Nations Security Council adopted another round of economic sanctions on North Korea because of the Communist state’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and tests.

            There continue to be more purges in Turkey by the authoritarian Turkish government, based upon the pretext of last summer’s failed military coup, with more sackings of government officials and academics.  Tens of thousands have been arrested and hundreds of thousands fired because of alleged ties to a Turkish cleric in exile in Pennsylvania.  The purges, combined with violations of freedom of the press and other human rights violations, have further strengthened the power of the authoritarian leader by suppressing all dissent.  The Turkish military has traditionally safeguarded Turkish secular democracy since Turkey’s founding after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, but it has been thwarted from fulfilling its duty by the Islamist authoritarian regime.

            The United States is sending lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government for the first time as it battles an insurgency by separatist ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine backed by the Russian Federation.

          The leader of the democratic opposition, Alexei Navalny, despite being persecuted by the Russian dictatorship, has gathered a sufficient number of signatures from the requisite number of cities to have his name placed on the ballot to challenge Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin next spring.  There were more rallies in support of Navalny today, despite the frequent arrests of those exercising the freedom of peaceful assembly.  The ex-KGB (Soviet intelligence agency) Putin is seeking a fourth term.  As freedom of expression is limited and dissent suppressed, elections in Russia are hardly free and fair, but represent an opportunity at least for the opposition to call attention to Putin’s authoritarianism and to give voice to the democratic opposition.

Monday, December 18, 2017

European Digest: Austria, Germany, Romania, United Kingdom and other States

            A right-wing party won the most seats in the Austrian parliamentary elections earlier this autumn, but not enough to obtain a majority.  It formed a coalition government last week with a far-right pro-Russian party, with the junior member holding the neutral state’s cabinet portfolios for foreign affairs, defense and the interior, effectively giving Russia influence into Western Europe

Already, Austria’s new Government has announced a plan to offer passports to ethnic Germans and even Ladins (speakers of a Rhaeto-Romansch Romance language) in Italy’s South Tyrol Region of Trentino-Alto Adige, which has generated criticism from the Italian Republic

            The ruling conservative Christian Democrats, who had won the majority of seats in the German parliamentary elections last month, reached an agreement last week to form a grand coalition with the leading center-left party in order to avoid a government with the far-right.  Negotiations continue on the details of forming the executive.

            There have been public protests over the last several days against a law that could make it more difficult to deter public corruption.  There has been a recent turn back towards authoritarianism in the former Communist Soviet satellites Hungary, Poland and Romania.

            Meanwhile, Romanians are mourning the death of popular ex-King Michael earlier this month.  He was one of the last surviving heads of state or government from the Second World War, together with King Simeon II of Bulgaria.  Under one of his Prime Ministers, Romania joined the Axis Powers while Michael was a young monarch, but by late in the war, he was influential in Romania’s surrendering to the Allies and joining them against the Nazi Germans.  After the Soviet invasion of Eastern Europe, Michael, like other leaders behind the Iron Curtain, was deposed by the Communists in 1947.  The monarchy was abolished and was replaced by a Communist one-party state that was a satellite of the Soviet Union.  The last Communist tyrant was overthrown in a popular rebellion in 1989.

United Kingdom
            An agreement has been reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union for the British to leave the EU by 2019, as per the results of the non-binding referendum last year and its subsequent ratification by Parliament.  The agreement establishes a fund of around $50 billion for the costs.  It maintains the open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and safeguards the rights of EU citizens in the UK.  The British goal is to establish a strong UK-EU partnership.

Trend towards provincial autonomy in Western Europe 
           After last month’s constitutional referendums for autonomy in the Italian Regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which I had posted about, Liguria’s Governor has expressed the desire to request one also for his Region, as another wave of federalism is washing over Italy, including in the South.  Similarly, nationalists won last week’s elections in the French Departments on Corsica, which is inhabited primarily by ethnic Italians, who seek greater autonomy for their Mediterranean island.  Combined with the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom and the special consideration in particular for Northern Ireland in the above-mentioned UK-EU agreement, a clear trend toward greater autonomy for provincial governments, especially ethnically-distinct ones, is apparent in Western Europe.  The obtainment of more autonomy could also better serve Spain’s Catalonia province than independence.

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. 

            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!