Sunday, July 16, 2017

Foreign Digest: Iraq, Italy, Russia, Georgia, Venezuela and Turkey


Iraq’s defeat of the Islamic State
            Iraqi forces liberated Mosul last week from the so-called “Islamic State” Islamist terrorists.  The al-Qaeda splinter group had seized Iraq’s second largest city in 2014.  It was from there that IS, which is based in currently-besieged Raqqa, Syria, declared a caliphate.

Italy’s tougher law against organized crime and terrorism
            The Italian Parliament recently approved and the President signed a tougher law against organized crime and terrorism. Among its numerous provisions are longer prison sentences.

Update: more Russian incursions into Georgia
            There have been more Russian incursions into Georgia from the Russian-occupied puppet-state of South Ossetia, which, together with Abkhazia, the Russian Federation helped to break away from Georgia when it invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2008.  The Russians have repeatedly shifted the poorly-defended border southward into Georgian territory.

Update: more pro-democracy protests in Russia
            There continue to be more protests in Russia against the tyranny and corruption of the Russian Federation regime and more arrests of peaceful protesters.

Update: Venezuelan protests and political developments
            There have been more demonstrations for liberty in Venezuela, where the death toll for peaceful protesters continues to climb.  Thugs acting last week on behalf of the Socialist regime even attacked the democratic opposition in Congress.  The Socialists are attempting to replace the constitution through a referendum which would grant the executive branch greater powers, unchecked by the legislative branch, which is currently controlled by the democratic opposition.  Despite winning a supermajority of seats in the Congress, the opposition has been thwarted by the tyrannical regime.  The opposition is boycotting the constitutional referendum, as it is not possible to conduct free and fair elections under authoritarianism and instead is conducting its own plebiscite on following the current constitution and respecting human rights.  Polling stations are even open today in locations in the United States for Venezuelans to voice their support for representative government and liberty.

Turkish protests 
           Several hundred thousand Turks took to the streets last week to protest the Islamist authoritarian government’s crackdown on opposition ahead of the anniversary of the failed military coup d’etat, which has been used as a justification for the crackdown and the seizure of more powers by the government.  A hundred thousand Turks have been fired and tens of thousands of people have been arrested because of the increasing Turkish oppression.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Foreign Digest: Syria, Hong Kong, Turkey


Syrian attack on anti-Islamic State forces
            The attack last week by Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime forces on the Syrian Democratic Forces, the non-Islamist rebel group backed by the United States, while the SDF were engaged in fighting the Islamic State Islamist terrorists, proves Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies are not anti-Islamic State.  The Syrian attack also disproves Syrian and Russian propaganda that the U.S. is pro-Islamic State, against which the U.S.-backed forces in Syria are making steady progress, as are the Iraqis, who are also supported by the Americans.  The tyrant Assad is desperately clinging to power.  He and the Russians have focused on U.S.-backed rebels, instead of against the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.  The U.S. responded to the Syrian attack by shooting down a Syrian fighter jet.  The Russian Federation, in response, put deconfliction at risk by cutting off communication with the U.S. and warning the Americans not to operate west of the Euphrates River

Hong Kong pro-democracy protests
            There were more pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last week, this time at the swearing-in of the special administrative region’s Peking-appointed leader.  There were arrests of some protestors, as the Chinese Communists have not been keeping their promise they made when they took over the territory from the United Kingdom in 1997 to maintain Hong Kong’s self-rule and freedom. 

Update: Charges and arrests of Turkish presidential guard 
           The District of Columbia Capitol Police late last week charged more than a dozen members of the Islamist dictator of Turkey’s presidential guard with crimes, including felonies, for their beating of peaceful protestors on American soil in front of the Turkish Embassy to the United States.  Several Turkish presidential guardsmen were arrested.  Germany has declined an invitation to the Turkish dictator for a summit of economic powers because of the incident.

Recent Attacks on Republican U.S. Congressmen and British Muslims Were Not “Terrorism”


           As I post from time to time, several recent acts of violence around the world have been called “terrorism,” which dilutes the term.  Terrorism is an especially evil war crime by which innocent civilians are targeted in order to intimidate the populace into supporting political or religious goals.

            One recent example of the misuse of the term was the attack last month on Republican members of Congress, which some Americans labeled “terrorism.”  Assassinations are not terrorism, as terrorism is targeted at innocent civilians to terrorize the people, who cannot be sufficiently intimidated if they do not feel targeted.

            Another example was the labeling by some of the attack last month on Muslims in the United Kingdom as “terrorism.”  Because of its similar methodology, the attack was obviously motivated by revenge for recent terrorist attacks.  It was also an act of genocide, meant to kill, not to terrorize.

            Both the attacks on Muslims and on Republican Congressmen were evil crimes, but not terrorism.  

           As usual, dictators, such as Syria’s and Venezuela’s, label all rebellious acts as “terrorism” to discredit the opposition, even when those acts are guerrilla activity legitimately targeting government forces, not innocent civilians.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Update on the Additional United States Sanctions on Iran and Russia Bill


Donald Trump, the pretender to the American presidency, is trying to block, delay or dilute the bill before the United States House of Representatives that the Republican-led Senate approved overwhelmingly three weeks ago that imposes additional economic sanctions on both Iran and on the Russian Federation and limits the President’s discretion in lifting sanctions against Russia.  The Republican leadership of the House still has not scheduled a vote on the Senate bill. 

The bipartisan Senate bill imposes targeted sanctions on Iran for sponsoring terrorism and on authoritarian Russian Federation leaders for human rights violations and for Russian support for the terrorist-sponsoring tyrannical Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.  Although it is not specifically meant to punish Russia for its interference in the American presidential election, the bill is widely perceived as such. 

The bill is also, therefore, a test of whether Trump will maintain American independence of Russia and whether he is providing a quo in exchange for the Russian quid of interfering in the presidential elections on his behalf, which might incriminate him of a constitutional high crime or misdemeanor and lead Congress to impeach and remove him from office.  Russian interference in the American elections, which included propaganda and disinformation, hacking and leaking, is under investigation by a Special Counsel and multiple congressional committees.  The question of whether Trump’s campaign accepted Russian help in exchange for financial benefits or the lifting of sanctions on Russia is among the subjects being probed.

Trump, who never criticizes Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, has reportedly been seeking to end sanctions on Russia that had been approved by the Republican majority Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama and to return diplomatic compounds in Maryland and Virginia to the Russians which they had used for espionage against the U.S. which Obama ordered them to evacuate.  The measures were imposed to punish Russia for aggression against Ukraine and for interference in the American elections, respectively.  Trump has proposed no punishments for Russian interference in the elections and denies any Russian culpability, despite the unanimous assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies, or for other Russian transgressions.  

Conservatives must urge the House of Representatives to approve the Senate bill to impose additional sanctions on Iran and Russia.

On This Independence Day, Let us again Declare Independence from Foreign Interference


           Today is the 241st anniversary of the independence of the United States of America.  On July 2, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania approved a resolution of independence from the United Kingdom.  The Congress then authorized the Declaration of Independence to explain their reasons for the separation because of “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.”

            The Founding Fathers recognized independence as the right of self-determination and sovereignty and thus as a strong protection against violations of liberty from the mother country.  They were concerned about foreign interference in American affairs and continued to be long after the States won their independence from the British.  The Framers of the Constitution established the Electoral College, which elects the President of the United States, as, in part, a safeguard against foreign interference and the foreign Emoluments Clause to prevent personal interest from influencing judgment by federal officers of what was in the best interest of the U.S.  The Founders who were the first Presidents guarded against foreign interference or too much interest on behalf of foreign states, including states with which Americans traded or even had friendly relations with the U.S.  They were especially wary of the influence of hostile powers.

            The Russian Federation has been increasing its efforts over the last few years to influence affairs, including the outcome of elections, in Europe and the U.S.  Russian interference has become increasingly noticeable, even in the U.S., since the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Through overt propaganda from state media to anonymously disseminating disinformation, especially through the Internet, to the covert stealing and leaking of government or party documents, mixed together with a few forgeries and then disseminated through the media and Internet, through the creation of human-curated or automated social media accounts.  The Russians will exploit divisions and manipulate opinion by appealing to preconceived beliefs of those on the left or the right or wherever to advance Russia’s foreign policy of dividing the West and undermining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Their insidious methods often influence opinion without the targeted audience ever realizing it has been deceived or manipulated.  Sometimes, Soviet-style active measures of political interference employed by ex-KGB Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin include violence, such as the attempted coup d’etat in Montenegro last year. 

Russian interference was evident in the American presidential election campaign last year, to a degree that altered the outcome of both the Republican Party nomination and the presidential elections, in violation of American self-determination and sovereignty.  The Russians were successful in opposing a candidate they believed would be more opposed to their policies and favored a candidate who was not and who is even favorable to certain Russian interests.  Alas, the constitutional safeguards the Framers established of the Electoral College and the Emoluments Clause have been ignored by the leaders of the majority party of the President.  The danger the Founders feared of foreign influence, especially of a hostile power, is now most clear and present.  Putin is more brutal a tyrant than King George III of the United Kingdom and a craftier menace. 

It is still not too late to regain American independence from foreign influence once again and to use the various constitutional safeguards to face the threat of a hostile Russian authoritarian regime.  The Congress, the Courts, the States and the People all must demonstrate their patriotism and defend America through constitutional means by supporting independence, self-determination and sovereignty and by upholding federalism, the separation of powers, representative government and liberty.  The extent of the threat from Russia must be analyzed through adequate investigation of Russian interference in American politics in order to ascertain vulnerabilities to further interference by Russia, other state actors or non-government entities, such as criminals and terrorists, and to develop appropriate defenses.  The leaders of the Russian Federation must be punished, as well as any Americans who collaborated with them to deter further interference and the few punishments already imposed upon Russian leaders should certainly not be eliminated.  In my next post, I shall discuss a particular punishment of Russia approved by the Senate and being considered by the House of Representatives that the pro-Russian President opposes.  

I call upon all American patriots today to declare American independence from Russia by supporting effective measures to oppose foreign interference and to exercise more fully the legacy of self-determination and sovereignty the Founding Fathers bequeathed to posterity.

Pennsylvania’s 2017 Budget Is Approved


           The Republican-led General Assembly passed and liberal Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed into law the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s fiscal 2017 budget before the end of the fiscal year June 30. 

            The budget permits $32 billion in spending, an increase of 3% over last fiscal year.  The fiscal blueprint achieves this level through a combination of spending increases and cuts.  Like last year, Wolf had wanted more spending increases for education.  He and the legislature did agree on some consolidations of gubernatorial administration offices and there are savings from decreased corrections costs.  There are extra funds in the budget for pensions, but no significant reform, even though the lack of it is the largest cause of fiscal distress for Pennsylvania, as well as its counties, municipalities and school districts.  The Commonwealth faces a two or three-billion dollar budget shortfall.           

            The legislature still has approved no revenue bill to fund the new budget.  As usual, the Governor and the Democratic minority in the legislature are looking to increase taxes.  They are again singling out one industry, the natural gas extraction industry, for additional taxes, on top of the extra taxes gas drillers already pay.  The Republicans are seeking to raise additional funds from wine and liquor privatization and are even looking to borrow.  Many legislators have become addicted to gambling expansion for revenue increases. 

           The General Assembly should continue to be fiscally responsible by resisting tax increases, especially those that single out one industry, while avoiding the temptation to borrow or expand gambling even further, and instead privatize wine and spirits, while approving more prudent spending decreases, especially through pension reform.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Foreign Digest: Helmet Kohl, Rest in Peace; French Parliamentary Elections


Helmet Kohl, Rest in Peace
            Helmet Kohl, the former Chancellor of Germany and the Father of German Reunification, died last week at age of 87 at Ludwigshafen, Germany, where he had been born in 1930.

            Kohl joined the conservative Christian Democratic Union as a teenager after the Second World War and began to rise in its ranks, eventually becoming state and later federal chairman by 1973, a position he held until the end of his chancellorship.  In the meantime, after earning a degree in history and political science at Heidelberg University, he earned a doctorate in political science in 1958 from the same school.  Kohl then worked in management in the private sector.

            Kohl was elected to the Rhineland-Palatinate state assembly in 1959 and the following year to the Ludwigshafen municipal council.  In 1969, he was elected governor.  Kohl served in that office until 1976.

            Kohl was the CDU nominee for Chancellor in 1976, but was not elected.  He led the opposition for six years until he was elected Chancellor in 1982 by the German Parliament after the center-left ruling coalition lost a confidence vote.  Kohl was elected Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) the following year and served nearly four full terms until 1998.

            As Chancellor, Kohl strengthened Franco-German relations as the cornerstone of European integration and supported United States President Ronald Reagan’s assertive anti-Soviet policies during the Cold War.  After the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, he helped negotiate the terms of the rapid, peaceful reunification of East and West Germany by 1990.  The united Germany renounced its territorial claims in Poland and Czechoslovakia and continued its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in European organizations.

Kohl remained in parliament until 2002.  In his retirement, he wrote his memoirs and another book and continued to speak publicly.

May Kohl’s legacy of a peaceful, united Germany and of a peaceful Western Europe long endure.

French parliamentary elections 
           The ruling center-left won a large majority in the French parliamentary elections over the weekend.  The  new party of the recently-elected President defeated the center-right, and especially the socialists, the far-left and the pro-Russian nationalists.  The center-left President, who was backed by leading conservatives in the runoff election against the Russian-backed nationalist candidate, is continuing France’s strong policies against Islamist terrorism and the machinations of the dictatorship of the Russian Federation.

Thoughts on the 2017 Pennsylvania Primary Election


Now that the results were certified last week, I can offer some thoughts on the 2017 Pennsylvania Primary Election. 

I usually post about upcoming elections, including, including Republican primaries in the state, but this time I did not because there were no significant statewide contests on the Republican ballot.  There was only one candidate for each of the single seats on each of the Supreme and Commonwealth Courts.  There was only a contest for Superior Court.  All five of the candidates for the four seats were qualified, conservative and pro-life.  Locally, there were no contests in Reading and in the Berks countywide GOP primary elections except in races in which candidates were eligible for cross-filing (Common Pleas Judge and Magisterial District Judge, but not on the Republican ballot for School Director).    

            Another reason I was not motivated as usual to post about the upcoming Republican primary was because of the Trumpification of the Grand Old Party, including from the local county Republican Committee from which I resigned in August. 

Indeed, these reasons combined to lower voter turnout to an even lower than usual level.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to choose the better and most conservative (especially if they are not overtly Trumpist) candidates for these state, county, magisterial district, municipal and school district offices in the General Election in November, as these offices affect people directly in innumerable ways and the people elected to these offices could be candidates for higher or federal offices in the future. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Foreign Digest: United Kingdom, Hezbollah, Russia and Iran


Update: formation of a minority Government for the United Kingdom
            British Prime Minister Theresa May is forming a Conservative minority government for the United Kingdom with the confidence of a minor party, the pro-unionist Northern Irish conservatives, instead of a coalition government, to gain the confidence of a majority of the parliament.  A minority government is potentially less stable than even a coalition.  Already, there are reports of talks between some Tories and the main liberal opposition party members to form a coalition in favor of a softer negotiating position in regard to leaving the European Union.

Hezbollah targets the United States
            There were reports earlier this week of members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization, of seeking targets for violent jihad in the homeland of the United States.  Hezbollah is sponsored by Iran and Syria.  The terrorists were responsible for killing more Americans, most notoriously the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, than any Islamist organization before the September 11 Attacks.

Update on protests in Russia
            Widespread protests are continuing in Russia against the tyranny and corruption of the Russian Federation’s dictatorship.  There have been nearly two thousand arrests of peaceful protestors.  The opposition leader was again arrested even before the demonstrations and sentenced to another 30 days imprisonment.  The freedoms of assembly and speech are among the freedoms not tolerated by the Russian regime.  

The Trump Administration has condemned Russia’s arrests of the protestors, but Donald Trump, the Russian-backed pretender to the American presidency, has continued his policy of never criticizing Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, despite continued Russian aggression in Ukraine, Russian atrocities in Syria, and Russia interference in the democratic elections of the United States and European states.

The protests coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of United States President Ronald Reagan’s inspiring speech in West Berlin, West Germany at the Brandenburg Gate at the Berlin Wall in which he challenged the Soviets to “tear down this wall” and “open this gate.”  The wall came down and the gate was opened less than a year and a half later. 

Senate approves U.S. sanctions on Iran and Russia 
           The United States Senate has passed legislation for additional economic sanctions on the terrorist-sponsoring Iranian Islamist regime.  Included in the bipartisan bill are additional, targeted sanctions against the Russian Federation and regime officials for human rights violations and Russian support for the terrorist-sponsoring brutally-tyrannical regime of Syria, which is Iran’s ally, and a limitation on the power of the President to lift such sanctions.  It is uncertain if the House of Representatives would approve the Senate bill or if Donald Trump would sign the bill that includes sanctions against his Russian friends.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Conservatives Win the British Parliamentary Elections


           The ruling Conservatives again won the most votes and seats in the snap British parliamentary elections, but lost their majority in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May was granted a mandate from the Queen to form a coalition government with a pro-unionist socially conservative party in Northern Ireland, which gained seats in the Parliament.  Together, the two parties have a narrow majority, although it is slightly more conservative than the one it is replacing.  The Conservatives had governed without a coalition.  May has reappointed her Cabinet.

            The leader of the far-left party, who had served in a grand coalition with the Conservatives under Prime Minister David Cameron, lost his seat, one of only two the party, which had been the third largest in Parliament, had held.  The pro-Scottish independence party lost seats, mostly to the Tories, meaning that the main opposition liberal party lost seats in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.  However, the liberals gained seats, despite being led by a populist far-left leader.  Nationalist candidates were shut out of Westminster.  

            The Conservative premier, who took over last year after the resignation of Cameron following the approval of the referendum to leave the European Union, had called for early elections after polls suggested the public favored her plan to negotiate the exit, but anxieties about the negotiations with the EU, as well as the populism of the opposition leader, May’s style and overconfidence, a proposed increase in the cost for health benefits for the elderly, the perception that she was not tough enough against Donald Trump, and recent terrorist attacks, combined nearly to sink the Tories.  Instead of gaining a larger majority from the snap elections, the Conservatives lost the small one they had.  May’s leadership of the party could be challenged.  

           The smaller majority for the ruling party could make negotiations for leaving the EU more difficult.  The coalition government may prove unstable.  Both situations contribute to economic uncertainty for both the UK and the EU.

Foreign Digest: Iran, China, Russia, Turkey, Qatar and Italy


Iranian elections       
            As usual, the recent elections in Iran for president and parliament were not democratic.  Only candidates approved by the theocracy of the Islamic Republic are permitted to stand for election and there are inadequate freedoms to allow for a free and fair election.  Although the relatively less confrontational president was reelected, Iran continues to sponsor terrorism and to spread Islamic revolution in other Muslim states.

Chinese massacre anniversary
There was a demonstration last week in Hong Kong, the special administrative state of Communist China, on the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of thousands pro-democracy protestors by the Chinese Communists in 1989.  No such protests are permitted in the rest of China.

Russian anti-tyranny protests  
            There were more protests last week in Russia against the Russian Federation’s tyranny and more arrests of the protestors.  The opposition’s campaign against corruption and for liberty is the most sustained in several years.

Turkish arrests
            The latest of many more arrests in Turkey included the head of a major internationally-recognized human rights organization.  The authoritarian Islamist government has continued to use the attempted military coup last July as an excuse to arrest all of the regime’s opponents or critics.

Qatari Crisis
Qatar has been on both sides of the War on Terrorism—ostensibly participating in military campaigns against terrorists, but funding Islamist organizations and abetting violent jihad in other ways.  Several Arab states and the predominately Muslim Maldives severed diplomatic relations last week with Qatar and three Persian Gulf Arab states are blockading the small, wealthy Gulf emirate and taking other measures to punish the Qataris and force them to change their policies in regard to Islamist terrorism.

Italy requires vaccinations 
           Italy restored last week its requirement of vaccinations for schoolchildren.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thoughts on the Observation of Memorial Day


           Memorial Day is the time to honor all those Americans who died in service to the United States for their independence and liberty. 

            As I have posted in previous years, Memorial Day often gets conflated with Veterans Day, which is the holiday to honor all veterans, living or dead, particularly those who did not die in service.  Note: Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated the Saturday a week before Memorial Day, honors active duty servicemen. 

And as I have also posted, Memorial Day is not a day of celebration, but a solemn commemoration of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America.  Alas, the day has become for too many Americans a festive occasion, as people wish each other “Happy Memorial Day” and use the three-day weekend in late Spring which has become traditionally regarded as the “unofficial start of Summer” to picnic and engage in other recreational activities, instead of setting aside the day as one of mourning, albeit in gratitude to those who gave their lives for the U.S.

Memorial Day has been observed in late May since after the end of the Civil War, while Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11.  That date formerly was Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of the First World War.  The difference between observing a holiday on the last Monday in May versus a fixed date is that between a three-day weekend versus a holiday that may occur on a weekday in the middle of the workweek, which makes the latter less conducive to travel and recreation.  Furthermore, the observation of Memorial Day in late Spring is more conducive to a more festive occasion than a holiday observed in mid-Autumn. 

I propose switching the observation of Memorial Day with that of Veterans Day.  As Veterans Day honors living veterans, it should be a more festive occasion and could be celebrated accordingly on a three-day weekend in late Spring, whereas Memorial Day ought to be more solemnly observed on mid-Autumn at a fixed date less conducive to festiveness, as it may occur at mid-week.  Late May is as appropriate a time as any to honor veterans while November 11, the anniversary of the end of the First World War, is a particularly appropriate time to commemorate those who died in service.  Switching the observation of these two holidays would allow for their observation to be more patriotic and appropriate than they are currently observed.  

May we recall today especially the sacrifice of those who died for America and strive every day to preserve the independence and liberty that is their legacy.  May God bless America.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jim Bunning, Rest in Peace


           Hall of Fame Baseball Player and Former United States Senator James “Jim” Paul David Bunning died Friday in Fort Thomas, Kentucky at the age of 85.  The conservative Republican was remarkable for his great success in two different careers.

            Born in Southgate, Kentucky in 1931, Bunning graduated Xavier University with a degree in economics in 1953.

            Bunning began his professional baseball career in 1950, pitching in the Detroit Tigers organization.  Detroit called him up to the major leagues in 1955.  He pitched for the Tigers through 1963, the Philadelphia Phillies from 1964-1967, the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1968-1969, the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1969 and again in Philadelphia from 1970-1971.  Bunning, a perennial All-Star, achieved a number of firsts in regard to pitching in both leagues and was a league leader in several categories.  The highlight of his career was his perfect game on Father’s Day of 1964 at New York.  At the time of the rare feat, Bunning had seven children.  He and his wife of 65 years would go on to have two more.  Bunning was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.  The Phillies retired his uniform number in 2001.  He was one of the founders of the major league players union.

After his major league career, Bunning managed in the Phillies minor leagues for five years, starting with the Double-A Reading Phillies in 1972, working his way up to the Triple-A level.  He was later a major league player agent.             

After his sports career, Bunning worked as a stock broker, which he had done in the off-season, as players were not as richly-compensated at the time, before starting his political career.  In 1977, he was elected to the City Council of Fort Thomas.  Two years later, the Republican Bunning was elected to the State Senate, becoming minority leader as a freshman.  He was nominated by the GOP for Governor in 1983, but was not elected. 

Bunning was elected United States Representative in 1986 and was reelected five times.  He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998 and reelected six years later, serving until 2011.  Bunning thus served in Congress for a total of 24 years, evenly divided between its lower and upper chambers.  During his congressional service, just as he was a dominating defensive athlete, Bunning staunchly defended Kentucky’s interests, including tobacco, coal and its military bases.  

            As one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Bunning was especially opposed to wasteful spending.  He was the co-author of the 2004 flood insurance reform legislation, which reduced the costs of federal flood insurance.  Although unsuccessful, Bunning took a stand against increasing unemployment compensation without paying for it with offsetting spending cuts, as I posted in March of 2010, Bunning’s Heroic Stand and Update, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2010/03/bunnings-heroic-stand-and-update.html.  His stand nevertheless served as a good example.  Spending offsets for increased unemployment compensation have become typical ever since.  

            Bunning was also known for his interest in the 2009 congressional investigation into steroid abuse in Major League baseball, over which Congress had extra leverage because of its anti-trust exemption.  The combination of the outspokenness of President George W. Bush, who had been the owner of a major league team, the Texas Rangers, and the congressional investigation over the national pastime led to improved testing of major league players.  Baseball has since been cleaner and safer and thus a better example to younger athletes.  Ironically, pitching has become more dominant as a result.

            The blunt-spoken and stalwart conservative Bunning once remarked that the experience of having been booed by 60,000 fans at Yankee Stadium while standing on the pitcher’s mound had led him not to be overly concerned with negative opinions during his political career.  His fierce competitiveness in sports also carried over to his political career.  

           Few people have achieved such career success in two different careers as did Jim Bunning.  It is noteworthy that, just as he began his sports career in college and the minor leagues, he began his career of elected public service by first getting elected to local office, which is an example for others to follow humbly.  Although he will probably be best remembered for his baseball accomplishments, Bunning’s significant service to his state and country and to conservatism and his party will long be remembered and appreciated.  

The NATO, G-7 and European Union Summits


NATO summit
            The North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced the adoption at its summit of its mission against the so-called “Islamic State,” which has repeatedly attacked several member states.  Many NATO members had already been participating in anti-Islamic State efforts.  NATO also announced better anti-terrorism coordination, particularly the increased exchange of information on foreign fighters.

            NATO unity was undermined, however, by the Trump Administration’s leaks of anti-terror information shared by the United Kingdom and especially by the lack of the expression by Donald Trump of a commitment to NATO’s core commitment to common defense, which has deepened fears by European allies that Trump is too pro-Russian to depend upon the United States to defend them against Russian aggression.  Instead of praising fellow NATO members for meeting the target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense or at least increasing defense spending and contributing in other ways, Trump demanded the U.S. allies pay more, as if NATO collects dues and as if Americans are mercenaries.  He did not acknowledge the vital role NATO plays in defending U.S. interests.  Indeed, the only time NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense provision has been invoked was after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaeda Islamists. 

            Montenegro is joining the alliance in early June.  As I have posted, anti-NATO pro-Russian parties failed to win the election in October while simultaneously a Russian-backed coup d’etat, which included an attempt to assassinate the Prime Minister, failed in the former Yugoslav state.

European Union summit
            At its summit, the European Union reached an accord that balances welcoming and rescuing migrants and refugees with border security, including limits on immigration.

The Group of Seven Major Economic Powers summit
The annual summit of the Group of Seven major economic powers was hosted by Italy in Taormina, Sicily, which is strategically located at the center of the Mediterranean.  Then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who had been Mayor of Florence, moved the G-7 summit to Sicily from his city to dispel negative stereotypes about Sicily and Southern Italy

Russia has been excluded from the G-7 since its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

At the meeting, Trump thanked Italy for its antiterrorism assistance and in regard to its mission in LibyaItaly has been bearing much of the burden of rescuing migrants in the MediterraneanGreece has been among the others most burdened.  The European Union is assisting in the rescue mission.
                       
            The G-7 pledged better anti-terrorism coordination, including in regard to cutting off terrorist funding and limiting terrorist access to the Internet.  

           Note: in addition to the leaks about the British counterterrorism investigation, during his first trip abroad, Trump himself also leaked military intelligence secrets to the leader of the Philippines, who did not need to know them and who then leaked them to the public.  Also, Trump praised the “Filipino Trump” for the latter’s crackdown on drugs, which is most notable for extrajudicial killings of “suspects” by police and citizens.  As I had posted before, Trump praised the Turkish dictator for his grabbing of additional constitutional powers through a rigged referendum.  Such statements undermine American moral prestige.  I had warned about Trump’s authoritarian tendencies in posts before Trump’s election and inauguration.  

Foreign Digest: Cuba, Italy, Turkish Embassy to the United States, South China Sea


Cuba: American-flag-carrying protestor beaten
A Cuban carried an American flag earlier this month at a rally attended by Communist Dictator Raul Castro.  The protestor was beaten and arrested, which demonstrated the continued lack of freedom of assembly and respect for human rights by the regime.  The United States with the people of its neighbor until all the Cuban people are free.

Turkish Embassy to the United States: Turkish guards beat protestors
            Turkish security guards outside of Turkey’s embassy in Washington beat up peaceful protestors earlier this month, apparently at the command of the Turkish Islamist authoritarian president, who had arrived at the embassy grounds during the protest.  The District of Columbia Police had to intervene to protect the protestors, who were attacked on American soil for exercising their freedoms.  Although such an assault is typical in Turkey, it is extraordinary at an embassy to the United States

The Trump Administration has neither condemned the assault by the Turkish guards, nor made any effort to prosecute the guards or at least declare them persona non grata.  The media and private citizens have been identifying the culprits, who should be prosecuted and expelled while the Administration must condemn this unacceptable violation of freedom by a foreign government. 

South China Sea: the United States defends the freedom of the seas
            After a delay of several months, the Trump Administration is now continuing the previous Administration’s policy of defending the freedom of the seas against expansive Chinese Communist territorial claims and threats by conducting freedom of navigation naval cruises through the South China Sea

Italy: reduction of state-sponsored gambling 
           The Italian Republic is significantly decreasing the number of state-owned slot machines because of the harmful social affects of gambling. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Russian-Backed Xenophobe Is Defeated in the French Presidential Election


           The pro-Russian anti-European “nationalist” far-right candidate was crushed in the French presidential runoff election today by the pro-European center-left candidate. 

Both the defeated conservative first-round presidential candidate and the most recent conservative President had backed the center-left candidate over the xenophobe who was supported by the Russian Federation, led by the authoritarian ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin.  The losing far-right candidate would have taken France out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and discarded the Western alliance. 

Donald Trump had favored the pro-Russian nationalist.  The Russians interfered heavily in the French presidential election, as they have elsewhere in Europe and in the American presidential election.  Some of the same far-right Americans and Russian-created fake social media accounts who had supported Trump also supported the French xenophobe.  Since Trump’s election, far right candidates, usually supported by Russia, have lost in Austria, the Netherlands and France, either to center-right or center-left pro-European candidates.   

The incoming French President had been a minister in the unpopular ruling Socialist presidential cabinet, but entered the field of candidates when his party’s candidate failed to attract enough support even to be competitive with the three leading candidates, who included also a far-left candidate.  Although their domestic policy included large tax increases, the Socialists have been good allies of the United States both in the War on Terrorism and in standing up to Russian aggression.  

The French people voted patriotically today against dominance by a hostile foreign power and for the Western Alliance.  May France enjoy independence, peace, security, liberty and prosperity.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Update on the Protests in Russia and Hungary


There were more arrests this week of protesters who were demonstrating against Russian Federation authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin’s plans for a fourth term as president.  Anti-Putin protesters in Russia risk arrest because the dictatorship does not respect the freedom of peaceful assembly.  They are protesting against authoritarianism and kleptocracy.

Meanwhile, the democratic opposition leader was injured by an attack earlier this week that may cause permanent blindness in one of his eyes.  The Russian dictatorship yesterday prohibited him from seeking healthcare outside of Russia.

Another major opposition figure had been poisoned earlier this year, which was the second time he was nearly poisoned to death.  Two years ago, the leader of the democratic opposition was murdered near the Kremlin.  Extra-judicial killings and other attacks, such as poisonings, of regime opponents, journalists and other critics are common in Russia, in addition to false prosecutions.  Hundreds have been killed and many others imprisoned or driven into exile.  In the tightly-controlled police state, the attackers, who certainly are operating on behalf of the regime, are never prosecuted.  

The latest protests in Hungary against the illiberal Hungarian government have also been pro-European and anti-Russian.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Foreign Digest: Venezuela, Ecuador, France, Syria, Russia and Turkey


Venezuela OAS expulsion
            Amidst ongoing demonstrations against the Socialist dictatorship, Venezuela is now withdrawing from the Organization of American States, which had criticized the Venezuelan regime for its bloody crackdown on dissent. 

Communist Cuba, an ally of Socialist Venezuela, is the only other state in the Americas that is not a member of the OAS.  The OAS should continue to encourage liberty in Cuba and Venezuela, as well as in member states Ecuador and Nicaragua.    

Ecuador’s authoritarianism
            Ecuador, which is led by an authoritarian leftist allied with Venezuela, is violating the freedom of the press through a new press law.  The Ecuadorian Government, which had abetted Venezuela’s aid for Marxist narco-terrorists in Colombia, also harbors an agent of the Russian Federation in its embassy in the United Kingdom.

French presidential elections
            The center-left candidate won more votes in the French presidential election earlier this week than three pro-Russian candidates, one of whom was far-left, one was conservative and the other a far-right nationalist.  The Russian Federation, which has interfered heavily in this election, has been particularly backing the nationalist candidate, who came in second. 

As neither candidate won a majority, there will be a runoff election.  The ruling socialist party candidate earned the fifth most votes, as neither major party will have a candidate representing it in the runoff for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic.  Because of the threat to liberty and global security of a victory by the anti-European, anti-NATO xenophobe, the losing conservative candidate and a former conservative president, Nicholas Sarkozy, are backing the center-left candidate. 

The leading candidate, a former cabinet minister, has been targeted by Russian state hackers, as well as by Russian propaganda, as the same phony social media accounts that have been supporting Donald Trump are now supporting—in French—the nationalist candidate.  Trump had made favorable comments on behalf of the Russian-backed xenophobe who denies French culpability on the Holocaust. 

Syria’s chemical weapons attack
            The French Republic concluded this week beyond a doubt that sarin gas was used in the attack on civilians last month and that Syria’s Baathist dictator, Bashar Assad, was responsible for the attack.  Sarin is a prohibited chemical weapon of mass destruction that the Syrian regime was required to give up in 2013 in its agreement brokered by its ally, the Russian Federation.  The chemical attack was launched from a base at which Russian military forces operate. 

The Syrian regime, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Russia often target innocent civilians.  The Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and created five million refugees, the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.  Syria is also backed by terrorist-sponsor Iran and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization.

Russian anti-government protests
            There were more protests yesterday across the Russian Federation against the government’s tyranny and kleptocracy.

Turkish authoritarianism
            Turkey’s Islamist authoritarian government is continuing to expand its post-military coup crackdown to the point of establishing a totalitarian Islamic regime.  The Turkish dictator, known as “the Sultan,” is banning certain Internet information websites and television programs he deems “un-Turkish.” 

            Like Venezuela and Russia, Turkey’s tyrant was democratically elected and gradually became authoritarian by seizing more and more powers, through both legal and illegal means, while oppressing the press and the democratic opposition and violating the independence of the judiciary.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Turkish Referendum Establishes an Autocratic Presidential State


           By a slim margin, despite oppression by Turkey’s authoritarian government that precluded a free and fair political campaign, as well as election irregularities, Turkish voters narrowly approved a constitutional referendum that establishes a presidential state that gives its president autocratic powers.

            Turkey was founded after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire that followed the First World War as a secular, parliamentary republic led by a prime minister with a more ceremonial president as head of state.  Under its current president, it had already unofficially turned into an Islamist presidential dictatorship even before the referendum makes it official.

            Members of the opposition have been imprisoned, especially since the authoritarian president’s crackdown which followed the attempted military coup d’etat in July, as I have been posting.  Tens of thousands of people have been sacked or imprisoned, especially in the military, which had long been the guarantor of Turkish democracy, including in the judiciary, as the independence of that branch of government has been eliminated.  There have also been more arrests of journalists and closures of independent media since the coup.  During the campaign, demonstrations were banned.  Turkey, like Venezuela and Russia, is one of the examples of the global rise of authoritarianism among democratically-elected governments.

            The Trump Administration’s United States Department of State issued a mildly-worded statement that, although it cited election irregularities, called upon Turkey’s government and opposition to work together, as if there were no oppression by the Turkish regime, and that Turks were informed about politics in their country through an independent press and the opposition were to free to engage in public debate.  It was even more appalling that President Donald Trump congratulated the Turkish authoritarian president for grabbing additional power through his tainted referendum victory.  

           Trump has demonstrated a pattern of not speaking up for pro-democratic protests, as in Russia and elsewhere and for making false moral equivalences between oppression by foreign dictatorships and supposed American misdeeds.  As a result, the U.S. loses moral credibility and becomes less of a beacon for hope for dissidents and all those who long for or cherish freedom around the world at a time when liberty and representative government are on the defensive against authoritarianism.  

Foreign Digest: Protests in Venezuela, South Africa, Russia and Hungary


           There continue to be anti-corruption and pro-democratic protests in Venezuela, Russia and Hungary, As I had posted earlier this month.  In addition, there have been anti-corruption protests in South Africa

Venezuela
            There have been more pro-democratic and anti-corruption protests in Venezuela and they have been more widespread, both geographically and in terms of class, as even the poor are turning against the Socialist regime.   The dictator is confronted everywhere he goes by demonstrators.

South Africa
            There have been major anti-corruption protests against the leftist leader of South Africa.  His African National Congress party, which dominates South African politics, continues to back him, despite his corruption.

Russia
            The opposition leader, released from prison last week, plans more protests in June against the authoritarian kleptocracy of Russian Federation ex-KGB dictator Vladimir Putin.

Hungary
            There continue to be pro-democratic protests against Hungary’s illiberal nationalist government.  

           Protests are often a highly effective way of pressuring authoritarians to moderate or to leave power, as the demonstrations shatter the myth of the dictator’s popularity and encourage further resistance.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

         
           I wish all of you a happy and blessed Easter!

           Let us remember, during this time when authoritarianism has been increasing, that our rights come from God, not man, and that God is Freedom.  As the truth is being undermined with lies and doubts, let us remember that God is Truth.  And as hatred is condoned and promoted, let us remember that God is Love.

           God bless you.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Eight-Year Blog Visit Report


           Thank you for visiting my blog.  In the eight years that StatCounter has been tracking pageviews of my blog, there have been nearly 6,760 strictly-defined visits to my blog, as there were nearly 360 tracked during the last year, an increase of 20% from the year before.

            Visits do not include my own and are only counted if the particular pageviews are identifiable and if an individual’s pageviews are at least one hour apart.  Obviously artificial visitors are discounted.  As I have noted in previous reports, StatCounter does not track nearly as many pageviews as Blogger, the blog host, but allows for better analysis because of its more specificity.  Even with the increase in visits over the last year tracked by StatCounter, there have been fewer visits tracked by it than a few years ago, when the average had been four times as high, but there has simultaneously been a significant increase of pageviews tracked by Blogger, as people have become more likely to block fuller tracking. 

            StatCounter has tracked a dramatic increase in blog visits that are initiated on my blog homepage in recent years.  Although The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization, from April of 2009, with over 1,600 visits, continues to be the most visited page since StatCounter began tracking visits to my blog earlier that month, Useless Cabinet Departments, from March of 2011, was the most popular blog post over the last year, with 30 visits, followed by a second-place tie between The Reverend Monsignor Felix A. Losito, Rest in Peace, from November of that year and Presidential Electors are Supposed to Represent the States and the People from November of 2016, each with 18 visits.  Also attracting at least 15 visits over the last year were Chester Arthur, the Most Underrated U.S. President, from April of 2012 and Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the Constitution Center, from July of 2010, which has been visited over 500 times, the second-most of any post.  As Blogger had tracked, there was a significant increase in traffic to my blog because of the presidential election.  There continue to be visits tracked by StatCounter from across the American Union and from every inhabited continent, including from schools, news media and major companies.

            As authoritarianism has increased around the globe, defending liberty, which is the mission of this blog, has become increasingly necessary.  

           Again, thank you for visiting, especially those of you who are regular visitors, and for following and for the offline comments you give me.  Please visit regularly and follow my blog if you do not already and post comments or contact me offline for feedback or to ask questions or suggest additional topics.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Foreign Digest: Russia, Belarus, Montenegro, Hong Kong, Turkey, Venezuela


           The rise of authoritarianism and the struggle for liberty is the theme of this post.

Protests in Russia and Belarus
            There were unusually large protests a week ago against the dictatorship in Belarus, while those in Russia at the same time were the largest there in years.  Tens of thousands took to the streets in scores of cities across Russia in unauthorized protests against corruption, after a leading opposition figure was able to disseminate a video about the wealth amassed by Russia’s Prime Minister and his extravagant lifestyle.  The Russian Federation is led by an authoritarian regime that is also a kleptocracy, while most of the Russian people have been denied the benefits of the country’s oil wealth, while Russia is spending money on wars in Ukraine and Syria.  The protests continued in Russia this week on a smaller scale, as the size of the ones the weak before surprised everyone and have bolstered the democratic opposition, despite the arrest of several hundred demonstrators, including the opposition leader. 

            Meanwhile, the European Peoples Parties, a European Parliament group of center-right parties from across Europe, condemned the Russian Federation’s undermining of democratic elections in Europe
           
Montenegro’s admission to NATO
            Montenegro has applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but its accession is being blocked by an isolationist in the United States Senate.  Montenegro fears Russia, especially after the Russians attempted a coup d’etat in the tiny former Yugoslav state in October on its parliamentary election day, in which Russia had backed pro-Russian parties.  The plot included plans to assassinate the Prime Minister, who was reelected.  The accession of Montenegro into NATO would expand the defense alliances’ perimeter and thus limit Russian advances, particularly through its ally, Serbia, which borders Montenegro

Hong Kong’s Pro-Peking Administrator
            The Chinese Communists appointed an administrator who is pro-Peking, despite Chinese promises of autonomy and democracy for the former British territory and despite protests for autonomy and democracy and wins by the democratic opposition in the territory’s administrative council elections.

Turkish Referendum to Increase Presidential Powers
            Turkey, together with Russia and Venezuela, has been among the worst examples of the rise of authoritarianism, especially among democratically-elected governments.  In violation of Turkey’s secular constitution, it has become Islamist under its authoritarian president, even though the Turkish constitution does not establish a presidential state, but one led by the prime minister.  The Turkish President, who is known as the “Sultan,” like the leaders of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and caliphate, has proposed a referendum to increase presidential powers.  He is still using last summer’s attempted coup by the military to conduct purges to limit all opposition.

Venezuela’s Opposition Defends the Separation of Powers
            The Supreme Court had ruled last week in favor of executive rule, stripping the democratically-elected Congress, which is led by the democratic opposition to the authoritarian Socialist regime, of its powers and substituted rule by executive decree in its place.  The democratic opposition had won a two-thirds supermajority in the Venezuelan Congress.  The opposition and the Organization of American States opposed the ruling as a coup d’etat by the dictatorship.  Their pressure was successful in leading the Court to reverse its ruling.  

           The Venezuelan regime has refused to seat some of the members who were elected, thereby denying the opposition their supermajority, which would have provided it with the ability to override presidential vetoes and other powers.  The Socialist dictatorship has also thwarted the opposition’s attempts to free all of Venezuela’s political prisoners and to institute certain democratic reforms and initiate changes in policy.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gerrymandering vs. Acceptable Ideological and Partisan Legislative Redistricting


           It has become common lately for all partisan considerations in federal or state legislative redistricting to be labeled as “gerrymandering,” but this misuse of the word fails to make a distinction between what is legislative redistricting that is influenced by an acceptable degree of partisan consideration and gerrymandering, which is the result of excessive partisan motivation.           

Gerrymander is a portmanteau of Elbridge Gerry and salamander.  It refers to a legislative district drawn by the Founding Father that resembled a salamander.  Gerrymandering is the process of drawing legislative districts that are oddly shaped with “tails,” such as possessed by salamanders, corridors or otherwise in such ways that make the districts not compact in order to include as many voters of the same political party of those drawing the boundaries as possible as residents of the district.  Therefore, redistricting those residents who are voters of a particular party into the same district is not necessarily “gerrymandering,” unless the district is thus shaped.

By federal and state law, legislative districts must be contiguous.  It may be desirable that districts be compact, but it makes sense to draw boundaries along lines that follow county or municipal boundaries or that include areas that have a common commercial interests or that share history or culture.  

One of the aspects of culture is political ideology.  Including as many voters as possible who share ideology in a legislative district gives those voters a greater opportunity to elect someone who would represent their political beliefs.  Thus, redistricting along partisan lines can be a form of proportional representation within a state. 

Drawing legislative boundaries along partisan lines, therefore, is not problematic, unless it causes a district not to be compact, to overlap too many political subdivisions or links people who do not share commercial interests, history or other cultural values.  And it is not necessarily gerrymandering.

There is a temptation for lawmakers who have the responsibility to draw legislative boundaries to redistrict them in favor of incumbents generally, which can lead to districts that are gerrymandered in favor of both major parties, or at least drawn in order to provide incumbents with an electoral advantage.  Districts should not be drawn primarily for such temporary considerations and not for self-serving legislators to give themselves or their immediate successors a competitive advantage for the next election.

Gerrymandering should be opposed, but the ideology and partisan affiliations of voters should not be dismissed as they are legitimate factors in drawing legislative boundaries.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pro-European Conservatives Win the Bulgarian Parliamentary Elections


           A pro-European center-right party that is led by a former Prime Minister defeated the ruling Socialists in Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections today. 

Both parties had pledged to restore economic relations with Russia, with the Socialists going further, to the point of orienting away from Europe.  Therefore, the election results were a defeat for Russia, which had heavily interfered in the election, as it typically does.  The Russian Federation has tended to back far-right nationalist, anti-European parties, but sometimes leftist ones are understandably more sympathetic to Communist ex-KGB Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  Pro-Russian nationalists lost parliamentary elections in Austria last year and nationalists lost the Dutch parliamentary elections this month.  

The conservatives won a plurality of seats in the Bulgarian parliament and will have to form a coalition with smaller nationalist parties to govern.  The Socialists had also lost the presidential election last year.