Sunday, November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 General Election Day in Pennsylvania and Across the American Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pennsylvania’s 2017 Fiscal Authorization Enactment

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

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

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

More Syrian Regime Chemical Weapons Attacks; Russia Defends Syria

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Celebrate Columbus Day as the Holiday for Multiculturalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Columbus Day!  God bless America.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

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

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

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

May God bless America and may God save the Republic.  

Foreign Digest: Spain, Iraq and Russia

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pete Domenici, In Memoriam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thoughts on the Sixteenth Anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pakistan Held a State Funeral for a German Nun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Update: Increased Sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea

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

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

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

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

Update: Venezuela Elects a New Assembly and Becomes a Full Dictatorship

           The authoritarian Socialist-led Venezuelan regime held the elections a week ago for a new assembly, a third of which are members appointed by the government among constituencies of the ruling party, as a first step toward the establishment of a full dictatorship.  The assembly replaces the current democratically-elected Congress, the large majority of which are members of the opposition. 

Because Venezuela’s ruling Socialists do not tolerate freedoms and fully permit free and fair elections, the opposition boycotted the vote.  The turnout was well less than 50% of the electorate.  Over one hundred Venezuelans have been killed in protests over the last few weeks.

The new Venezuelan assembly, whose members will be entirely from the ruling party, will be empowered to write a new constitution that would grant even more dictatorial powers to the authoritarian president.  Without a timeline for the adoption of the constitution, elections scheduled for next year, which the Socialists were expected to lose, would be delayed indefinitely. 

Opposition leaders were arrested after the vote and the Venezuelan attorney general removed from office.  The ruling Socialists had thwarted effective lawmaking by the Congress, including any liberalization and even the release of political prisoners.  

In addition to the opposition, the Catholic Church, Latin American leaders and international organizations, others members of the international community and human rights organizations have condemned the Venezuelan Socialist regime’s abandonment of representative government and imposition of tyranny.  The new assembly will lack international recognition, except from a handful of allies among rogue states, like Communist Cuba.  The United States, which had already imposed increased sanctions on Venezuela, and others in the international community, must consider swiftly implementing effective measures to prevent the total loss of liberty in the once-free, representative, peaceful and prosperous South American state.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Foreign Digest: Poland and Venezuela

            The President of Poland vetoed two bills approved by the Polish legislature that would have compromised the independence of the judiciary, after massive demonstrations against the measures and condemnation from the main conservative opposition party and the European Union.  The ruling far-right party’s attempt to make judges appointed by the legislature, which would subordinate justice to political considerations, was a centerpiece of its efforts to become increasingly authoritarian.  Poles must remain vigilant against further attempts to violate the principle of the separation of powers and any diminishment of liberty.

            The non-binding referendum sponsored by the democratic opposition in Venezuela in favor of fealty to the Venezuelan constitution, which I posted about two weeks ago in my last post, was approved overwhelmingly.  There have continued to be protests and bloodshed, with over 100 Venezuelan protestors killed in the last several weeks.  

           Today, Venezuela’s authoritarian Socialist regime is conducting an election by presidential decree to for a new assembly with the power to draft a new constitution that would establish a full dictatorship.  The current Congress would be abolished.  A third of the seats of the proposed assembly would be reserved for Socialist constituencies, instead of being elected democratically.  As the opposition, which had won a supermajority of the national legislature, but has been denied some of its seats and the exercise of any effective powers by the ruling party, is boycotting the election, all candidates for the proposed assembly are loyal to the ruling party.  The drafting of the constitution, for which there is no proposed timeline, could delay scheduled regional and presidential elections that the Socialist are expected to lose.  The regime’s attempt to establish a dictatorship through the election for a new assembly has been condemned also by the Catholic Church, other Latin American leaders, human rights organizations and the international community.  The referendum is expected to fail, but Venezuelans must continue bravely to preserve their freedom by rejecting tyranny by opposing the Socialist regime’s increasing authoritarianism and the international community must increase its efforts to support representative government and liberty in Venezuela.

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.