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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Marines' Tag of War over Faith


by Tony Perkins: Her son, Sgt. Cole Wixom, was killed on duty -- almost one year ago today. His body was flown home to Michigan a week later, but along the way, his mom says, someone gave the soldier accompanying his remains a dog tag with a Bible verse on it. In a letter, she tells Kenny Vaughan, the founder of Shields of Strength, that she's "worn it ever since, along with the dog tag that was attached to his coffin. I can barely see the writing anymore. It's tarnished, but I know what it says. It says, 'I will be strong and courageous. I will not be afraid. I will not be discouraged.' You have no idea," the grieving mom said, "what this little piece of metal has meant to me...'"

Cole had just turned 24. Like a lot of families, the news that he'd died came as a complete shock. Robyn never expected that when her son flew out for training, she'd never see him again. This "little piece of metal," as she called it, is one of the few comforts she's had. But if the activists at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), other moms won't have that same consolation. The activists there are desperately fighting to destroy the partnership between Shields of Strength and the military -- one branch at a time.

The Army was first, announcing late last year that it was pulling its emblem from Kenny Vaughan's products. As stunning as the news was -- "They had asked us to do it!" Kenny said -- the idea that the Marine Corps would follow suit was just as astounding. And yet, that's exactly what the trademark office did after MRFF complained this year that the tags had "poison[ed] the constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State."

"Denying our troops a source of inspiration, hope, and encouragement simply because it contains a religious message is an outrage," Michael Berry, First Liberty's Chief of Staff, argued. Especially since, as we pointed out when the Army withdrew its support, this isn't being paid for by government dollars. It's simply a nonprofit using the trademark license approval it's been granted to print the Army emblem. So what grounds does MFRF have to say these can't be produced and voluntarily worn by our military? According to First Liberty, none.

These questions, he explained on "Washington Watch" Friday, "are typically run by what we would all affectionately refer to as government bureaucrats in the bowels of the Pentagon. So I want to make sure our listeners know these are not uniformed people in the military who are making these decisions. These are the suit-and-tie types that that work in the Pentagon. And... each branch... has their own their own office."

Obviously, what no one there seems to understand is that this is not an official government endorsement of religion.

"I don't think anybody who goes into a base exchange and buys one of these thinks that somehow the United States of America and its government is telling them, 'You must believe a certain thing or you must believe a certain way or have a certain religious belief' simply because they're choosing to buy [these tags] with their own money," Berry pointed out. Yet suddenly, Shields of Strength and other companies who specialize in military memorabilia are all being shut down. "It's getting really out of hand," he argued, and all because Mikey Weinstein and MRFF sent a single complaint.

And the real victims, Mike insists, are the individual Marines. Just a couple of weeks ago, Shields of Strength was contacted by a unit of about 2,000 Marines who all want these dog tags before shipping out to the Middle East. And Kenny had to tell them, "No, I'm sorry. I can't fulfill your order right now because I've [been threatened] by the Trademark Office."

At least for now, Mike says, the Army seems at least willing to work out some sort of agreement. It was a "lukewarm" response, he admitted, but better than the Marine's -- who've threatened to shut the whole operation down. To Berry (a Marine himself) and Kenny, the response is alarming. "It's frustrating that those who are fighting for our freedom can't [exercise it] simply because the military is afraid of an outside activist group," Vaughan said. "I hope the Marine Corps reverses course and restores the ability of our brave military members to own a Shield of Strength."

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
--------------
Tony Perkins (@tperkins) is President of the Family Research Council . This article was on Tony Perkin's Washington Update and written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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Education Choice Could Shift The Black Vote

by Star Parker: Sometimes the timing of events is so auspicious that it is hard to attribute it to coincidence.

The week of Jan. 26 is National School Choice week.

First observed in 2011, for the 10th time, events will take place around the nation that are focused on raising awareness about parental choice in K-12 education and the options available to parents and children.

A few days before National School Choice week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which will address the constitutionality of the so-called Blaine Amendments, arguably the greatest obstacle to school choice the nation faces.

Named after Rep. James G. Blaine, who attempted but failed to enact a federal ban on funding religious schools, 37 states subsequently adopted the provision in their state constitutions.

In the case of Espinoza, the state of Montana passed a law allowing dollar-for-dollar tax credits for funds contributed to scholarship programs that parents could use for paying for education in private schools. In that some of these funds would be used for religious schools, the constitutionality of the program was challenged, and the state wound up trashing the whole program.

The hope of many, including me, is that the court will find the rationale behind the Blaine Amendments unconstitutional. It will be a victory for both religious freedom and education freedom.

It is perverse that the First Amendment, which is meant to guarantee religious freedom, has become a tool for discrimination against religion.

After all, when public funds are available for education of any kind and some parents use those funds for a religious school, this is a private choice, not a government mandate. How can this in any way be understood as government establishing religion? It most certainly interferes with the "free exercise" of religion, which the First Amendment protects.

A decision wiping out the Blaine Amendment prohibitions will also be another reason to congratulate President Donald Trump, who has given us this solidly conservative Supreme Court.

It's also another factor in why black voters may realign their political allegiances.

Education freedom is an issue that deeply divides Republicans and Democrats. And it is an issue on which blacks are more aligned with Republicans.

In a May 2019 poll by Education Next, 70% of black Democrats expressed support for targeted vouchers, 60% for universal vouchers and 55% for charter schools.

It makes sense. Black parents understand the importance of education. Yet their kids are trapped in the worst public schools in the country.

Black parents understand the simple logic of education freedom and the benefits of parents having the power to choose where to send their children to school.

President Trump is now advancing Education Freedom Scholarships, which would provide for up to $5 billion in annual tax credits for donations made to scholarships that fund education-choice opportunities.

The Democratic presidential candidates across the board want to slam the door on charter schools and education choice. They all see one answer to K-12 education: more federal dollars for public school monopolies. Democrats have their eye on political contributions from teachers unions, not on what children, particularly black children, need.

The electoral model that Republicans need to follow for 2020 is that of the 2018 Florida governor's race. Ron DeSantis defeated his black opponent, liberal Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, by a margin of 0.4%. DeSantis got 14% of the black vote and 18% of the black female vote. By most analyses, the explanation for this unusually high black support is that DeSantis is a stalwart on education freedom and parental choice.

Education could, and should, be a defining issue in 2020, and be what makes a critical difference in moving black votes into the Republican column.
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Star Parker (@UrbanCURE)is an author at and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. CURE is a non-profit think tank that addresses issues of race and poverty through principles of faith, freedom and personal responsibility.

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The Show Trial Begins

Cal Thomas
by Cal Thomas: The contrast could not have been starker. One picture showed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi smiling as she signed (with numerous pens) two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

She passed out the pens like souvenirs to fellow Democrats. They were embossed in gold with her signature and rested on silver trays.

The other picture was of Trump signing Phase 1 of a new trade deal with China.

Which picture depicted events of greater long-term benefit to Americans? Unless you are a rank partisan out to remove Trump from office by whatever means, the obvious answer is the China trade deal.

The latest wrench thrown into the machinery of government comes from Democrats who released to their compliant media friends a “note to self” written on a hotel notepad supposedly by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney and a frequent flyer to Ukraine.

The note said, “Get [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy] to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.”

Democrats claim Parnas was an intermediary in the effort to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Parnas’ credibility would be in doubt were he under oath before a court, instead of “testifying” on various cable TV programs. Parnas heads a company that claims to combat fraud. Oh, the irony!

Democrats insist the Senate trial be “fair.” How is it fair when House Democrats continue to leak documents they hope will damage the president and influence senators to vote for his removal from office? Some Democratic senators, who will sit in judgment of the president, have already declared him guilty.

It is politics at its worst and opens the door, as some of the Founders warned, for “normalizing” impeachment.

Historical background is always helpful and so I consulted the National Constitution Center, a private, nonprofit organization and a leading platform for constitutional education and debate, where I found this: The “high crimes and misdemeanors” language (in the Constitution) remains controversial today. In two essays … Neil J. Kinkopf and Keith E. Whittington looked at the Founder’s vision:


The Framers meant for the phrase ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ to signify only conduct that seriously harms the public and seriously compromises the officer’s ability to continue. If the phrase is given a less rigorous interpretation, it could allow Congress to influence and control the President and the courts …The article continues: “When the Founders wanted to ensure accountability, they mostly relied on elections and the voters to hold government officials responsible for their actions,” said Whittington. “But what might fall into the category of ‘other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ was still quite unclear.”

Trump’s call to Ukraine’s president, which is at the heart of the impeachment articles, does not meet the standard of seriously harming the public or compromising the president’s ability to do his job as shown by the China trade deal and the USMCA trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, both signed and passed days after impeachment.

That the Government Accountability Office says the president “broke the law” by withholding $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, aid Congress had approved, doesn’t help the president’s defenders, but does it rise to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor”?

Senators will decide. But they should recall that in 2014 the GAO ruled President Barack Obama’s prisoner deal to exchange Guantanamo Bay detainees for deserter Bowe Bergdahl violated federal law. Obama was not impeached.

Pelosi summed up the true motives of Democrats when she said that regardless of what the Senate does, impeachment will be a “permanent stain” on Trump’s legacy.

In fact, the stain will be on Democrats. It is Democrats who have plotted ways to reverse the will of voters who elected Trump. It is Democrats who fear he will be overwhelmingly re-elected in November.
--------------------
Cal Thomas (@calthomas) is a syndicated columnist, author, broadcaster, and speaker with access to world leaders, U.S. presidents, celebrities, educators, and countless other notables. Article shared in The Daily Signal.

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Senate Trial Begins, Donald Dominates Davos, Richmond Riots

Gary Bauer
by Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: Senate Trial Begins
The Senate's phase of the impeachment proceedings begins in earnest today. That said, most of the day is being consumed with procedural debates over the rules that will govern that course of the trial.

There will be several hours of debate over competing resolutions offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. McConnell's proposal, which broadly mirrors Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, provides:
  • 24 hours for the House impeachment managers to present their case.
  • 24 hours for the president's defense team to present its case.
  • 16 hours of senators' questions.
After 64 hours of debate and questions, the Senate could then consider whether it needs to hear from additional witnesses.
Republicans would like to see the impeachment trial wrapped up before the president's State of the Union Address, which is scheduled for February 4th – two weeks from today. But Schumer is demanding the right to call additional witnesses now, essentially continuing the House's impeachment investigation in the Senate, which could drag on for weeks.

That's an enormous problem for McConnell and the Trump/Pence agenda since Senate rules dictate that the impeachment trial takes precedence over virtually everything else. Most Senate business, including the confirmation of judges, grinds to a halt until the impeachment trial concludes.

In related news, the White House announced yesterday that the following members of Congress will assist the president's legal team during the impeachment trial:
  • Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)
  • Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
  • Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
  • Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX)
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)
  • Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
Donald Dominates Davos
President Donald Trump addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, today. He proudly declared, "The American dream is back, bigger, better and stronger than ever before." I will paraphrase the rest of the president's remarks, which you can watch.


Trump talked about the greatness of Europe over the centuries. He noted that many European cities have great landmarks built many hundreds of years ago, often constructed with new techniques that defied conventional construction practices of the time. He predicted continued technological breakthroughs that are impossible to imagine today.

His point was simply this: Human engineering and innovation have overcome tremendous challenges, and we should reject the naysayers and pessimists. It was a quintessentially optimistic American message and stood in stark contrast to Greta Thunberg's message of environmental gloom and doom.

It wasn't that long ago when the "experts" said we were all going to starve to death, that energy would be scarce, that we would all freeze to death. They were all wrong.

The president took on the globalist, open borders crowd by urging every country to put its citizens, workers and families first. He forcefully rejected socialism, and called on world leaders to support a "pro-worker, pro-citizen, pro-family agenda" to make all nations thrive.

In short, President Trump defended everything the left is attacking. He proudly declared that country matters, that workers matter, and that family is the core of society.

So today, while Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Adam Schiff are being as small as they can possibly be by pushing this sham impeachment, which risks shrinking America in the process, the president was boldly commanding the world stage. What a contrast!

Richmond Riots?
For the first time in a generation, the left has complete control of Virginia. It immediately set out to expand the right to abortion while limiting the right of individuals to protect their families.

For many years people of all economic backgrounds and races have attended what's known as "Lobby Day" at the state capitol in Richmond to rally in support of the Second Amendment. While the left often criticized the rally, this year was different.

For days leading up to the event, the media described it as a gathering of white nationalists and extreme militia members. Apparently these proud Americans didn't get the memo.

CNN and MSNBC led the media smear machine, while Gov. Ralph Northam and progressive Democrats fueled the controversy with a pointless state of emergency that suspended gun rights. (Kudos to the brilliant writers at the Babylon Bee for satirically exposing the media's twisted hysteria.)

More than 20,000 people showed up yesterday, and there was not one incident of violence. There was only one arrest – a 21 year-old woman refused to remove her bandana from her face.

How can that be? Where were the riots? Well, these were law-abiding gun owners exercising their rights. Sadly, the left despises them and is trying to turn them into criminals.

But it fits a disturbing pattern. The left is trying to marginalize and redefine as "hate" every position central to the conservative worldview.

If you believe in the Second Amendment, the left says you're a militia member who hates government.

If you believe in the sanctity of life, the left insists you hate women.

If you believe in borders, the left insists you hate foreigners and Hispanics.

If you believe marriage is between a man and woman, the left says you're homophobic.

If you believe that men and women really are different, that boys shouldn't be in girls locker rooms, the left says you're transphobic.

If you are concerned about radicalism in the Islamic world, the left says you're Islamophobic.

If you believe in America, the left says you're a nativist bigot.

As I have said before, the left isn't just trying to impeach Donald Trump. It's trying to impeach YOU. It wants to throw YOU out of the public square.

My friends, we are in the middle of an epic battle for the heart and soul of America. Please, while you're thinking about it, make a donation of any amount you can afford to help us defeat the radical left this November.
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Gary Bauer (@GaryLBauer)  is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

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Celebrating Buzz Aldrin's 90th Birthday

Astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. saluting
the U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon
during the Apollo 11 lunar mission.
(July 20, 1969, NASA photo)
by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: There were giants in the earth in those days… mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Yesterday we celebrated the 90th birthday of Buzz Aldrin, one of the last living titans of an epic era. Half a century ago, Buzz, with Neil Armstrong, did something that had been synonymous with “the impossible.”

They landed their spaceship, the Eagle, on the moon.

This was rapidly followed by Armstrong and Aldrin’s doing the very first true “moonwalk.” Enthralled, I watched the landing and that walk on a black and white TV in the student center at Clarion State College. They planted the American flag. Not to claim the moon for America but with a declaration that they had come in peace for all mankind.

They collected lunar samples, took photos, accepted a congratulatory phone call from President Nixon. With a felt-tipped pen, Aldrin fixed the ascent engine’s broken circuit breaker that threatened doom.

To complete this picture let us now praise the third member of the Apollo XI trio, command module pilot Michael Collins, who, orbiting high above Tranquility Base, entered into possibly the loneliest situation ever experienced by modern man: intermittently alone and out of contact with everyone from Earth to moon, sailing alone, above, over the dark side of the moon.

Drama? The very survival of these astronauts was no sure thing. Presidential speechwriter William Safire had pre-written a eulogy should their lives be forfeited.

Then, Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off, rendezvoused with Collins, docked, and returned to Earth. These three had challenged the Heavens and returned in triumph. Much of Earth had its eyes turned Heavenward throughout.

What visual drama! Three brave souls launched skyward on a pillar of fire of Biblical proportions. They returned dangling from a cluster of parachutes resembling angels’ wings. All the astronauts (and with less fanfare, the cosmonauts) re-enacted this scene.

That said, Apollo XI enacted it having just done the impossible.

Heroic feats provide great spectacle. This one was a doozy. It was followed by a recovery by the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, ticker tape parades, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Honors galore.

That said, spectacles come and go. A fickle public quickly forgets who did what. Players readily are relegated to an encyclopedia entry, a Jeopardy question, a book or books that make a ripple and disappear.

The human flight space program, however, especially Project Apollo and its apotheosis, Apollo XI, was more than a spectacle. It was the most glamorous element of an epic struggle between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Epics appeal to the most powerful force of the human mind: the imagination.

Epics are for the ages.

History is one thing. Epics are another. Who doesn’t know the stories of love and war, of the heroic Achilles of the “Iliad” and the story of the “Odyssey” with Odysseus’s homecoming long thwarted by the wrath of a god, the exotic adventures, routing the suitors, the reclaiming of wife, son, home, and Ithaca’s throne?

Other epics? Virgil’s “Aeneid,” tale of the travels of the founder of Rome; the epic of “Gilgamesh” and the quest for immortality; the books of "Exodus" and "Kings"; Malory’s “King Arthur”; the “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata.” Fictional epics such as “War and Peace” or “Gone With the Wind.” Indelible.

The 20th century was defined by three epic struggles: World War I and the collapse of Empire; World War II and the defeat of Nazism, Fascism, and Japanese Militarism; and the Cold War — really, World War III — and the triumph of liberal republican capitalism over totalitarian communism. America’s rival had shocked the world by launching the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and again by putting the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin.

These landed a blow to the prestige of America. President Kennedy took up the gauntlet, and, on September 12, 1962 announced that America would send men to the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade. After a truly epic effort, embodying the work of many thousands, we did the impossible. America thereby recovered its prestige as a scientific and technological superpower.

The astronauts were the knights of our era, clad in the high-tech suits of armor. Our astronauts shared the credit widely and yet were seen as, and were, the tip of the spear. They put their lives on the line to win the crucial Cold War battle for the commanding heights. They won that battle with honor, vigor, and flair.

The future will remember our astronauts, especially Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins whereby the human flight space program reached a crescendo, as paramount figures of our era’s defining epic. The names of the heroes of space will live forever in human memory.

Their story was not merely epic.

It was an epic.

Happy birthday, Buzz Aldrin.
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Ralph Benko is Chairman, The Capitalist League and contributor to the ARRA News Service..

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Sanders and Biden Clash Over Social Security

by Yuval Rosenberg: With less than two weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, Social Security has emerged as a major point of contention in the Democratic presidential primary.

The fight: Sen. Bernie Sanders recently amped up his criticism of Joe Biden’s record on protecting the safety net program, criticizing the former vice president for what he described as a decades-long record of openness to bipartisan reforms that would cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age. The Sanders campaign pointed to Biden statements related to Social Security dating back to 1984 and to Biden’s support in 1995 for a balanced budget amendment.

Biden’s camp hit back — and brought more media attention to Sanders’s criticism in the process. Biden on Saturday demanded an apology from the Sanders campaign for circulating what he called a “doctored” video that suggested he agreed with Paul Ryan in 2018 regarding the need to cut Social Security benefits. The video wasn’t altered, but Biden’s camp claims his remarks were sarcastic and taken out of context. (Biden, in those 2018 comments, did go on to say that Social Security “still needs adjustments.”)

Biden’s camp insists that the former vice president is “a champion of Social Security” and points out that he’s now pushing for the program’s expansion. “He’s running on a plan to significantly grow its benefits, paid for with new taxes on the wealthiest Americans,” a campaign spokesperson told Reuters.

Sanders reportedly acknowledged that the one video in question didn’t provide the whole context of Biden’s remarks, but he continued to hammer away at his broader point. “I think anyone who looks at the vice president’s record understands that, time after time after time, Joe has talked about the need to cut Social Security,” Sanders told reporters Sunday at a campaign stop in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said Biden “should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut Social Security.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Sunday joined in on the attack on Biden. “Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus’ in the Senate,” she told Politico. “As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone's records on Social Security are important in this election.”

The context: Biden now calls for preserving and expanding Social Security, including scrapping the payroll tax cap and increasing benefits for older Americans. “There will be no compromise on cutting Medicare & Social Security, period. That’s a promise,” Biden said Monday at the 2020 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum.

But, as the Sanders camp says, he has previously been willing to negotiate with Republicans over deals that would have slowed the growth of Social Security benefits or raised the retirement age.

“Biden during his time in the Senate publicly expressed an openness to either freezing year-over-year cost-of-living increases, as part of a bipartisan plan to slow federal spending, or raising the retirement age in order to preserve the program while managing the federal budget,” CNN’s Gregory Krieg reports.

The Obama administration also negotiated a debt-reduction “grand bargain” with Republicans that, had it not collapsed, would have slowed Social Security cost-of-living increases and raised the Medicare eligibility age in exchange for new taxes.

Sanders, meanwhile, has been a consistent advocate for expanding Social Security and opposed cuts proposed during the Obama administration. Last year, he reintroduced legislation to shore up the program’s finances and raise benefits by increasing payroll taxes on incomes above $250,000 and imposing a new tax on investment income.

Why it matters: The latest battle, and Biden’s current position, highlights a shift in the Democratic Party. “In proposing a Social Security plan during the primary with none of the cuts or changes he once countenanced, Biden has moved more toward Sanders — a triumph for a progressive movement that fought for years to ensure Democratic politicians would only consider growing the program, instead of raising age eligibility requirements or freezing cost-of-living adjustments to make it pay out less,” Politico’s Marc Caputo and Holly Otterbein wrote recently. The political question now is just how vulnerable Biden might be with the Democratic electorate, or facing off against Trump, given his past positions.

So is the idea of a grand bargain dead?
“[T]he Sanders campaign is doctoring fiscal reality, which is that Social Security can’t continue in its present form. As early as this year Social Security benefits will exceed the amount collected in payroll taxes. This means benefits will have to be paid out of trust-fund asset reserves set to run out in 2035,” The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board argued. “It’s possible the Social Security attack will hurt Mr. Biden in Iowa, which has an older population than most states. But the larger damage will be to the cause of fiscal compromise if a Democrat wins the White House. Mr. Trump has little interest in reforming entitlements, and House Democrats would block him anyway. The best chance at a bipartisan reform would be a Democrat like Mr. Biden or Michael Bloomberg working with a GOP Congress.”

Given Biden’s latest pledge to protect Social Security, any bipartisan “grand bargain” might have to take a very different form than the last one.
---------------------------
Yuval Rosenberg (@yuvalrosenberg) is the editor for The Fiscal Times.

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Progressive Petards

by Dr. Victor Davis Hanson: Since at least 2016, CNN has mostly ceased being a news agency, but that hasn’t stopped it from being an active participant in #TheResistance. The network is so caught up in the fervor of this movement that many of its guests and regular hosts have been fired, reprimanded, or apologized for threats to the president or general obscene references (e.g., Reza Aslan, the late Anthony Bourdain, Kathy Griffin).

Many of its marquee reporters have resigned, were fired, or reassigned for fake-news bias (e.g., Thomas Frank, Eric Lichtblau, and Lex Haris), or came under fire for false reporting (Jim Sciutto, Marshall Cohen, and Carl Bernstein) or have had to offer retractions and/or apologies (Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper, and Brian Rokus.)

Its anchors have apologized for obscenity (Anderson Cooper) or simply making up false statements (Chris Cuomo), while analysts have been caught in a number of contradictions about their own role in on-going scandals (James Clapper).

The common denominator has been the new journalistic ethos that aborting the Trump presidency justifies any means necessary to achieve such noble ends. Throughout CNN’s descent into parody, progressives still smiled at the usefulness of CNN for the larger project of delegitimizing the Trump presidency. Few understood the Thucydidean concept that once nihilists destroy norms and protocols of ethical behavior for perceived short-term advantage, they usually rue the loss when they themselves become victims of their own biased zealotry and are in dire need of the civilizational help they recently ruined.

So it was last week, when CNN moderator Abby Phillip warped the recent Democratic presidential primary debate by not asking, so much as accusing, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) about a claim that he said a woman such as Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could not be elected president—in the fashion of a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question: “Senator Sanders, CNN reported yesterday, and Senator Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?”

Leftists were outraged at the CNN host’s flagrant bias—as if there was gambling really going on in Casablanca, as if CNN’s own Candy Crowley had not attempted to hijack the second 2012 presidential debate to aid favorite Barack Obama, or as if CNN’s Donna Brazile had not leaked a debate question to aid Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Diversity Drama
The same irony is on display with the Democratic presidential field. One strange theme has been dominant since the primary debates began: the more the white frontrunners pontificated on “diversity” and deplored “white privilege,” the whiter the Democratic field seemed to grow—until there were no nonwhite candidates left.

Those who followed the Democratic field were vexed, given that for three decades the Left has canonized its two fundamental identity politics principles of “proportional representation” and “disproportional impact.” These are the rather strange ideas that racial, ethnic, and gender groups must be represented in coveted jobs and billets according to their percentages in the general population—and its addendum that if there was not proper proportional representation, then no evidence of bias or discrimination was needed to take reparatory action to ensure that race governed hiring and admissions.

Thus, according to progressive doctrine, the white liberals and democratic socialists on the Democratic debate platform, not Democratic voters, pollsters, and donors themselves, are in a way culpable for the absence of candidates of color, whether or not a Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, or Warren was guided by prejudicial behavior in beating a Booker, Castro, Harris, Patrick, or Yang.

Perhaps if the Democratic candidates lived by the rules they had enforced on universities or other public agencies, then an underrepresented Cory Booker or Julian Castro would have been by fiat reinstated on the debate stage and an “overrepresented” Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg, the beneficiaries of centuries of “white privilege,” would be passed over from the opportunity—for the greater societal good of diversity.

The idea that a Biden or Warren “earned” their stronger polling or greater fundraising, based on any meritocratic notion of out-debating, out-hustling, out-campaigning, or out-politicking a Harris, Castro, or Booker would be considered not just absurd, but proof of the bias of any who embraced such a structurally racist position.

Absurd? Perhaps, but for the rest of the country that has been lectured unceasingly by progressive elite scolds, it was pure schadenfreude.

Impeachment Indiscretion
Democrats may also be hoisted by their own petard in the ongoing impeachment psychodrama. They more or less rigged the House impeachment proceeding, by using their majority to depart from past practice. They monopolized the witness lists, selectively leaked, and rushed to indict Trump on the theory that every day the president was not impeached was another day the country was endangered.

Then when bipartisan support never appeared, when there was no special counsel’s damning report, when there was no public majority support, and when there was not the appearance of constitutional indictments for treason, bribery, and specific high crimes and misdemeanors, the impeachment writs simply sat, ossifying as if the House prosecutors suddenly wished to be sober, judicious, and reflective, when in truth they were finagling ways to fortify their anemic writs before what they feared would be a disastrous and embarrassing Senate acquittal.

Democrats insisted that the Senate trial have witnesses and that Republican senators conduct the proceeding in a nonpartisan fashion antithetical to the partisan manner in which they had rammed through impeachment in the House. In other words, Democrats demanded that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not replay the roles of Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Yet the obvious expectation in such a free-for-all impeachment and trial circus was always that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden would be the most preeminent witnesses called, given Trump’s logical defense that the younger Biden was utterly corrupt, was known to be corrupt but found useful by Ukrainians, and thus naturally such a high-profile case justified presidential suspicions of Ukrainian requests for aid—with the corollary that the elder Biden, the font for Hunter’s ability to leverage money for access, would not be able to testify honestly about the degree to which he knew of his son’s skullduggery.

Joe Biden, despite his senior moments and his lifelong reckless speech, may be for now the Democrats only hope to carry the Midwest swing states that sent Donald Trump to the White House. Thus, the Democrats in the very fashion they have conducted themselves throughout this impeachment farce, may be insidiously destroying the candidate with the best chance of regaining the White House—even while likely enhancing Donald Trump’s polls.

That the Democrats realized such risks and ignored them, either suggests the Left wants to finish off the Biden candidacy, or their obsessions with destroying Trump outweighs any practical considerations of replacing the president with one of their own.

Blinding Rage
These are strange times, in which progressives grow near quiet when courageous Iranians hit the streets to protest a murderous government, but express remorse over the killing of one of the most murderous of all Iranian autocrats.

For years, leftists have decried the bipartisan kid-gloves treatment of China, as its mercantilism systematically hollowed out the old Democratic blue-collar base in the Midwest—only to blast the first president who agreed that China had to be confronted before it eroded what was left of the American industrial heartland.

And we were always warned to fear the government overreach of the intelligence agencies, even as ex-high officials go on liberal networks, warping their use of their security clearances, to contextualize their own previous unethical behavior.

Of all the strange symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome, progressive self-immolation is the strangest.
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Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) is a senior fellow, classicist and historian and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution where many of his articles are found; his focus is classics and military history. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. H/T American Greatness.

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Working Hard Versus Hardly Working

Stephen Moore, Economist
by Stephen Moore: Almost all of us know (because President Trump boasts of it in nearly every speech) that our 3.5% unemployment rate has reached a 50-year low. But this official decline in joblessness doesn't tell the entire story of the improvement in the job market in the United States. And it doesn't fully capture the change in direction between what happened under President Barack Obama and Trump.

In the Obama years, the unemployment rate kept falling after 2010. That's great. But the untold story was that the number of people moving from the living room couch into jobs was exceeded by the number who dropped out of the workforce, or, as was the case with millions of 20-somethings, never got a job. From January 2009 to December 2016, almost 10 million jobs were added, but amazingly, 1.6 million working-age people dropped out of the workforce.

The percentage of people participating in the labor force fell from 65.7% to a low of 62.7% under Obama. Generally, in a recovery, job seekers rise as jobs reemerge.

A chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the trend in labor force participation and the unemployment rate adjusted for labor force dropouts from 2009-2019. The strange thing about the Obama recovery was more jobs and less willing workers. When a person isn't looking for a job, for whatever reason, they do not get labeled as unemployed. The joke a few years ago was that Obama would shrink the unemployment rate to zero through the magic formula of driving millions out of the workforce. In a world where everyone is living off of welfare or a trust fund, and no one is looking for a job -- there are officially no unemployed people.

Under Trump, we are experiencing the best of all worlds. Unemployment is down, and the labor force participation rate is finally starting to grow again, albeit still slower than needed. Some 2.3 million more people have entered the workforce under Trump. Part of the rise in the workforce is undoubtedly due to the steady increase in wages, which attracts workers to come off the sideline.

Is the healthy job market today due to a continuation of the Obama recovery? Hardly. My Heritage Foundation colleague John Merline ran the numbers. When Obama left office, the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, predicted the "trend" in hiring. For example, the CBO forecast the unemployment rate would never get below 4.4% and would start rising again in 2019. The current unemployment rate is now a full percentage point below the CBO's forecast, with 1.6 million more jobs than the Obama trend line would have predicted.

The CBO also predicted at the end of the Obama years that the labor force participation rate would continue to fall under Trump. Wrong: It rose.

One last point: When I was studying economics in college in the 1970s, the professors and the textbooks instructed us that an unemployment rate of about 4% was "full employment." Can't go any lower than that. How good is the job picture today? We now have an unemployment rate a half a percentage point below full employment. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how does this job market rate? It's an 11!
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Stephen Moore, (@StephenMoore) is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works. He is the co-author of "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy." Moore encouraged the ARRA News Service editor at SamSphere Chicago 2008 to blog his articles. His article was in Rasmussen Reports.

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Is Mass Civil Disobedience Our Future?

by Patrick Buchanan: Virginia gun owners believe their moral obligation to protect families, friends and themselves in a violent society justifies their right to keep and carry firearms, no matter what the Virginia legislature says.

On the holiday set aside in 2020 to honor Martin Luther King, the premier advocate of nonviolent Gandhian civil disobedience, thousands of gun owners gathered in Richmond to petition peacefully for their rights.

King had preached that there was a higher law that justified breaking existing laws that mandated racial segregation.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the front of the bus in Montgomery, when Freedom Riders integrated bus terminals, when black students sat at segregated lunch counters in North Carolina, they challenged state law in the name of what they said was a higher law.

And Virginia gun owners believe their moral obligation to protect families, friends and themselves in a violent society justifies their right to keep and carry firearms, no matter what the Virginia legislature says.

Americans have a long history of breaching laws in the name of a higher law or God-given rights.

The patriots of Boston gathered an arsenal at Concord in defiance of the British. To protest a tea tax imposed by parliament, they dressed as American Indians and threw shiploads of imported tea into Boston Harbor.

Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, to protest debt collections in 1786-87, and the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, to protest a tax, both had to be crushed with force.

Abolitionists supported the violation of fugitive slave laws, the enforcement of which Lincoln endorsed in his first inaugural as a national necessity to restore and preserve the Union.

A constitutional prohibition of the sale of beer, wine and liquor in the U.S., following the enactment of the 18th Amendment, led to massive civil disobedience in the Roaring ’20s, before it was repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment.

During Vietnam, burning draft cards was a regular feature of anti-war rallies.

Historians may describe the racial riots of the 1960s — Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit, and 100 U.S. cities including Washington, D.C., after King’s assassination — as popular uprisings, but many required National Guard and federal troops to stop the looting, shooting and arson.

By the late 1960s, LBJ, who had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, could not visit a college campus without a violent demonstration.

This week, Washington hosts the 46th annual March for Life to commemorate the 60 million unborn killed in the abortion mills of America since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In conservative states, restrictions imposed on abortion facilities have put some out of business. The legislators and governors who have done so believe the right to life trumps the Warren Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Perhaps the greatest manifestation of civil disobedience today is the illegal presence of between 12 million and 20 million immigrants who broke into our country or are breaking the law by being here after their visas expired.

Their collaborators are the business owners who hire them and the public officials who refuse to treat them as lawbreakers.

“Sanctuary cities” have been created where local and state authorities refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement.

Now, towns, cities and counties are creating “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” where laws restricting gun rights will not be enforced.

If state and local police, themselves gun owners, stand with those who defy the new state laws on guns, who enforces the new laws?

The Virginia Senate has begun to move bills requiring background checks for gun purchasers including red flag laws to disarm individuals deemed at risk to themselves or others, and bills granting permission for locales to restrict the carrying of arms in government buildings and confining the purchases of handguns to one a month.

There are other restrictions the Democratic legislature in Richmond and governor are ready to move, including restricting the number of bullets in clips and magazines and halting sales of rifles like the AR-15.

Gun owners see these as the onset of an all-out assault on gun rights.

For a republic to endure, there has to be a common consent on the rule of law and what constitutes a good society. But these seem to be at issue again in America.

Is abortion the killing of an innocent human being? Do Americans have a constitutional and human right to keep and carry firearms to protect themselves and their loved ones?

Who is and who is not a rightful resident of our national home?

Do illegal migrants have a right to come here and stay here? Or do their numbers imperil our national identity and existence as “one nation and one people”?

Violent crime was greater in America in the early 1990s. Urban riots were far more common in the 1960s. And there is nothing today comparable to the bloodletting of the 1861-65 War Between the States.

Still, Americans seem to disagree with each other more and to dislike each other more than they have in the lifetime of most of us.

One wonders: How does it all stay together? And for how long?
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Patrick Buchanan (@PatrickBuchanan) is currently a blogger, conservative columnist, political analyst, chairman of The American Cause foundation and an editor of The American Conservative. He has been a senior adviser to three Presidents, a two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and was the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000.

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Confronting Trump Derangement Syndrome

by Lloyd Marcus: My wife Mary and I spent a wonderful weekend in California with fellow Trump supporters filming the music video for my Trump Train 2020 song. We boarded our flight back home to the East Coast on Sunday at 8 P.M., arriving at BWI airport in Maryland on Monday at 10:30 am. We were exhausted.

The taxi driver taking us to our car was listening to NPR. A radio show host and his caller were lying about Trump, venomously declaring him a serial liar. Perhaps it was because I was so tired that I had zero tolerance. I spouted, “Those guys are lying jerks!” I launched into a rant defending my president.

The taxi driver pounced. In a heavy Middle-Eastern accent, with a smirk, he said, “You actually believe the president is not a liar? I have lived in this country for 40 years. I am not stupid. Bush left Obama a horrible economy. Obama made things better for everyone.”

My feisty wife jumped into the conversation, passionately educating the duped driver. I tapped Mary on the leg, signaling her to stop talking because as their exchange grew more heated, the driver began flailing, taking his hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. I wanted him to calm down and focus on driving. Clearly, our taxi driver was crazed with fake news media-induced Trump Derangement Syndrome. He was not open to hearing truth. Some people are stuck-on-stupid.

Trump-deranged black family and friends believe I am a traitor to my race for not worshiping Obama and supporting Trump. They ignore the truth that blacks moved economically backwards under Obama.

Blacks are thriving under Trump, enjoying the lowest black unemployment in U.S. history. And yet, my siblings are routinely asked by fellow blacks, “What is wrong with your brother who supports Trump and votes Republican?” Either these blacks are infected with Trump Derangement or stuck-on-stupid.

I’m a former Baltimorian. Several Baltimore blacks insist on remembering their Trump hating late Congressman Elijah Cummings as a hero. Because Cummings was black, they accuse me of betraying my race for writing about Cummings’ corruption.

Cummings received over $15 billion in federal funds to clean up his rat-infested, record-breaking black-on-black homicide district which has endless blocks of rundown vacant houses. The federal funds magically disappeared without fulfilling their purpose. Cummings’ loyalists absurdly say I am the bad guy, an Uncle Tom tool of Trump and Republicans. These blacks are stuck-on-stupid.

The shocking truth is Elijah Cummings did not give a rat’s derriere about improving the lives of or empowering blacks. The same thing is true about the Democrat party, NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, fake news media, and other faux advocates for blacks. To these leftists, blacks are nothing more than a faithful monolithic voting-bloc of useful idiots.

It does not take a genius to recognize that everything good, liberating, and economically empowering for blacks is vehemently opposed by a coalition of leftist faux civil rights activists. The Evil Civil Rights Empire rolls out the red carpet, welcoming illegals who harm blacks economically.

The Evil Civil Rights Empire opposes school choice, sentencing urban black students to suffer in failing violent schools. It opposes traditional marriage and defunding Planned Parenthood which focuses on killing black babies. It also opposes academic standards and black behavioral accountability.

By its bigotry of lowered expectations, the Evil Civil Rights Empire insinuates that blacks are inferior. It always insists that standards be lowered to make things fair for blacks. Remember the insulting Democrat lie that requiring a photo ID to vote disenfranchises black voters?

When Trump announced at the State of the Union that black unemployment was at an historic low, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus sat on their hands, stone-faced, while everyone else in the chamber applauded and cheered. The CBC does not care about blacks. The Evil Civil Rights Empire only cares about gaining power to control every aspect of Americans’ lives to implement its socialist/progressive and anti-Christian agenda.

The disgusting dirty secret is the Evil Civil Rights Empire wants blacks solely dependent upon government and uneducated about their constitutional freedoms. It wants blacks believing the lie that a majority of Americans are white supremacists, obsessed with concocting ways to suppress blacks. Its bogus, divisive, destructive, and insidiously evil narrative is “vote for Democrats to keep rabidly racist white America at bay.”

That’s the bad news. But be of good cheer, folks. I am extremely pleased to announce great news. Shockingly, 34% of blacks say they support Trump. Wow! That is awesome!

To blacks who have seen the light, welcome aboard the Trump Train! To blacks who insist on staying on the Democrats’ government plantation, “You can’t fix stupid.”

Even though the taxi driver was annoying, we tipped him.
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Lloyd Marcus (@LloydMarcus) is an "Unhyphenated American" and an internationally renowned conservative columnist, singer/songwriter and author. He is Chairman of the Conservative Campaign Committee Political Action Committee. He is a prominent voice of the American Tea Party movement and the singer/songwriter of the ”American Tea Party Anthem.” Marcus has been on Fox News, CNN, PJTV and more.

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Impeachment Trial Day 1: The Senate Begins

. . . McConnell releases proposed trial rules and Trump's legal team releases its brief.
by Thomas Gallatin: The Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins today. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his proposed rules on Monday evening, which predictably had Democrats immediately crying foul. The biggest curve ball in McConnell’s proposal is a rule requiring that all evidence collected by House Democrats be approved via a vote before being admitted into the trial — and then only after opening arguments by both the House Democrats and Trump’s legal team. McConnell’s rules allow for a vote on whether to call witnesses, which Democrats insist on doing.

It’s clear that McConnell wants to avoid a drawn-out process, which is exactly what Democrats are aiming for. McConnell allotted 24 hours over two days for partisans on each side to present their case, starting with House Democrats. Then, following the Trump team’s rebuttal, senators will have up to 16 hours to submit questions in writing to both sides. Only after that process is complete will the Senate consider “the question of whether it shall be in order to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents.”

Furthermore, if the Senate votes to call witnesses, “no testimony shall be admissible in the Senate unless the parties have had an opportunity to depose such witnesses.” And any deposing of witnesses will be done behind closed doors.

Also on Monday, Trump’s legal team released its blistering 110-page brief against the Democrats’ articles of impeachment, calling them “an affront to the Constitution and our democratic institutions.” Team Trump adds that the “two flimsy Articles of Impeachment,” which “allege no crime or violation of law whatsoever — much less ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors, as required by the Constitution,” will “permanently weaken the Presidency and forever alter the balance of power among the branches of government in a manner that offends the constitutional design established by the Founders.”

Trump’s acquittal is almost a foregone conclusion given that it would take the votes of 67 senators to convict, though the Democrats’ real ploy is not conviction but political damage. To that end, their aim is to paint Republicans as unfair if they vote against calling witnesses — witnesses House Democrats didn’t bother to call. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and company do hold the advantage of needing only a simple majority vote to get their witnesses, whom vulnerable Republicans will feel compelled to vote in favor of calling. By getting witnesses called, Schumer hopes to drag out the trial for as long as possible with the hope of damaging Republicans and aiding the Democrats’ bid to gain control of the Senate in the 2020 election. As we grow tired of noting, the Democrats’ whole despicable exercise is purely partisan political theater.
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Thomas Gallatin is a Features Editor at The Patriot Post.

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Milk Dud . . .

. . . Where is Hunter Biden and should he give testimony in the Senate trial if they vote to have witnesses.
Editorial Cartoon by AF "Tony" Branco

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Axis of Evil - 19 Years Later

President George W Bush speaks about the
‘Axis of Evil’ at the State of the Union Address in 2002.
by Donald Kirk: A detail generally overlooked in all we've been reading about the misfired Iranian missile that brought down the Ukraine airliner with 176 people aboard: It was almost certainly made in North Korea and sold to Iran or made in Iran from a North Korean design and technology.

The relationship between North Korea and Iran revolves around the export to Iran of thousands of short-to-mid-range missiles over the past 20 to 30 years. They're the type that Iran also ships to Syria and the anti-Israel groups, Hizbullah and Hamas.

The missiles that Iran fired at U.S. bases in Iraq in a show of vengeance for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani would also have been North Korean.

The relationship goes deep into the history of the region. George W. Bush, in the first state-of-the-union address of his presidency in January 2002, four months after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, described an "axis of evil" binding North Korea, Iran and Iraq, then ruled by Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's membership in that infamous grouping may have ended when Bush ordered U.S. troops into Iraq the next year on the basis of phony reports about his nuclear program, but Iran and North Korea have long been in cahoots on nukes and missiles.

North Korea has hundreds of advisors "on the ground now" in Iran providing "technical support and training on a variety of systems and capabilities," says Bruce Bechtol, who's been watching North Korea ever since serving as a marine in South Korea, then an intelligence analyst in the Pentagon and a faculty member at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia.

Bechtol, the author of numerous books and articles on North Korea's leadership and military structure, says the North has shipped Scud, Rodong and Musudan missiles to Iran and the technology for the intercontinental Taepodong.

"North Korea is the seller and Iran is the buyer," says Bechtol, but that's not all. The two also collaborate on nuclear technology originally acquired from Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear physicist renowned as "father of the Pakistan atomic bomb." A national hero for his role in arming Pakistan against its historic foe, India, already a nuclear power, A.Q. Khan made a fortune selling nuclear secrets to Iran and North Korea before he was finally arrested and confined to his estate in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad.

Iran has yet to fabricate a nuclear warhead but has had teams of scientists, engineers and technicians on hand in North Korea witnessing all six of the North's underground nuclear tests, last staged in September 2017, as well as numerous missile tests.

The bond between Iran and North Korea confronts the U.S. with a serious question that has yet to come up amid all the speculation about U.S. policy toward both countries. Much as President Donald Trump would like to calm fears of an impending war with Iran and come to terms with North Korea on its nukes, he has not spoken of the de facto alliance between the two.

Everywhere Iran supports militias and front groups around the middle east, North Korean advisers are there too telling them how to fire those missiles. But how do these missiles get to Iran? A few may go by boat, eluding capture by the U.S. navy and others committed to stopping the traffic, but the easiest, safest, swiftest route is by air.

The planes have to go through Chinese air space, possibly stopping in China, and also may be landing in Pakistan. China has long been providing military aid to Pakistan through which it's building a road across the Himalayas all the way to the Arabian Sea.

Both Pakistan and China count on Iran as a major source of oil. China in turn provides North Korea with virtually all its oil. As Muslim countries, Pakistan and Iran have been on good terms for years.

The enduring nature of the Teheran-Pyongyang axis, however, does not mean that a wider war is inevitable in either the Middle East or northeast Asia.

Protests in Teheran may force the government to pull back, to avoid conflict, while Kim focuses on economic issues.

If Kim does have a "strategic new weapon," however, it's certain that Iranian and North Korean scientists and engineers are working on it and both sides will have it. That's assuming such a fearsome weapon really exists.
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Donald Kirk has been covering war and peace in the region for decades. FPI, Free Press International

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Twitter and Iran

by Kerby Anderson, Contributing Author: Two weeks ago, it seemed like there might be a major confrontation between the US and Iran. Garrett Graff, writing in Wired, suggested that Twitter may have helped stop a war with Iran. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but it does illustrate how international conflict might be affected by something as simple as social media.

He has written about the Cold War and reminds us how difficult communication was between Russia and the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you are over the age of 60 or if you have watched the movie “Thirteen Days” then you might have some understanding of the struggles the countries had in trying to communicate.

Communications moved slowly. It took the US Embassy in Moscow nearly 12 hours to encode a message from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Embassy had to rely on a bicycle messenger from the local DC office of Western Union. Because of all the problems, the two countries developed a hotline between the two leaders.

Compare that to what happened the night Iran launched missiles at military bases in Iraq. At 9:32 pm ET, the Iranian foreign minister posted a tweet that Iran has “concluded” a proportionate response. It added that Iran did “not seek escalation or war.” It’s worth mentioning that he speaks fluent English since he received a PhD in international law from the University of Denver and has a Twitter account with 1.4 million followers.

Just 12 minutes later, President Trump tweeted to his 70 million followers a sober and encouraging message. It simply said “all is well” and “so far, so good.” Reading between the lines, you could assume that the US would take no further actions, and everyone could go to bed.

I doubt anyone involved in developing Twitter ever thought it could be used for international diplomacy. But earlier this month, that is exactly how it was used.
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Kerby Anderson (@kerbyanderson) is a radio talk show host heard on numerous stations via the Point of View Network (@PointofViewRTS) and is endorsed by Dr. Bill Smith, Editor, ARRA News Service.

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White House Lawyer Defending Trump in Trial Seen as No ‘Showboat’

Pat Cipollone
by Karen Freifeld, IJR via Reuters: When White House counsel Pat Cipollone argues President Donald Trump’s case in a Senate trial in the coming days, he will also be defending his role in a controversial legal strategy that helped lead to Trump’s impeachment on a charge of obstructing Congress.

Democratic lawmakers managing the impeachment case say Trump undertook “an unprecedented campaign” to prevent Congress from probing allegations that he pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

One of the main pieces of evidence to support the obstruction charge – Trump was also charged with abuse of power – is a widely criticized letter written by Cipollone on Oct. 8 in which he said Trump could not permit the administration to participate in the Ukraine investigation, which he described as an illegal attempt to remove a democratically elected president.

Cipollone’s letter thrust the lawyer to the forefront of the administration’s battle against the impeachment inquiry in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, bringing him public attention that friends and colleagues say he has long eschewed, unlike many of Trump’s lawyers.

The arguments and political tone in his letter, uncharacteristic for a White House counsel, drew rebukes from many legal experts, including former law school classmates, who said it distorted the law for “cable news consumption.”

While Cipollone declined to comment for this story, Jay Sekulow, another leading member of Trump’s legal team, defended him, saying the arguments in Cipollone’s letter were “exactly what the founders had in mind in crafting a constitution that respects separation of powers.”

Now Cipollone will be in a much brighter spotlight in a televised trial that will take him from his second-floor White House office – where he has a photograph of his family, including his 10 children, with Trump – to the Senate chamber, where he will help lead the Republican president’s defense.

The trial begins in earnest in the Senate on Tuesday.

Democrats have called for Trump’s removal from office, describing him as a danger to American democracy and national security. Trump and his lawyers say he has done nothing wrong and that Democrats are simply trying to stop him from being re-elected. Trump is expected to be acquitted in the trial in the Republican-controlled chamber.

‘RARE COMBINATION’

While Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Christmas holidays, Cipollone was in his office working on his trial arguments on a yellow legal pad, according to a person familiar with his preparations.

“He’s going to give a thoughtful, substantively sound presentation,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, who attended the conservative-leaning University of Chicago Law School with Cipollone, said in an interview.

“He is a rare combination of law review smart and street smart,” said Scalia, who was editor-in-chief of the school’s legal journal when Cipollone was on staff.

Though plain-spoken, Cipollone is expected to avoid Trump-like rhetorical bombs when he argues that there were no grounds for House Democrats to charge Trump with abuse of power or obstructing Congress. The 53-year-old Republican will likely say that Trump was exercising his right to protect confidential communications. His argument will follow those of the House managers who are presenting the case against Trump.

Cipollone, who became White House counsel in December 2018, was first introduced to Trump by conservative television host Laura Ingraham in 2016, when he was a partner at a boutique Washington law firm. He helped Trump prepare to debate his then-Democratic election opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Ingraham, in an interview, described Cipollone as a devoted Catholic who is calm and methodical and a spiritual mentor to her. She said he was not a “showboat.”

Cipollone, a 6-foot-3-inch bespectacled man, is the son of an Italian factory worker who named him Pasquale. He goes to mass often, perhaps as often as every day, according to a person who knows him, and participates in the annual March for Life in Washington that protests abortion.

Jonathan Missner, managing partner of Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, the firm Cipollone left to join the Trump administration, noted that Cipollone spent his early years in the Bronx in New York City, where he was raised to prize loyalty and trust. “Pat’s very loyal to his clients,” Missner said.

In his Oct. 8 letter to the House leadership, Cipollone appeared to show loyalty to Trump as he argued against the impeachment inquiry and highlighted Trump’s efforts to “fix our broken immigration system” and grow the economy.

After the letter, not a single document was produced by the White House, the State Department and other government agencies in response to 71 requests or subpoenas for records, according to the House’s report on the impeachment inquiry. The administration also sought to block current and former officials from testifying.

Neil Eggleston, who served as White House counsel to Democratic President Barack Obama, said Cipollone’s response arguably helped lead to the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress. Eggleston said it was “a mistake” to announce the executive branch was not going to cooperate.

‘I AM READY’

Despite his conservatism, Cipollone has friends across the aisle.

Democratic Representative Adam Smith, a former college classmate of Cipollone’s and fellow debate team member at Fordham University in New York, has remained friends with Cipollone despite their political differences.

“We try to see past that,” said Smith, who recalled that Cipollone had supported Senator Al Gore in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.

When Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, was working on a bill to fund the Pentagon, he said Cipollone put in a good word for him with the White House’s legislative team.

Smith said he obviously disagrees with Cipollone’s approach on the impeachment inquiry, but “we don’t talk about that.”

Melanie Sloan, a law school classmate who describes herself as being politically progressive, said Cipollone was an “enormously smart, honest, ethical person,” and added that she was surprised when he went to work for Trump. She said Cipollone had told her he did not see Trump the way she did. “I can’t explain it,” she said.

But being White House counsel was the pinnacle of a legal career, she said, and now Cipollone is about to argue a case that will etch him into history.

Scalia, the labor secretary, said he spoke to Cipollone about a week ago. “I said, ‘You’re getting ready?’ And he said, ‘I am ready.'”

Tags: Karen Freifeld, IJR, Pat Cipollone,
White House Lawyer, Defending Trump, in Trial, Seen as No ‘Showboat’
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