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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)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Holding Congress Accountable for the Alleged Awan Crimes

by Newt Gingrich: In 2015, during Speaker Paul Ryan’s first Capitol press briefing as Speaker, he said he wanted a House of Representatives that was “more open, more inclusive, more deliberative, more participatory,” in his remarks.

Three years later, after the Democrats won the House on November 6, 2018, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi said, “Congress will be led with transparency and openness so that the public can see what’s happening and how it affects them … We will have accountability and we will strive for bipartisanship, with fairness on all sides.”

I sent the following letter to Speaker Ryan and Speaker-designate Pelosi today, challenging them to uphold their promise of an open, transparent Congress that is held directly accountable to the American people.To: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan

From: Newt Gingrich

CC: Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

Date: December 21, 2018

Subject: September 2016 Briefings to House Leadership and the House Administration Committee Regarding the IT Allegations Involving Imran Awan and his associates

Dear Mr. Speaker:

As a former Speaker of the House and a concerned private citizen, the allegations surrounding crimes committed by former House IT employees and the potential cover-up of and negligence toward addressing such crimes, is profoundly disturbing.

On November 16, 2018, I sent a letter to House Inspector General Michael Ptasienski requesting the public release of two 2016 briefings given by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to House leadership that outlined the alleged crimes committed by a former House IT employee, Imran Awan, and his associates.

As I noted in my letter, these presentations given on September 20, 2016 and September 30, 2016, “provide critical information pertaining to the possible invoice manipulation, equipment theft, illicit cyber activities, irregular cyber-related login and usage patterns, and outside storage of House data by Imran Awan and his associates.”

On December 12, 2018, I received a response from General Counsel Thomas Hungar who denied my request. Mr. Hungar instead argued that my concerns “may have been prompted by the extensive misinformation published about this matter in the media.” Based on his own “extensive exposure to substantial quantities of evidence,” he concluded that he is “confident” that no cover-up occurred and that the conclusions contained in the July 2018 plea agreement are “justifiable and fair”.

However, Mr. Speaker, I encourage you to examine the following facts – which have led me to question the thoroughness of the investigation and the accuracy of the conclusions that have been derived – and release all documents associated with the September 2016 briefings.

The Department of Justice wrote in the July 2018 plea agreement that throughout the investigation, approximately 40 witnesses were interviewed. However, this number appears to be substantially inadequate when you consider that the Awan associates were employed by the House as shared IT employees for 13 years and worked for more than 60 members during this time period. Additionally, the Awan associates were listed on the payrolls of approximately 40 members each year in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Consider the members themselves, House member staff, fellow IT colleagues and peers, and additional business associates; in doing so, it becomes clear that interviewing only 40 witnesses in an investigation of this magnitude and seriousness is nowhere near sufficient.

It has also been reported that key witnesses connected to this investigation were contacted just days or hours before the plea agreement was signed in July, and a witness was prohibited from bringing relevant documents to an interview with the FBI. Evidently, conducting interviews in this way suggests that the FBI investigators wanted to be able to point to an assortment of witnesses that they contacted, when in reality, it raises questions of the legitimacy of these interviews and whether they were truly conducted in good faith.

Further, the alleged activities of the Awan associates during their time in House employment had the capacity to cause significant financial and equipment losses – and pose substantial and continual threats to national security.

In one office, $120,000 of missing equipment was written off of the House inventory after an Awan associate employed by the office failed to produce the items in question. An unofficial transcript of the OIG briefing on September 20, 2016 asserted that the “shared employee stated that the items were never received, shouldn’t have been inventoried, or the staff lost the equipment.” The transcribed statement that follows shows that this claim is logistically impossible, as “equipment could not be on the inventory or have [an] asset tag unless it had arrive[d] in [the] office and [the] EIN had been signed.”

In addition to the alleged equipment theft, according to the unofficial transcription, there were multiple cases of invoice manipulation by the Awan associates. The unofficial transcription states, “as of Sept. 1, 2016 there have been 34 purchases…totaling nearly $38,000 where the cost of the item was manipulated.”

It is equally important to recognize the members of the House to which the Awan associates had access. Members on the Committee of Foreign Affairs paid the Awan associates more than $950,000. The Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued payments totaling more than $530,000, and the Committee on the Judiciary paid the associates more than $446,000. More than $221,000 was paid to the Awan associates by the Committee on Ethics, and upwards of $175,000 was paid by the Committee on Homeland Security.

Concerningly, the unofficial transcript of the September 2016 briefings notes the computerized “unauthorized access” of the Awan associates and that the “pattern[s] of login activity suggests steps are being taken to conceal their activity.” The unofficial transcript warns that the associated “risks may be higher since the shared employees [the Awan associates] have not been vetted (e.g. background check).”

The Awan associates’ close ties with Pakistan have also been identified. Namely, these ties include immense amounts of owned property that were not correctly disclosed in House documents. Additionally, in early 2017, a home equity line of credit loan totaling $165,000 was wired in its entirety to two people in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Imran Awan pleaded guilty to receiving this exact loan using illegal means.

The unofficial transcript of the briefings lastly notes that there was “[p]ossible storage of sensitive House information outside the House,” using the file sharing site Dropbox, and categorizes such file sharing sites as “a classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization.” The transcript notes that this had not been confirmed, as at the time “[The OIG had] not been permitted to view content of the files on [the] workstations. However, based on the file names, some of the information is likely sensitive.”

Taken into account the totality of the aforementioned information, I implore you to put aside bias and politics, critically examine the foregoing facts, and remember the duty that the United States Congress has to the American people.

It is imperative that government leaders stand for honesty, accountability, and transparency in their actions.

A 2015 press release from your office recounting your first Capitol press briefing as Speaker noted that you “shared [your] vision for a House of Representatives that is more open, inclusive, and transparent,” in your remarks.

Similarly, Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi said after the Democrats won the House on November 6 “Congress will be led with transparency and openness, so that the public can see what’s happening and how it affects them … We will have accountability and we will strive for bipartisanship, with fairness on all sides.”

The secrecy under which the allegations and the subsequent inadequate investigation were kept is a betrayal of the trust of the American people. Americans have a fundamental right to know what happened, who is responsible, what has been done to ensure the fair and transparent administration of justice, and what actions have been taken to prevent the reoccurrence of these alleged crimes in one of our most revered government institutions.

As I wrote in November, “The American people expect better than this. The United States Congress should be better than this.”

Therefore, releasing the requested documents will be a critical step in furthering this collective vision of transparency and openness and will reassure the American people that every government official and member of Congress will be held accountable for his or her actions.

Americans have a right to truthful answers to the questions surrounding these concerning allegations, and they deserve to be able to trust that their elected officials are acting in their best interest.

Sincerely,

Newt Gingrich
Former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives
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Newt Gingrich is a former Georgia Congressman and Speaker of the U.S. House. He co-authored and was the chief architect of the "Contract with America" and a major leader in the Republican victory in the 1994 congressional elections. He is noted speaker and writer. The above commentary was shared via Gingrich Productions.

Tags: Newt Gingrich, Holding Congress Accountable, Alleged Awan Crimes To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

ISIS to Followers: 'Take Advantage of the Coming Days' . . .

. . . to Strike 'Gatherings of Infidels' Like Strasbourg
by Bridget Johnson: Featuring Strasbourg attacker Chérif Chekatt in the new issue of their official weekly newsletter, ISIS told western jihadists to follow his lead in their home countries as "an unexploded ordnance in your land modifies a thousand operations in our territory."

ISIS usually mentions lone-jihadist attacks in the news briefs section of the al-Naba newsletter, but featured Chekatt on page 3 of the newsletter next to the editor's note. In the first week of October 2017, ISIS gave similar preferential placement to Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, while they were claiming the attack as their own and encouraging jihadists to undertake their own mass shootings.

Chekatt, a Strasbourg native with an extensive criminal history who was flagged as a potential Islamic extremist in 2015, killed five and wounded 11 when he opened fire at the French city's famed Christmas market 10 days ago. He escaped the scene but did not leave his hometown, and was shot and killed in an encounter with a routine police patrol two days later.

ISIS waited until Chekatt was dead to claim him as their own through their Amaq news agency.

In the new al-Naba article, the terror group said that even if Chekatt was "killed a martyr... this will not be the last of the attacks... in Europe and America they will not be pleased."

"We remind Muslims in the lands of kuffaar [disbelievers] to take advantage of the coming days," ISIS continued. "There are many gatherings of infidels in their festivals... take your war to the Crusaders."

The top news brief item later in the newsletter focused on President Trump's announced withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. The article discussed the U.S. timetable for full pullout, stressing "it will not be slow."

ISIS noted that Trump's pullout announcement coincided with Turkey threatening to attack Kurdish "apostates."

ISIS also described the Strasbourg attack in the news briefs section of last week's al-Naba. The article highlighted French officials' description of Chekatt yelling "Allahu Akbar" at the scene.

In addition to this official call for more holiday attacks and home-turf jihad in the model of Chekatt, independent media organizations that form a growing online support network for ISIS -- creating and disseminating propaganda for recruitment and incitement on behalf of the terror group, with the goal of widening the geographical scope of attacks and ISIS influence -- have been issuing Christmas threats.

As Strasbourg's Christmas market reopened last week, an ISIS-supporting media group disseminated an image of Santa riddled with bullets in the city's center.

The poster showed a nighttime depiction of Place Kléber, the central square in Strasbourg, France, as a jihadist with a rifle propped against his shoulder surveys the scene. A Christmas tree was in flames behind the body of Santa.

"Beat him violently," said the text in French. "Be sure to inflict the greatest losses on the enemy."
------------------
Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill. She is the Washington Editor for PJ Media.

Tags: Europe, ISIS, Terrorism, Strasbourg, France, Christmas market To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Exploiting Jesus, Kudos To House Conservatives, The Truth

Gary Bauer
by Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: Exploiting Jesus - Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) lashed out at Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Here's some of what he said:

"It is repugnant to me and astonishing to me that during Christmas, a time in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ -- a Jesus Christ who had to flee for his life with Mary and Joseph. Thank God there wasn't a wall that stopped him from seeking refuge in Egypt.

"Thank God that wall wasn't there and thank God there wasn't an administration like this or he would have, too, perished on the 28th, on the Day of Innocents when [King] Herod ordered the murder of every child under 2 years of age. . . Shame on us for wearing our badge of Christianity during Christmas and allow the secretary to come here and lie."


His unhinged rant was so asinine and disgusting, I hope no one actually falls for that absurd comparison.

This is a man who is a proud member of a political movement that often mocks Jesus, is increasingly hostile to Christianity and, far worse, embraces the destruction every year of one million babies made in the image of God.

He claims this carnage is enshrined in the Constitution. And he has the audacity to bring up an analogy about the Baby Jesus in relation to border security? He should be the last guy wanting to have a debate about babies!

Kudos To House Conservatives - House Republicans last night passed a government funding bill that included the president's request for $5 billion in border security funding.

They did the right thing yesterday after President Trump called Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy over to the White House for a meeting. Also at that meeting were Representatives Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, leaders of the Freedom Caucus, who have been steadfast in holding the leadership's feet to the fire.

Well done, House conservatives!

Now what about the Senate? Unfortunately, Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer immediately declared the House bill dead on arrival in the Senate. Unless some Democrats come to their senses and break ranks, it looks like we're headed toward a partial government shutdown.

Under current Senate rules you need 60 votes to pass spending bills. We have 51 senators, and at least two of them -- Jeff Flake and Bob Corker -- have said they are going home and not coming back. Bob Corker told reporters yesterday, "Y'all have fun. I'm getting ready to drive to Chattanooga."

Remember this if Jeff Flake throws his hat into the ring to challenge President Trump in the GOP primaries.

As for Corker, he can't leave soon enough. His legacy will be greasing the skids for Obama's nuclear deal with the terrorist Iranian regime and now disrespecting the conservative voters of Tennessee who believe in securing the border of the United States.

The Truth - We should never lie, but we should definitely never lie around Christmas. This is the season when Truth in the form of the Son of God came to earth.

But there is a huge lie being pushed by the media and it goes like this: The progressive left is for border security and fixing our broken immigration system; it is just against the wall.

Here's the truth: The overwhelming majority of the progressive politicians in Congress have either voted against or oppose:
  • Funding for the wall.
  • Stopping sanctuary cities from defying federal immigrations laws.
  • Eliminating birth-right citizenship or "anchor babies."
  • Stopping chain migration that allows in numerous relatives for every immigrant.
  • Fixing the asylum process even though 90% of migrants claiming asylum are not eligible.
In addition, the judges they have supported are blocking every solution President Trump is proposing to address illegal immigration.

In short, they have opposed just about every reasonable idea for securing the border or reforming our broken immigration system. But the media are too busy accusing Donald Trump of being a liar to expose the biggest lie in politics today.

The sad truth is that too many politicians in both parties support open borders and have refused to fix this ongoing disaster.

Fox Too - In the interest of bipartisanship, I have to say that Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends, who writes some great history books, is way off base and is misleading his viewers too.

For the past two days, Kilmeade has savaged Donald Trump with more passion than I recall him ever showing in any disagreement with Barack Obama. This morning he suggested that Trump was following Rand Paul's foreign policy. That is simply a lie.

Trump said repeatedly that he wanted to crush ISIS and get out of Syria, and that it was time to get out of Afghanistan after 17 years. He is doing what he said he would do. Don't we want leaders who keep their promises?

But more importantly, Trump's policies are the exact opposite of Rand Paul's.
Trump has boosted the Defense budget. Paul wants to cut it. Paul has regularly tried to punish Israel. Trump is the most pro-Israel president we have ever had.

Really, Brian, you are better than this.
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Gary Bauer is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

Tags: Gary Bauer, Campaign for Working Families, Exploiting Jesus, Kudos To House Conservatives, The Truth To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

America’s National Character As a Christmas Truth

by Ken Blackwell, Contributing Author: Christmas is a time of celebration and thanksgiving. Although sometimes lost in secularism, this holiday marks the birth of Jesus Christ.

Alone, we can never atone for the wrongs we commit. Instead, Jesus cancels our debts as his death is a substitute for our own penance. How should we respond to God’s extraordinary gift? We should keep our focus on this essential truth, whatever frustrations and hardships may afflict us and our families over Christmas.

The real story of Christmas is the miracle of Christ’s humble entry into global humanity and even America’s national identity. That Christmas is so much more than just an ordinary holiday is often sadly forgotten.

Christmas is a favorite celebration the world over. Children anticipate, neighbors decorate. Families gather, communities unite. Businesses close, politicians retreat. Much of the world joins together in celebration—and not just in lands of Christian heritage. For one moment a hush descends globally. Even battlefields sometimes stop the carnage, however briefly.

Yet, as much of humanity prepares to suspend normally busy lives, what does the holiday mean to those who most enthusiastically celebrate it, and to our national freedom as conceived?

Until Christ’s birth, of course, there was no Christmas. We have no evidence of Christmas celebrations until hundreds of years after his death. Moreover and the reason for choosing December 25 remains uncertain. Many scholars believe this winter choice was to supplant pagan festivals.

In years past, when Christ’s birth lacked today’s near universal commemoration, the event’s meaning, ironically­, was more clearly understood. Christmas was not a cultural phenomenon but a commemoration of a dramatic moment in history that was the foundation for the Christian church. It acknowledged the essential sacrifice providing mankind’s salvation with no competing cultural figures, symbols, or meanings.

Hundreds more years passed before Christmas was more widely accepted. However, the day gradually turned from a religious to a cultural phenomenon, sometimes criticized for encouraging inappropriate revelry. Efforts were made to sanctify the message and civilize the celebration.

Over time, secular messages intruded. Christmas trees appeared, as did Santa Claus—a cultural mongrel that is a weird mix of religious, political, literary, and commercial roots.

For many families today, it is not Jesus Christ but St. Nick whom they celebrate on December 25. Parents like Christmas because it gives them a few days off—a bonus four-day weekend this year. Kids know Christmas is the day for gifts, a greedy splurge slightly disguised as a spirit of giving. The original reason for Christmas can be lost in the mists of time.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with a made-up holiday of lights, decorations, gifts, silly songs, tall tales about snowmen, reindeer, elfin toymakers, and a red-suited resident of the North Pole. Indeed, these fantasies are much like Washington, D.C. politics with its tendency to believe the impossible, promise the ridiculous, and subsidize the outrageous. At times, Uncle Sam and St. Nicholas seem twins separated at birth.

Much of the same me-first, consumerist philosophy animates our national government. The budget is busted, with spending out of control. Like children, many people believe: I want, someone else gives, I enjoy. The able-bodied grab assistance intended for the needy. Liberal politicians and their allies keep the borders open to import more of their voters. Many of these same people actively oppose protecting the integrity of America’s democracy. This is Santa Claus politics at its worst.

We should remember what Christmas commemorates, not what culture celebrates. The promise of Christmas is an eternal answer to the shortcomings, disappointments, and frustrations which are an inevitable part of our human existence. Christ was not born to excuse our purchase of a big screen TV.

Even for the nonbeliever, the holiday should be a time of reflection for the year to come. Christmas calls us to be generous while stepping back from the chaos of daily life. Implicit is the question: what do you value most in your life? The story of Jesus’ simple birth demands a truthful answer.

Half a century after the death of Christ, Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians – a culture drowning in secular immortality. With the kind but firm admonition he is known for, Paul wrote to the fledgling Corinthian church, “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.”

To the Galatian church Paul advised, “it for freedom that Christ sets us free.”

It was under this Biblical guidance and these principles that our nation was founded, and should still be guided.

America protects liberties and opportunities that are available nowhere else. However, the ultimate guarantor lies well beyond politicians in our own land. This is why it is so important to contemplate the real meaning of the holiday we are about to enjoy.
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Ken Blackwell (@kenblackwell) is a former ambassador to the U.N., a former Domestic Policy Advisor to the Trump Presidential Transition Team,  Ohio State Treasurer and mayor of Cincinnati. He serves on the boards of numerous conservative policy organizations including the Policy Board of The American Civil Rights Union an advisor to the Family Research Council, in Washington, DC. He is a contributing author to the ARRA News Service

Tags: Ken Blackwell, America’s National Character, As a Christmas Truth To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Ohio Lawmakers Working To Override Kasich Veto

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
by Tom Knighton: While Gov. John Kasich has turned his back on the pro-gun side of the Republican Party, he’s hardly a trendsetter in that regard, particularly in his state of Ohio.

Kasich may have vetoed a bill that would change how self-defense killings are prosecuted in the state, but that doesn’t mean he gets the final say. Instead, GOP lawmakers are working to override his veto.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed one controversial bill on guns Wednesday, while two others on abortion await his signature or veto pen.

Ten months after reversing his position on gun control, Kasich Wednesday vetoed a gun rights bill, saying it wasn’t the legislation he wanted to see on his desk.

Kasich reiterated his call for a “red flag law” in Ohio — a measure that would allow police and family members to petition the courts to seize firearms from someone exhibiting warning signs that they’re a danger to themselves or others.

“That the General Assembly has been unwilling to even debate the idea is baffling and unconscionable to me,” Kasich said about his fellow Republicans in the legislature. “This idea’s omission from this legislation is a shortcoming that I cannot accept.”

... Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said he anticipates his chamber will attempt to override the gun bill veto.

“Our burden of proof is wrong and 49 out of 50 states recognize that it’s wrong and you’re innocent until proven guilty. Ohio law, by whatever mistake of history, needs to be changed,” he said.

Laura Lewis of the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said in a written release: “The governor saw this for what it is — an extreme attempt to punish Ohio cities and towns for trying to address gun violence.”

House Bill 228 would shift the burden of proof in self-defense shooting cases from the defendant to the prosecutor; strengthen prohibitions against straw-man gun purchases; allow off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons; and allow individuals or groups to sue local jurisdictions that try to enact and enforce their own gun control measures.
So what we can tell here is that Laura Lewis doesn’t believe in the idea of innocent until proven guilty.

With that in mind, I accuse her of stealing $1 million in cash that I’d saved from my pocket change since I was four-years-old from me last week. She’s guilty until she can absolutely prove she stole nothing from me.

What’s that, Laura? You’re innocent?

Prove it.

Oh, but that’s wrong, isn’t it? That’s not how our legal system works. You’re right, it doesn’t.

So why then does it seem to be an issue to expect the prosecution to make the case in this one particular instance? Then again, for anyone with Moms Demand Action, guns are different. Anything involving guns is different. They don’t think we deserve rights. I’m not sure most of them even think we’re human.

The General Assembly in Ohio needs to override this veto and remind John Kasich that just because he’s turned his coat, it doesn’t mean the rest of the state’s Republicans have to.
---------------
Tom Knighton is a Navy veteran, a former newspaperman, a novelist, and a blogger at Bearing Arms. He lives with his family in Southwest Georgia.

Tags: Tom Knighton, Bearing Arms, Ohio, Lawmakers, Working To Override, Kasich Veto To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

US Withdrawal from Syria Was Not Unplanned

. . . Security Studies Group Publishes Full Withdrawal Plan
ARRA News Service: President Trump's decision to pull US forces out of Syria is being described as abrupt, but he has said he would do this for some time. The announcement seems to have caught many in national security by surprise. But planning for this eventuality has been underway for a while.

Security Studies Group (SSG) was asked in early 2018 to draft a plan for US withdrawal, with a focus on working with allies in the region and some tribes in Syria. The concept was to work with Sunni tribes similarly to the Anbar Awakening in Iraq during the period known as The Surge. As ISIS was pushed out, the plan would be to arm and train local citizenry into militias and police forces so they could protect themselves. Kurdish forces, that had been so helpful in the fight against ISIS, were also predicted to continue to act as security for their own areas.

SSG's plan further anticipated working with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other regional allies to provide resources and security assistance to this effort. This followed the President's stated desire that those who live in the neighborhood should have skin in the game. Once ISIS was defeated, the goal was (then) to ensure Iran could not solidify a land bridge to the Mediterranean Sea and to implement applicable United Nations Security Council Resolutions relating to Syria.

We published a public version of this plan on April 8, 2018 and provided a more detailed version to the Trump Administration. During the intervening months, the actions against ISIS have continued quite successfully and President Trump determined that the military mission would end. This did not mean efforts to achieve other US goals for Syria would stop but that they would be pursued using other modalities of US power and with assistance from allies.

SSG recently released the portions of our plan that were redacted from the public version. We did this following the President's withdrawal announcement, which made revealing vulnerabilities of US forces and potential negotiations with allies no longer a concern.

The President's decision is partly related to an attempt to re-strengthen the alliance between the US and Turkey. The announcement of a major arms deal signals the desire to return Turkey to its previous role as a strong NATO partner and pull them out of Russia and Iran's orbit. This would include Turkey providing security assistance in Northern Syria and re-opening their border for trade with the resource rich areas in that region.

SSG President Jim Hanson explains our current position. "The withdrawal of US forces creates challenges, but also opportunities. Iran must not be allowed to capitalize on this and we must marshal all methods to make their continued intrusion in Syria too costly for them to continue. We must also work to ensure our allies the Kurds are given some autonomy and freedom in all the countries where they currently live. And we must do our best to bring Turkey closer to its true allies."
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Source PRNewswire

Tags: US Withdrawal, Syria, Was Not Unplanned To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Another Golden Fleece Award to VA . . .

. . . for Failing to Properly Administer Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits.
The Golden Fleece Award
ARRA News Service: Today, Congressman French Hill (R-AR-02) named the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as the latest winner of the Golden Fleece award for its inability to oversee State Approving Agencies’ (SAAs) review of education and training programs at schools that enroll Post-9/11 GI Bill students and allow ineligible enrollees to participate, taking vital benefits away from veterans in need.

“Hardworking Americans fund our federal agencies and they expect the government to be responsible stewards with their tax dollars and judicious in the way they operate,” said Hill. “Allowing ineligible school programs that enroll Post-9/11 GI Bill students to participate in VA’s education and training programs is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but also takes away resources from those veterans who actually need them. Without a fix, VA’s mismanagement could cost Arkansans and Americans $2.3 billion in improper payments over the next five years. This is unacceptable, and I call on the VA to address these concerns immediately.”

In the letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, Congressman Hill wrote:December 21, 2018

The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20420-0001

Dear Secretary Wilkie:

I write today to inform you that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is this month’s recipient of my Golden Fleece Award.

According to a recent report by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG)1, without correction, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) could issue an estimated $2.3 billion in improper payments to ineligible programs over the next five years.

The OIG conducted this audit to determine if VA and State Approving Agencies (SAAs) were effectively reviewing education and training programs that enrolled Post-9/11 GI bill students to ensure only eligible programs participated. Based on its review, the OIG estimated that 86 percent of SAAs did not adequately oversee the education and training programs to make certain only eligible programs participated. This is unacceptable, and VA must do better.

The OIG report includes recommendations to address this issue, and I urge you, in your role as VA Secretary, to review this report and work to adhere to the VAOIG’s recommendations to ensure that critical funds for our Nation’s veterans are not wasted on these improper payments.

Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue.

Sincerely,

French Hill
Member of Congress
About the Golden Fleece Award
Every year, Congress appropriates trillions of dollars to fund the federal government, and every year the federal government wastes portions of these funds in unconscionable ways. As a Member of Congress, and as a taxpayer, this frustrates me to no end. In an attempt to increase accountability for every single government program, Congressman Hill decided to bring back the Golden Fleece Award.

Originally introduced by Democratic U.S. Senator from Wisconsin William Proxmire in March 1975, the Golden Fleece Award was a monthly bulletin on the most frivolous and wasteful uses of hardworking taxpayers’ dollars. The Golden Fleece Award became a staple in the U.S. Senate during this time, and Senator Robert Byrd once stated that the awards were “as much a part of the Senate as quorum calls and filibusters.”

In reviving this idea, the Golden Fleece Award will again have the opportunity to serve as an important reminder to taxpayers about the need for necessary, commonsense reforms to our federal spending.

Tags: Rep. French Hill, R-AR, awards, Golden Fleece Award, Veterans Administration, VA, Robert Wilkie, Failing to Properly Administer, Post-9/11, GI Bill Benefits To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Trump Is Right To Withdraw From Syria . . .

. . . But James Mattis and other failed analysts are still pushing their failed policies and demanding we stay there.
by Robert Spencer: President Trump has ordered a rapid withdrawal of the 2,000 remaining U.S. troops in Syria, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and arousing the ire of CNN – both excellent indications that the President is on the right track.

CNN, the 24/7 Hate Trump Network, headlined its story on the withdrawal “Trump orders rapid withdrawal from Syria in apparent reversal,” giving the impression that an erratic Trump was changing course, only to admit in the article itself that the President “has long signaled his desire to get out of Syria.”

Meanwhile, in his self-righteous and condescending resignation letter, which is being heralded by all the usual establishment suspects today as a positively Confucian outpouring of wisdom, even Mattis admits that he agrees with Trump on the salient issue at play in Syria: “Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world.”

That’s why it’s time to bring the troops home from Syria, and why Trump is right to do so. Trump explained it himself: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Yes. In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS) has been defeated, although it still has forces there and could experience a resurgence — in which case the situation would have to be reevaluated. Still, on January 19, 2017, the last day of the disastrous presidency of Barack Obama, it looked as if the Islamic State was going to be occupying a large portion of Syria for decades, if not generations, to come. Turkey was buying its oil. The Islamic State was beginning to follow the path of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, making the transformation from terrorist group to a respected member of the family of nations.

Now the caliphate dream is over, at least for the time being. When Trump became President, he set out to break the Islamic State, and he did. It lost its last city in Syria a couple of weeks ago. Many of those whom it terrorized have begun to return to their homes.

But CNN is worried: “Even though the US will continue to maintain troops in Iraq with the capability of launching strikes into Syria, a US withdrawal of ground forces would fulfill a major goal of Syria, Iran and Russia and risks diminishing US influence in the region.”

Ah yes, it’s all part of the vast Russian conspiracy. Back in the real world, however, the idea that influence can only be had by means of having troops on the ground is ridiculous on its face. The U.S. troops in Iraq will still be able to strike in Syria if the Islamic State does achieve a resurgence, but that doesn’t matter to the CNN analysts. They are so mad to destroy Trump and have chosen Russia as their all-purpose bogeyman, so if they can portray the withdrawal from Syria as a capitulation to Russia, they will twist the truth in any way possible in order to do so.

But the real issue is this: it is foolish in the extreme, and ultimately self-defeating, to keep troops anywhere indefinitely, with no end point, no plan for victory, no clear goal — that just saps the nation’s resources and produces no good result. Anytime we leave Syria or anywhere else, anti-American elements will do their best to capitalize on our absence. But if the answer to this is to keep troops everywhere, then they will never come home, and we will need to send them into many more countries than those they’re currently in.

That way lies madness. And destruction. What is needed instead is a massive reevaluation of the basic assumptions of U.S. foreign policy, so that our energies, and our armed forces, are directed much more efficiently than they are now to blunting the force of the global jihad. We can hope that with the departure of Mattis, an exponent of the multiply-failed idea that U.S. troops in Muslim countries can build American alliances and establish Western-style secular republics in the Middle East, that reevaluation is on the horizon.
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Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

Tags: Robert Spencer, FrontPage Mag,President Trump, Right to withdraw, Syria To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Christmas In DC . . .

. . . Congressman Adam Schiff and most politicians in Washington DC deserve a whole lot of coal for Christmas this year from Santa Claus.
Editorial Cartoon by AF "Tony" Branco

Tags: editorial cartoon, AF Branco, Christmas in D.C., Congressman Adam Schiff, most politicians, Washington DC, deserve a whole lot of coal To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Ted Cruz Is Right: Make El Chapo Pay for the Wall

Daniel John Sobieski: It would be poetic justice, is deliciously named, and wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. It doesn’t make Mexico pay for the wall, just one particular Mexican who has done great injury to the people of the United States and who is responsible for a major part of drugs flooding into the United States.

It is legislation introduced by Sen.Ted Cruz of Texas last year -- the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (E.L.C.H.A.P.O.) Act which would use fund confiscated from drug dealers like El Chapo and traffickers to pay for border security. As Cruz explained after introducing his bill in April of 2017:

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill calling for the use of $14 billion seized from cartel drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to be used to pay for the President’s border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

“Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border,” Senator Cruz stated, according to a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from the senator’s office…

The Texas senator said that leveraging criminally forfeited assets from El Chapo and other Mexican cartel members and drug dealers can “offset the wall’s cost and make meaningful progress toward achieving President Trump’s stated border security objectives.”
Some might dismiss this idea as a campaign gimmick intended to help Cruz in his tough 2018 reelection bid, but it is an idea whose time has definitely come. El Chapo is responsible for many crimes against his people and ours, including the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry using a weapon supplied by presidential wannabe and former Obama AG Eric Holder:We assume Holder reads the morning paper and has heard of the 40 assault weapons illegally purchased under the Phoenix ATF's Fast and Furious operation that somehow wound up in the home of Sinaloa cartel enforcer Torres "the Jaguar" Marrufo. If he has, we suspect his reaction might have been akin to that of another famous sitcom character, Steve Urkel: "Did I do that?"

This is no sitcom, but rather a major tragedy -- and a major crime. Marrufo is the enforcer for Sinaloa Cartel chieftain Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed at the hands of an illegal immigrant working for the Sinaloa cartel just 10 miles from the Mexico border near Nogales, Ariz.
Among the weapons Obama and Holder supplied El Chapo with under Fast and Furious was a .50-caliber rifle liberals like to rail against: As Fox News reported about Mexican drug kingpin “El Chapo”:A .50-caliber rifle found at Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman’s hideout in Mexico was funneled through the gun-smuggling investigation known as Fast and Furious, sources confirmed Tuesday to Fox News.

A .50-caliber is a massive rifle that can stop a car or, as it was intended, take down a helicopter…

Federal law enforcement sources told Fox News that ‘El Chapo’ would put his guardsmen on hilltops to be on guard for Mexican police helicopters that would fly through valleys conducting raids. The sole purpose of the guardsmen would be to shoot down those helicopters, sources said.
Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has proposed similar legislation in the House to spend money seized from the drug cartels to fund a border wall:"This is a way to fulfill the president's desire to have Mexico pay for the wall," Sensenbrenner, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Examiner. "Having the money seized from Mexican drug cartels would mean that the bad Mexicans would end up paying for the wall, and the bad Mexicans have been terrorizing the good Mexicans with crime and kidnappings and murders within Mexico itself."…

"The [Drug Enforcement Agency] has estimated that the gross receipts of the Mexican drug trade or somewhere between $19-$29 billion a year," he said. "We don't have to be 100 percent efficient to get the the money we need to completely pay for the wall relatively quickly."
Contrary to claims by Sen. Chuck Schumer that border walls are ineffective, the empirical evidence shows that border walls work and no place is better proof than the Yuma sector in Arizona:For years, Yuma sector was besieged by chaos as a nearly unending flood of migrants and drugs poured across our border. Even as agents were arresting on average 800 illegal aliens a day, we were still unable to stop the thousands of trucks filled with drugs and humans that quickly crossed a vanishing point and dispersed into communities all across the country…

The bipartisan Secure Fence Act of 2006 -- supported by then-Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and others -- mandated the construction of hundreds of additional miles of secure fencing and infrastructure investments. Yuma sector was one of the first areas to receive infrastructure investments.

We built new infrastructure along the border east and west of the San Luis Arizona Port of Entry in 2006. The existing fence was quickly lengthened, and we added second and third layers to that fencing in urban areas. Lighting, roads and increased surveillance were added to aid agents patrolling the border.

Although there is still work to do, the border in Yuma sector today is more secure because of this investment.
Trump was initially able to begin immediate construction of the border wall and open up bidding for contracts thanks to the 2006 measure signed into law by President George W. Bush and supported by Democrats including then-senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton:Democrats are already grumbling about Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, though Barack Obama and other leaders in their party voted not so long ago for George W. Bush’s proposal to build a major wall on the border with Mexico.

Bush signed the proposal into law in 2006, after it was passed by huge bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate. The law ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct about 700 miles of fencing along the southern border, and authorized the addition of lights and cameras and sensors to enhance security. The law explicitly required the wall to be constructed of “at least two layers of reinforced fencing.”

Two-thirds of the Republican-led House approved the bill, including 64 Democrats, and 80 of 100 senators approved the bill in the Senate.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 required the construction of 700 miles of new border fence along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. “The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for at least two layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras and sensors…” the act said.

It was to be modeled on the success of the border barriers in the San Diego sector of the U.S. border. The operative word was “secure”. Instead of this two-layer secure fence what has been built consists of flimsy pedestrian fencing or vehicle fencing consisting of posts people can slither through.

The two-tier fence in San Diego runs 14 miles along the border with Tijuana, Mexico. The first layer is a high steel fence, with an inner high anti-climb fence with a no-man’s land in between. It has been amazingly effective. According to a 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service, illegal alien apprehensions in the San Diego sector dropped from 202,000 in 1992 to 9,000 in 2004.

Cameras and sensors played a part, but the emphasis was on physical barriers and roads that were patrolled by real live border guards, not by robots. Then in 2006, the Democrats took back Congress and, in 2008, the White House.

They saw in unrestricted immigration a means to fundamentally transform the demographics of America and its political landscape. A wave of what some called “undocumented Democrats” would be allowed to flood across the border as ICE was told not to enforce the law. Former border state governor Janet Napolitano, who became DHS secretary, reportedly once said: “You show me a 50-foot fence and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder at the border,” The rest, as they say, is history.

But the consequences of unrestricted illegal immigration soon became too big to ignore and with a candidate willing to touch the new third rail of American politics, border security, a political movement chanting “build the wall” swept Trump into power.

If President Trump compromises the wall into nonexistence, he risks his campaign mantra “build the wall” becoming his “read my lips” ticket to a single term. In Yuma and San Diego fences and walls worked. So will Trump’s wall. Build the wall and make the likes of El Chapo pay for it.
---------------
Daniel John Sobieski (@gerfingerpoken) writes for many conservative sites. He provided the ARRA News Service editor with this article which first appeared on the American Thinker.

Tags: Daniel John Sobieski, Ted Cruz Is Right, Make El Chapo Pay for the Wall To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Strategic Disengagement

by Paul Jacob, Contributing Author: The policy was announced in a Tweet: President Trump said it was time to pull out of Syria. We won, he explained. “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!”

There is, of course, much outcry among Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and pundit Ben Shapiro making the same point: this is, in the senator’s words, “a huge Obama-like mistake.”

But not a few are supportive. “U.S. forces should not be engaged in Syria — or any country,” explained Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich), “without legitimate military justification AND proper congressional authorization.”

And there is no doubt that after pulling out of the region — and yes, it looks like Trump is readying forces for a pull-out of the expensive and ridiculous Afghanistan occupation — there will be outrageous horrors. But are they America’s?

Should they be?

The problem with trying to solve every worldwide conflict is clear: by intervening, we make those conflicts ours.

The idea that the American military can successfully micromanage conflicts around the world seems implausible. And increasingly counter-factual.

The same logic against intervening in the domestic economy to “wisely” promote some businesses and demote others also applies against most foreign military intervention: “unintended” consequences get conjured up, and even blowback.

Also, somehow, almost no one ever consults Just War theory to test various proposed interventions. Instead, military interventionism is all audacious hope and lofty language.

No realism, despite “Mad Dog” Mattis’s protests to the contrary.

Foreign policy scholar Earl Ravenel had the perfect term for what Trump may be and should be doing: strategic disengagement. We have much to gain from a more restrained — and constitutional — foreign policy.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
------------------
Paul Jacob is author of Common Sense which provides daily commentary about the issues impacting America and about the citizens who are doing something about them. He is also President of the Liberty Initiative Fund (LIFe) as well as Citizens in Charge Foundation. Jacob is a contributing author on the ARRA News Service.

Tags: Paul Jacob, Common Sense, Strategic Disengagement To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

That Giant Liberty-Sucking Sound From the Tolerant Left

David Limbaugh
by David Limbaugh: Various leftist grievance groups have insisted for years that they just want equal treatment and equal rights, that they only want to end discrimination and that they come with an attitude of “live and let live.” Nope.

We’ve long known that the “tolerance” police don’t merely want equal rights and to be treated with civility. They require that you honor their ideas as superior, reject your own contrary ideas and do penance for ever having held your own ideas.

If you make the mistake of dissenting from their dogma, you must be shamed — and punished. There is no semblance of tolerance in their bones. They are militantly aggressive and spoiling for any opportunity to pressure and intimidate people into submission. This suppression of our liberties doesn’t just emanate from the government; the long arm of the private sector often enforces uniformity of thought with the same coercive power.

Let me give you just a few examples of probably hundreds, perhaps thousands. Do you remember Jack Phillips, the poor Christian owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because it would have violated his religious convictions? He didn’t deny them service, mind you, but would not bow to their demand that he prepare a cake to celebrate their wedding.

The complaining couple weren’t being harmed. They could have gone anywhere else to purchase a custom-made wedding cake. But they refused to allow this baker to exercise his religious liberty. This surely was a deliberate targeting of a Christian baker to force him to conform to their values and thought edicts.

Though the Supreme Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated Phillips’ First Amendment liberties, he is being harassed again — this time by Denver attorney Autumn Scardina, for refusing to bake a custom-ordered cake to celebrate her transition from male to female. The commission has predictably ruled that Phillips was guilty of discrimination. Are you kidding me?

Again, Phillips is being targeted. His attorneys aptly describe it as an “obvious setup.” Christian liberties must be subordinated to bizarre leftist ethical standards. We’ll see how this nightmare unfolds in the coming months.

Another egregious example of leftist intolerance that caught my eye was actor and comedian Kevin Hart’s being bullied into stepping down from his role as host of the upcoming Academy Awards. After he was selected for the role, critics savaged Hart for allegedly homophobic tweets he had made almost a decade ago and for saying during a 2010 special, “Seriously Funny,” that as a heterosexual male, he would prevent his son from being gay if he could. Though he initially refused to apologize and insisted he had matured since he made those remarks (which he said were jokes), just hours later he announced he would decline to host and offered his apology “to the LGBTQ community for (his) insensitive words from (his) past.”

But Hart’s public repentance, apology and stepping down from the gig weren’t enough. There would be no forgiveness, even for a sincere apology.

Brandi Miller, in a column for HuffPost, said that even after apologizing for being insensitive and saying he was evolving, Hart “still misses the point.” According to Miller, Hart’s critics “are challenging his professed evolution. Can he show that he’s realized that he harmed people and make right on the harm that he caused? Apparently not.”

Even a “sincere apology” wouldn’t clear him. “A true apology, a true acknowledgment of harm done from Hart would involve talking about the implications of his words,” said Miller, “not just apologizing for who he used to be. … Apologizing is like a math problem. To get the credit, you have to show your work. … Let’s be honest, tweeting ‘I apologize’ isn’t that hard and doesn’t really involve much internal reckoning, but with his actions, he can show a changed life.”

What “work” would Miller have Hart do to earn his redemption? Miller suggested he could have donated money to LGBTQ organizations or requested an LGBTQ-identifying co-host (or even host) for the Academy. As I said, get him down and kick him, and then neuter him.

Another columnist piled on in USA Today, saying Hart should become a stronger comic, scrapping his “homophobic jokes” — which he had already scrapped, by the way — and “make a 20-minute killer set about his homophobic fears.” There you go. He can’t just apologize; he must affirmatively adopt the critics’ vision, even to the point of changing his entire routine. Don’t just back off the subject of homosexuality; embrace it and say how much you love it and say that you now regard it as the highest possible value. Then and only then will your sins be expiated. (Even then, he’d never be unleashed and see his liberty restored. The threat of sanctions for any future infraction would always hang over his head.)

How dare dissenters from the totalitarian leftist orthodoxy think they can atone for past sins just by apologizing and demanding equal rights for everyone. They must also renounce any residual beliefs that might offend the activists. This is leftist tolerance, forgiveness and compassion.

We hear a lot of demands from a lot of groups in this country, but one ideal that is rarely touted anymore is America’s foremost founding idea — liberty. Increasingly, the modern left is gobbling up the liberties — speech, association, religion, firearms, due process — of anyone who doesn’t embrace its worldview, and liberty lovers everywhere had better wake up to this threat and do a much better job of fighting back.
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David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is "Jesus is Risen: Paul and the Early Church." Follow him on Twitter  @davidlimbaugh and his website at davidlimbaugh.com Links in article added by ARRA News Service editor.

Tags: David Limbaugh, Giant Liberty-Sucking Sound, From the Tolerant Left, Jack Phillips, Christian owner, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Colorado To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

Gov. Jerry ‘Moonbeam’ Brown’s Warning to Fellow Democrats

by Larry Elder:  Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown recently said, “The weakness of the Republican Party has let the Democratic Party, I think, go get further out than I think the majority of people want.” When a tax-spend-and-regulate Democrat who signed legislation making California the first “sanctuary state” says the Democrats have gotten too “further out” for the majority, that party would be wise to take notice. In the November elections, California Democrats won veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of state government. No Republican currently holds an elected state-wide office.

Brown seems to recognize that there are only so many “rich” people and that one doesn’t become rich by being too stupid to know that the rich have options. California has the highest state income tax in the country, with a top marginal rate of 13.3 percent. Even left-wing, Trump-hating California resident Bill Maher complained about the state’s high income taxes in 2013: “ln California, I just want to say: Liberals, you could actually lose me. … Rich people … actually do pay the freight in this country … like 70 percent” of the taxes.

As to who bears responsibility for the Democratic lurch to the left, Brown blames Republican “weakness.” Follow that? Republican “weakness” practically forced the Democrats to pursue a hard-left agenda: abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement and pursuing “Medicare-for-all,” $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college, and climate change alarmism.

Brown is warning the Democrats that President Donald Trump’s agenda is closer to what Americans want than that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the House’s newly elected self-described socialist. And Brown is looking at results. Even the international community is grudgingly acknowledging the merits of Trump’s positions.

Take, for instance, Trump’s actions against China over the country’s theft of intellectual property and the forced transfer of proprietary technology as a condition of doing business. Nicolas Chapuis, the EU ambassador of China, also recently sounded downright Trumpian while complaining of this practice: “This has to stop or to be regulated … so that there is no so-called ‘forced tech transfer.'”

The Europeans are echoing Trump’s concerns about Iran that caused the U.S. to withdraw form the Iran deal. “Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Trump said in explaining the withdrawal, “but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.” Three weeks ago, Iran again test-fired a medium-range missile, capable of carrying multiple warheads and striking anywhere in the Middle East and parts of Europe. This alarmed the U.K., Germany and France, whose foreign ministry said, “(France) condemns this provocative and destabilizing action.”

As for climate change, France’s Emmanuel Macron lectured Trump last year on the risk of pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. Macron warned, “There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B.” But Macron recently discovered a Plan B when, after days of riots in France, he agreed to suspend an unpopular climate-change gas tax that would have raised France’s average price per gallon to nearly $8. In America, polls consistently rank climate change among Americans’ least concerns.

As for the Democrats’ push for “single-payer” health care, “Medicare-for-all” or “Sanders care,” Ocasio-Cortez claims it can be paid for by ending the waste, fraud and abuse in our defense budget. The price tag for “Medicare-for-all” is generally estimated, by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, to cost $32.6 trillion over 10 years. This year, the entire defense budget is under $700 billion. This leaves Ocasio-Cortez just a little short.

Brown senses the danger his party faces because of its blatant contempt for Trump. Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for, in her view, irresponsibly following Trump’s lead in refusing to directly implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of a Washington Post Saudi columnist. Brzezinski said: “Why doesn’t Mike Pompeo care? … Are the pathetic deflections that we just heard … is that a patriot speaking? Or a wannabe dictator’s butt boy?”

Two days later — she was off the following day — Brzezinski gave this on-air apology: “I wanted to address a term that I used on this show on Wednesday that was vulgar. … The term is crass and offensive, and I apologize to everybody, especially the LGBTQ community and to my colleagues for using it. It was a mistake. My father would have found it so unbecoming and disrespectful, and he would have told me. I will work hard to be better. But I just want to say on camera, looking viewers straight in the eye: I am really, really sorry.” Notice anything missing? Brzezinski offered no direct apology to the target of her scorn — Pompeo himself. There is a term for this: “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Brown, now that he’s leaving office, feels free to speak his mind. He offers his party some advice. Countering Trump with Sanders care, “free” college tuition and abolishing ICE is not the road to victory in 2020.
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Larry Elder (@larryelder) is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host, an American lawyer, writer and radio and television personality who is also known as the "Sage From South Central." To find out more about Larry Elder. Visit his website at LarryElder.com for list of other articles.

Tags: Larry Elder, commentary, Gov. Jerry Brown, Moonbeam Brown, Warning, Fellow Democrats To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

2 Students Explain Why They Defended Teacher Fired Over Transgender Pronouns

Students should speak up for what they believe,
but in “a respectful manner, a peaceful manner,
nothing that incites hatred," Forrest Rohde, 17.
by Rachel del Guidice: Two high school students say they organized a walkout in support of a teacher fired for not using pronouns preferred by a transgender student because they thought they should speak out on a cause they believe in.

“When I wanted to speak out about this, I just found this a great opportunity,” Forrest Rohde, a junior at West Point High School, told The Daily Signal in an interview. “I knew that a lot of people in my school would follow with me.”

School officials, Rohde said, are pushing “a false ideology” on teachers and students.

Rohde’s friend Wyatt Pedersen, a senior at the school in West Point, Virginia, said he thought school administrators were “suppressing” French teacher Peter Vlaming’s First Amendment rights.

The West Point school board voted 5-0 on Dec. 6 to fire Vlaming, saying his refusal to follow orders to use male pronouns in referring to the transgender student “harassed and discriminated against the student” and meant the teacher was “insubordinate.”

Vlaming, 47, told the school board that he did not use male pronouns in referring to the student, who was born female, because of his own religious convictions. He said he also didn’t use female pronouns to refer to the student.

The teacher “read a 10-minute statement to the board and hearing attendees about his intentions, respect, and love for all of his students and their rights,” The Virginia Gazette reported.

Rohde, 17, told The Daily Signal that he “was already kind of into politics in general.” He said he helped organize the walkout of about 100 students Dec. 7 after his father encouraged him to do what he could to show he backed the teacher.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, you want to stay home? Or do you want to not go to school but protest in front of it?’” Rohde said of his father. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure. That sounds like a plan.’”

“So, I head out to the school like around 7:30 that morning, and I stayed out there for an hour and a half … holding these signs,” Rohde said.

Rohde said he had started texting friends and posting on social media about supporting Vlaming, and Pedersen came up with the idea of a walkout.

Wyatt Pedersen, a senior at the school in
West Point, Virginia, says school administrators
were “suppressing” teacher Peter Vlaming’s
First Amendment rights.
Pedersen, also 17, is what Rohde calls a “co-leader of the #JusticeforVlaming movement.”

Pedersen told The Daily Signal that he supports Vlaming because the teacher “just is an amazing man” and a “devout Christian.” For Vlaming, using male pronouns in this situation would be a “violation of his conscience,” the student said.

“I also feel like the school is suppressing [his] First Amendment rights,” Pedersen said.

Rohde said school officials have the right to disagree with Vlaming, but went too far in firing him.

“The school board can disagree with Vlaming all they want,” Rohde said. “I just think they shouldn’t have fired him over it, or given him any consequences, because it’s a false ideology they’re trying to push onto him, and basically everybody else.”

Rohde said he circulated a petition for fellow students to sign in the school cafeteria, which was met with opposition from teachers. The petition eventually was confiscated, but later returned to him.

Rohde said he would tell peers facing similar situations in schools across the country to speak up politely, respectfully, and “in a peaceful manner” for what they believe in. “Nothing that incites hatred,” he said.

“If you want to spread a message about something, you shouldn’t be afraid of the consequences,” Rohde said. “You should be proud of getting in trouble because from getting in trouble yourself, you’re kind of changing the world, basically, and changing everything for the better.”

In a statement emailed to The Daily Signal, West Point Public Schools Superintendent Laura K. Abel said the high school is supportive of students who openly back Vlaming.

The walkout “gave students an opportunity to publicly show their support for their teacher,” Abel said. “We encourage student involvement in issues that affect the school division.”

Pedersen said he thinks the high school has been unjust in its treatment of Vlaming.

“The government has a purpose in protecting students, but not to the degree of harming other people,” Pedersen told The Daily Signal. “I think that it’s disgusting that one student’s beliefs and ideology is being put over the teacher’s beliefs and ideology.”
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Rachel del Guidice (@LRacheldG)is a reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program.

Tags: Rachel del Guidice, The Daily Signal, 2 Students Explain, Why They Defended Teacher, Fired Over Transgender Pronouns To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

What Can We Learn from Dictators’ Literature?

by Daniel Kalder: Dictators, of course, are terrible people. They also tend to be terrible writers. Yet many tyrants have entertained the illusion that they were literary super geniuses. Mein Kampf and Quotations from Chairman Mao (aka The Little Red Book) are the best-known works in the dictatorial canon, but they represent only a fraction of the awfulness on offer in a vast, infernal library. There are so many other books: from Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia to Khomeini’s Islamic Government to Gaddafi’s The Green Book and beyond.

In the heyday of 20th century tyranny, the writings of dictators were placed at the center of their personality cults, officially revered as sacred texts, and imposed upon (literally) captive audiences. That the books were frequently unreadable mattered little when the authors controlled the printing presses and the education systems, and could imprison or execute anyone who gave them a bad review.

And yet, when regimes fall, how quickly these books vanish. Those who suffered under the dictators wish to move on, while those who did not are put off by the devastated economies, piles of corpses, and generally atrocious prose. Understandable as this may be, I don’t think it’s such a good idea to let these books disappear from memory. Today, a generation has come of age that doesn’t remember the Cold War, and which knows little of the ideologies and simplifications that inspired so much carnage in the last century, but which increasingly holds positions of influence in media, academia, publishing and politics.

Alarmed by this, around eight years ago I set out to read the works of these tyrants, doing for dictator lit what Harold Bloom did for the Western canon in the 1990s. What did they write? Did they actually write the books themselves? What did they have in common? I wanted to know the answer to these questions and more.

Many people assume that, like Hollywood celebrities, dictators do not write the books that bear their names. But while this is often true (Leonid Brezhnev could barely be bothered to read a book, let alone write one) it is not a universal rule.

In fact, 20th century dictators were often writers before they were political leaders, rehearsing their ideological fantasies on paper in anticipation of the day when they would have entire populations at their mercy. At one end of the century, you have Lenin and Mussolini who both had two decades worth of published work behind them when they ascended to power; at the other, you have the Ayatollah Khomeini, writing thick volumes on Islamic jurisprudence and theology before he became the supreme leader of Iran. But dictators also write when they are in power: For instance, Lenin, Stalin, Franco, Saddam Hussein, Salazar, Gaddafi and Mao all found time to write, despite their busy schedules.

The variety is startling. There are novels: Mussolini wrote The Cardinal’s Mistress, a historical potboiler; Franco produced Raza, a fictionalized account of the Civil War, while Saddam Hussein wrote four novels in the last years of his regime, among them the historical romance Zabiba and the King. Gaddafi wrote prose miniatures; Mao, Salazar, Stalin and Ho Chi Minh dabbled in poetry; Stalin wrote a pamphlet on linguistics; Enver Hoxha, the dictator of Albania, wrote a sequence of memoirs vast enough to rival Proust, while Kim Jong-il issued treatises on opera, journalism and cinema containing piercing insights such as: “A film’s images must look good on the screen.”

Most of these books are rubbish; but they are rubbish in interesting ways. Read enough tyrant prose and you get a sense of the authors as individuals: the bilious yet brilliant Lenin, the steely, plodding Stalin, the bumptious Mussolini, the stupendously dull economist-dictator Salazar…and then there’s Saddam Hussein, writing about leadership, loneliness, rape and bestiality in Zabiba and the King:

Even an animal respects a man’s desire, if it wants to copulate with him. Doesn’t a female bear try to please a herdsman when she drags him into the mountains as it happens in the North of Iraq? She drags him into her den, so that he, obeying her desire, would copulate with her? Doesn’t she bring him nuts, gathering them from the trees or picking them from the bushes? Doesn’t she climb into the houses of farmers in order to steal some cheese, nuts and even raisins, so that she can feed the man and awake in him the desire to have her?At the core of the canon is the immense accumulation of verbiage generated by communist dictators, who emerged from the “publish or perish” socialist tradition whereby revolutionary leaders established their authority by producing works of “theory.” Lenin came to power with a ready-made bibliography—the first edition of his collected works began publication in 1920, while the Russian Civil War still raged.

When Lenin died, Stalin quickly established himself as the preeminent interpreter of the mummy in the mausoleum. In the first Soviet satellite state of Mongolia, the dictator Choibalsan had Lenin and Stalin’s works translated, although many party members could not read. Across central and eastern Europe, Stalin’s satraps demonstrated their ideological bona fides by issuing volumes of speeches and essays littered with references to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, much as critical theorists today cite the same handful of authorities with deadening predictability.

Dictators on the right, rejecting Marx’s historical metaphysics in favor of their own mythologies of blood and soil, preferred to present themselves as sui generis. Hitler concealed the influence of Mussolini in Mein Kampf, giving him only a tiny mention in part II; Mussolini dismissed Hitler’s book as “that enormous brick which I have never been able to read.” Yet communism was the specter haunting their texts. When the ex-socialist Mussolini sat down to write Fascism: Its Theory and Philosophy with the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, the anxiety of influence was evident as he pursued an aggressively anti-materialist direction. Fascism became a Holy Ghost-like entity that “permeates the will like the intelligence” and which “descends deeply and lodges in the heart of the man of action as well as the thinker, of the artist as well as the scientist.” It is, says Mussolini, “the soul of the soul.”

Dictator lit peaked in the mid to late 1960s with The Little Red Book. Over a billion copies were in circulation by the time Mao died, containing such staggering insights as this:

It [materialist dialectics] holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a different basis.Yet at the height of the Cultural Revolution, this stupendously dull tome inspired violent schisms between fanatical bands of Maoists, as well as outbreaks of murder and even cannibalism in the countryside. Meanwhile, newspapers carried reports of miraculous healings: the “Word of Mao” could cause tumors to disappear and the blind to see. Eventually, the delirium passed, but not before Mao and his disciples had wrought unfathomable carnage upon the nation.

Each dictator-author is terrible in his own way, yet they also share traits in common. Narcissism? Check. Megalomania? Check, although such characteristics are also occupational hazards among writers who don’t have squads of secret police at their command. But wait, there’s more.

For instance, although dictator-authors of both Left and Right positioned themselves as champions of the masses, very few were horny-handed sons of toil. Frequently, they were well-read intellectuals excluded from prestige positions in their societies: minor nobles, provincial intellectuals, the sons of wealthy farmers, ex-monks, frustrated artists, autodidacts. Their professed rage at injustice concealed bitter resentment, and ideology served as a fig leaf masking a tumescent desire for power and vengeance.

Like obfuscators of all eras, dictator-authors deployed opaque jargon to mask their mendacity and confer upon banalities a spurious sense of depth. Being unreadable was not a flaw: It helped them position themselves as super geniuses, uniquely qualified to rule. Tedium was a literary strategy designed to force the reader into submission. In their revolutionary stages, they were often sincere; but in established regimes, their words became tools of humiliation. As Anthony Daniels observed of North Korea “…by endlessly asserting what is patently untrue, by making such untruth ubiquitous and unavoidable, and finally by insisting that everyone publicly acquiesce in it, the regime displays its power and reduces individuals to nullities.” Humor was impossible in this framework; laughter would undermine the entire project.

Yet dictators also used clear language, especially when denouncing enemies. Lenin, author of the impenetrable Materialism and Empirio-criticism (1909), was also adept at crafting slogans such as the enduring “Communism is Soviet Power plus electrification,” and the man who encouraged revolutionaries to pour acid on cops in Tasks of Revolutionary Army Contingents (1905). Stalin happily smeared Social Democrats as “Social Fascists.” Mao described his own propaganda department as the “Palace of the King of Hell.” These were slurs that stuck, and were deadly.

Striking, too, is their awe at the power of the written word. Many dictators had been transformed by books: Lenin modeled himself after a character in Chernyshevsky’s What is to be Done? While Stalin went by the pseudonym “Koba,” the hero of the potboiler The Patricide. In his own What is To Be Done? Lenin argued that he could use a newspaper to express his will and effectively write the revolution into existence. Once the revolutions failed to deliver, dictators attempted to overwrite reality with propaganda. A side effect of this awe was a terror of the power of wrong words, resulting in language policing and strict policies of censorship.

Then there are the “terrible simplifications,” the division of the world into warring camps of good and evil, the categorization of huge swathes of people on the basis of immutable characteristics such as race or class, the casting of life as a struggle for power between the righteous and the wicked, the latter of whom must be re-educated, repressed, exiled or exterminated. Mein Kampf is explicit in its violence, but there are many other dictator texts which treat life as an apocalyptic struggle between “us” and “them,” thus providing implicit license for all kinds of monstrous cruelties.

Today, the tyrannical tradition has entered its decadent, postmodern phase. In North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s word factory generates copious amounts of mendacious prose, every bit as unreadable as that of his forebears yet even more hollow, while in post-Soviet Central Asia, nationalism, myth and promises of a golden future are thrown at the hole where communism used to go. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the current Arkadag (“protector”) of Turkmenistan, is a prolific producer of banalities, among them a book entitled Tea: Healing and Inspiration. In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s has co-authored several books about judo, one of which was distributed free to millions of Russian schoolchildren.

More serious, and perhaps more sinister, are the works of the current leaders of Turkey and China. In his youth, Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote, directed and starred in a play with the all-too revealing title Maskomya (“Masons, Communists and Jews”). Xi Jinping, recently anointed as leader for life by the Chinese Communist Party, has several books to his name, including the two-volume set The Governance of China. Volume one includes a stirring speech entitled “Carry on the Enduring Spirit of Mao Zedong’s Thought.” Just as in the past, today’s aspiring despots can be found hiding in plain sight in their published works.

Fortunately, we do not have to read the words of our leaders in what is still the free world. However, what we do have, courtesy of technologies that have equipped everyone with an internet connection with the means to be a publisher, is a mass proliferation of voices of a kind once restricted to low circulation ideological tracts.

Fortunately, these micro-Lenins are much less talented than the successful revolutionaries of the last century. They do have one advantage, however: effortless ubiquity. In the past, radicals had to wait until they had seized power before they could inflict their thoughts upon millions of people, and even then, the words were trapped in heavy books that many never actually read. Today the intolerant, factionalist, ranting, censorious, humorless, dogmatic-apocalyptic screeds of our would-be political saviors are effectively impossible to avoid; they are on our phones, in our feeds, in the comments below the articles we read online—and increasingly in the articles themselves.

When I set out to read the dictator canon all those years ago, I expected to suffer. I didn’t expect to find that dictator literature would serve as a blueprint for so much of the discourse of our era.
-------------------
Daniel Kalder is the author of The Infernal Library: On dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy and contributed this article in the Quillette. H/T Intercollegiate Studies Institute which recommended this article.

Tags: Quillette, Daniel Kalder, The Infernal Library, What we can learn, Dictators' Literature, Intercollegiate Studies Institute To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

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