Friday, February 16, 2018

Russia Indictments Mean Evidence Of Trump Collusion Is Less Likely

The news of the indictments of Russian nationals by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team should come as a shock to both sides in the Russia debate. On one hand, the news makes it more difficult for President Trump to deny that Vladimir Putin’s Russia meddled in the election while, on the other hand, it dims prospects that Trump himself will be indicted for illegal collusion with the Russians.

The indictments, which can be read in full on CNN, name 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for illegal interference in the election, beginning as early as 2014. According to the indictment, the Russians used computer equipment, both in the US and abroad to “obstruct the lawful functions of the United States through fraud and deceit.” The Russian operatives used both false identities and stolen American social media accounts to purchase political ads, create false grassroots organizations and even stage political rallies.

“The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said.

The good news for the Trump Administration is that there are so far no indictments of Trump campaign members for illegal collusion with the Russians. The indictment states, “Some Defendants, posing as US. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.” These unwitting individuals in the Trump campaign are not named and presumably will not be charged.

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” Rosenstein added. “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charge conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.” Rosenstein did point out that the investigation is ongoing.

Although the round of indictments does not end Mueller’s investigation, it is becoming more and more doubtful that President Trump will be implicated. There are five possibilities for the future findings of the investigation:

1.       Evidence of President Trump’s illegal collusion with the Russians will emerge.
2.       Evidence of President Trump’s collusion will emerge, but will not have been illegal.
3.       There will be evidence of illegal collusion by other members of the Trump campaign.
4.       There will evidence of collusion by member of the Trump campaign that did not break the law.
5.       There will be no evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign.

Of five likely scenarios, four would result in no indictment of Donald Trump. Others would result primarily in embarrassing the Administration.

The evidence strongly indicates that the Russians interfered in the 2016 campaign. It also indicates that by mid-2016 the Russians were actively supporting Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. At this point, the evidence also indicates that the Russians acted alone.

If the goal of the Russians was to create chaos, division and mistrust in the United States, then it is easy to see why they might have supported Donald Trump even without active collusion from his campaign. As president, Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the FBI and other intelligence agencies, the frontline of defense against Russian covert operations, without providing evidence of their corruption. An added bonus for the Russians is that President Trump has so far refused to implement the sanctions passed against Russia by Congress last year.

Robert Mueller is one of the biggest winners of the day. Through months of accusations that his investigation was a sham designed to impeach President Trump and that his investigation was going too long without producing results, Mueller persevered. The indictments today prove that Mueller takes seriously his charter to investigate interference in the election, not just collusion by the Trump campaign.

With Trump Administration officials already warning against Russian interference in this year’s midterms, the charge that Russia conducted “information warfare” against the United States should be difficult for President Trump to ignore. As he appears to grow safer from indictment (other than on perjury or obstruction charges), he may feel more free to address this very real threat against the United States.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Joy Behar: Christians Are "Mentally Ill"

Periodically the left tries to make an appeal to Christians and other religious voters. Democrat campaigns hire people to do outreach to religious communities in an attempt to win over as many of the faithful as possible. After the campaign, liberal rhetoric about religion typically goes back to a point somewhere between ignorant and insulting. That is the case with Joy Behar’s recent attack on Vice President Mike Pence.

On “The View,” Behar joked about a statement by former White House staffer and “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault-Newman who had implied that Pence was mentally ill. Omarosa said of Pence on “Celebrity Big Brother” that “he thinks Jesus tells him to say things … Scary.”

Behar responded, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

Behar’s comments immediately drew criticism from other panelists on “The View.” The Washington Times notes that Meghan McCain pushed back, saying that Jesus speaks to her “every morning.”

“As a Christian, that’s just par for the course,” said Sherri Shepard. “You talk to Jesus, Jesus talks back. What concerns me is, how long is the conversation with Jesus?”

Behar, an agnostic who was raised Catholic, expresses the popular view among liberals that rational and reasonable people must reject the notion that God cannot be real simply because he cannot be seen or touched. For people like Behar, it isn’t enough to simply question the existence of God, it is also necessary to mock the beliefs of the faithful and question their sanity based on their own prejudices.

Behar’s condescending comment, which reflects either a total ignorance of Christianity or a willful misinterpretation of prayer, is insulting to Christian believers on both sides of the political spectrum. In contrast to the assumptions of Behar and other liberal elites, more than half of Americans say that they pray “at least daily” per the Pew Religious Landscape Study. Less than a quarter of Americans never pray. Most probably expect an answer.

Perhaps shockingly, the number of Americans who pray frequently cuts across political lines. The share of people praying daily is split almost equally between Republicans and Democrats (42-40 percent). Democrats have a slight edge in the share of people who pray weekly or monthly.

Although the poll shows that far more conservatives and moderates pray than liberals, when leftists like Behar insult religious believers they chip away at their own base. The left’s hostility to religion in general pushes moderate voters away from the Democrats, the party that once booed God at their 2012 convention. Ironically, it is these moderate voters that decide most elections.

For the benefit of Joy Behar and other liberals (and moderates and conservatives) who believe that prayer is a sign of mental illness, allow me to explain. When praying, Christians do not typically have a “burning bush” moment where we hear the literal voice of God. We aren’t usually visited by angels and we don’t normally have visions either, although the Bible definitely teaches that such moments can and do happen.

Instead, God and Jesus speak us in a still, small voice. We can hear from God through reading the Bible, from listening to a sermon, a conversation with a friend, or a thousand different ways. It can simply be a reassurance and comfort that Jesus is with us and provides us with guidance as we go through life.

It isn’t surprising that people like Joy Behar would mock believers. The Bible predicts that scoffers would ridicule believers. Peter wrote, “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”

The Bible also gives encouragement to the believers who are mocked. Paul told his followers, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” and that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”


The power of God and prayer is something to which many on both the left and right can attest. For those who have experienced it, the opinion of Joy Behar and other mockers is inconsequential. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Shaun White's Flag Fuss

Following on the heels of the NFL anthem protests, Olympic snowboarder Shaun White has prompted an internet controversy for allegedly desecrating the American flag after winning his third career gold medal at Pyeongchang. In the course of his post-run celebration, White was handed an American flag which ended up being dragged on the ground, angering some viewers.

White was initially handed the flag when he completed his run and was still carrying his snowboard. The flag initially brushed the ground. White then waved the flag and draped it over his shoulders.  The video shows the flag dragging the ground as White picked up his snowboard and walked away. One picture shows White apparently stepping on the flag. The US flag code states that the flag should not be allowed to touch the ground.

Internet users erupted immediately afterward. One Twitter user, Michael Murph, exclaimed, “If you boycotted the NFL because of players kneeling you hereby have to boycott the Olympics because of Shaun White dragging flag.”

In the first place, so few Americans seem to be watching the Olympics that a boycott would not be noticeable. In the second place, Murph and White’s other critics fail to consider the intent of his actions.

In contrast to the NFL players taking a knee, White clearly did not intend to show any disrespect to the American flag or the United States. His actions, while careless, were not planned or premeditated and were not intended to make a political statement. White is clearly proud of the flag and held it in a celebratory fashion when it was handed to him.

White has already explained and apologized for his mistake, telling reporters that he was unaware that the flag had even touched the ground. “I remember being handed the flag but I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and get the board,” White said. “Honestly, if there was anything, I definitely didn’t mean any disrespect. The flag that’s flying on my house right now is way up there. So sorry for that. But I’m definitely proud — very proud — to be a part of Team USA and being an American and to be representing for everyone back home.”

That should be the end of the matter. Although cringeworthy, the video supports the claim that White’s dragging of the flag was unintentional and he has offered an apology and a sincere explanation of why it happened that does not involve partisan politics of any sort. Americans should take him at his word and move on to other topics. There are already enough snowflakes at the Winter Olympics.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why Federal Deficit Spending Will Never Be Fixed. Ever.

If there was any notion that the Trump Administration was fiscally conservative, those beliefs should be reconsidered in light of last week’s bipartisan spending deal and the president’s spending proposals from the State of the Union speech. Despite the Republican victory on tax reform, it seems that the party is veering toward massive spending increases rather than fiscal restraint and entitlement reform.

Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was one of the few congressional voices that spoke out against the spending bill. In a speech on the Senate floor, Paul described why Congress is unlikely to ever resolve the problem of deficit spending. Ever.

“The right cries out, 'Our military is hollowed out!' Even though military spending more than doubled since 2001,” Paul said. “The left is no better. Democrats don't oppose military money as long as they can get some for themselves... for their pet causes.”

“The dirty little secret is that, by and large, both parties don't care about the debt,” the senator charged.

The truth that Paul stumbled upon is that neither party can spend taxpayer money on its own. The Democrats want to spend on entitlements and social programs, but don’t have the votes by themselves. The Republicans have their own priorities, among them the military and up to $67 billion for President Trump’s border wall. Even though they have majorities in both houses, the Republicans don’t have the votes to pass a budget on their own either. On the other hand, when both parties come together in a bipartisan compromise, they have enough votes to spend like the proverbial drunken sailor.

Neither party sees their priorities as frivolous. Both see themselves as patriotic lawmakers looking out for the wellbeing of their constituents. They agree to each other’s priorities to secure their own and the deficit goes up and the national debt continues to mount.

There have been pauses in the trend. When Republicans won control of the House in the Tea Party wave of 2010, they kept a tight grip on the federal checkbook. Under Speaker John Boehner, the Republicans reduced spending in real dollar terms and reduced the deficit by 70 percent, thanks to the sequester’s spending caps. Nevertheless, the borrowing continued and the debt continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate. In the late 1990s, a booming economy paired with spending cuts actually led to federal surpluses for a few years.

By the end of Barack Obama’s second term, the federal debt had almost doubled. The US debt to GDP ratio reached 108 percent. This is far behind Japan with a 240 percent ratio and Greece at 180 percent, but the level of debt is generally acknowledged to be at a serious problem. The Keynesian ideal of deficit spending in times of crisis has given way to deficit spending to avoid a financial crisis.

Where Rand is incorrect is in his hostility to military spending, a constitutional mission of the federal government. Paul argues that “military spending more than doubled since 2001,” but fails to consider how much the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. Two wars and numerous missions against Islamic terrorism are only the most obvious aspect of the problem. Chinese and Russian expansionism represent serious Cold War-like threats.

In 2016, under President Obama, military leaders said that sequestration was a serious threat to military readiness. Budget cuts have led to difficulties in replacing and upgrading equipment. Financial limitations have also impacted training and troop retention.

Military spending is costly, but it is not the largest share of the federal budget. Defense and security spending (including veterans programs) make up only 20 percent of federal outlays. Over half of the federal budget is made up of health care spending (28 percent) and Social Security (25 percent). It is entitlements that are breaking the federal budget.

Democrats may get the lion’s share of the blame for entitlement spending, but the truth is that it is a bipartisan problem. Conservative voters claim to favor spending cuts, but quickly change their tune when the discussion moves to reforming Social Security. They have bought into the fiction that their “contributions” to Social Security are held into an account for when they retire. In reality, Social Security taxes are quickly spent on current retirees as soon as they are received. (If you think your payments to Social Security are a voluntary “contribution,” try not paying them.)

Speaker Paul Ryan is one of the few politicians of either party to dare to even mention entitlement reform. For his bravery, he is shown in Democrat ads pushing an old lady off a cliff. His own party was no better. When Ryan voted for the 2013 budget deal that included cuts in military retirement pay, he was skewered by Republicans even though the bill was supported by military leaders.  

In the end, Rand Paul is right. Neither party cares about the debt, at least not enough to allow cuts to their favorite programs, although they are more than willing to cut the other party’s pet projects. The minority party becomes a deficit hawk to use the deficit as a club to beat their opponents and roles reverse when the parties change control. The few politicians who want to make real spending reforms are opposed by both parties.

There will be no spending reform for the foreseeable future. The US government will continue to spend like a billionaire’s wife in Saks Fifth Avenue as long as it can borrow. With the dollar maintaining strength and few other bastions of stability for world investments, many assume that purchases of treasury bonds will never stop.

But one day, sooner or later, interest payments will combine with other budget items to exceed the government’s ability to borrow. The government will not be able to pay its bills. When that day comes, members of both parties will have to get serious about spending cuts regardless of what their voters think.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Americans Have Embraced A Post-Truth Society

“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate once famously asked.

Truth once mattered in America. Our most beloved president, George Washington, was revered as a man who supposedly said, “I cannot tell a lie” when confronted with the childish misdeed of chopping down a cherry tree. Abraham Lincoln, who usually ranks just beneath Washington in the pantheon of great presidents, is remembered as “Honest Abe.” In the past few decades, however, both parties have strayed from the traditional ideal to one that lionizes political figures who have what can only be called a casual acquaintance with the truth.

It is hard to say exactly when our expectations for presidential behavior went off track. Richard Nixon, one of the most infamous failed presidents, is remembered for his proclamation that “I am not a crook.” Nixon’s protest turned out not to be true, but the president’s behavior was not quickly excused or forgiven. Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment in 1974.

President Reagan may have lied about his knowledge of the Iran-Contra affair or he may have purposely kept himself in the dark to maintain plausible deniability. Either way, the Gipper’s image suffered from his end-run around Congress. Bill Clinton certainly lied about his own scandals. He was impeached for perjury, lying under oath, about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, yet Democrats rallied around Clinton and, until recently, he remained a respected elder statesman of the party.

Barack Obama is fondly remembered by Democrats as well, but is closely associated with two lies. In the most well-known example, Obama received “Lie of the Year” honors for his claim that Americans could keep their doctor under Obamacare. The second, the claim that the terror attack on the Benghazi consulate was precipitated by an anti-Muslim video, was not actually spoken by the president, but the idea was widely pushed by members of his administration, apparently with his blessing.

Since Donald Trump burst onto the scene, the situation has only gotten worse. President Trump has kept fact-checkers busy and examples of his falsehoods and exaggerations are too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that the man who established his political bona fides by questioning Barack Obama’s birth certificate may be on track for a lifetime achievement award in addition to the “Lie of the Year” he received for his denials of Russian attacks on the 2016 election.

The penchant for lying is trickling down to infect members other elected officials. In the past week, there have been two big lies in the news that didn’t even involve the president. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had egg on his face after claiming that the FBI did not reveal the political bias of its sources in FISA warrant applications against Carter Page, only to admit later that the information was included in a footnote. Later in the week, Ron Jonson (R-Wis.) twisted text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to claim that President Obama interfered in the investigation to Hillary’s emails. In reality, the text messages referred to Obama’s desire to be informed on the Russia investigation prior to a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

And don’t get me started on liberal lies that attempt to engineer their version of what society should be. While deriding the right as anti-science, the left makes unsupported and outlandish claims that an unborn baby is not a human or that gender is fluid and infinite. The leftist redefinition of common terms is a positively Orwellian lie.

The fact that these claims have been shown to be false won’t change the fact that many of the faithful will still believe them.  Partisans on both sides seem to have embraced the view of Obi Wan Kenobi that “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

The problem with this approach is that Kenobi’s was defending an outright lie. When he told Luke that Vader killed Anakin, Kenobi knowingly and intentionally misled his protégé and covered up the truth. It is no different when Nunes reverts his claim that the FBI omitted the required disclosure to a claim that the footnote was too vague. Likewise, the liberal claim that a baby in the womb is not a living human is nonsensical, especially considering technological advances that show what life in the womb is like.

Politicians have always lied. What seems to have changed is that voters of both parties no longer seem to care or desire to hold them accountable. Democrats excused President Obama’s lie about keeping your doctor by arguing that Obamacare helped the uninsured. Republicans excuse President Trump’s baseless claim that Trump Tower was “wiretapped” by arguing that the FBI surveilled Trump campaign members… albeit after they had left the campaign.

Information has become disinformation. News has become fake news. Both sides are so guilty that their goal is to obscure the truth rather than to reveal it. The modern goal has become to reveal only enough of the truth to skewer one’s enemies while protecting the guilty on your own team.

The truth is good, bad and sometimes ugly. While it is tempting to cover up the sins of one’s allies, the American people need to see the truth about problems and misdeeds on both sides. Neither side is pure and blameless.

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” Justice Louis Brandeis once said. People in power who operate in darkness behind closed doors tend to become corrupt. Shining the light of truth on government is the only way to protect our Republic.

It is up to American voters to insist on truth from their elected officials and stop excusing their lies and accepting a society that is, for all intents and purposes, post-truth. The post-truth age we live in is an era where what matters is twisting the facts to fit one’s preconceived beliefs and biases.

“The truth will set you free.”


Originally published on The Resurgent

Rise of the Big Government Republicans

The Republican Party seems to have turned a corner in recent months. After a promising start to the Trump Administration that included regulatory reform and concluded with a long-awaited tax reform bill, the party seems to have taken an abrupt turn away from fiscal conservatism toward big government and big spending policies.

The most obvious sign of the shift is the new budget signed by President Trump this week. The new budget raises spending caps by $300 billion. The first Trump budget raises spending by about $500 billion over the 2017 budget signed by Barack Obama.

The new budget also includes increases to the debt ceiling through March 2019. Previously, Republicans tied spending cuts to increases in the debt ceiling, but no more. The new budget increases military spending by $165 billion and nonmilitary programs by $131 billion. The funds include $10 billion for infrastructure, $2.9 billion for childcare and $3 billion to fight opioid abuse.

Predictably, the massive spending increases will dramatically increase the deficit. Even before the deal became law, the Washington Post reported that borrowing for the 2018 fiscal year was expected to reach its highest level in the past six years, a date that coincides with the Republican takeover of Congress in the 2010 Tea Party wave.

The national debt has already reached crisis levels, as Vice President Mike Pence realized during the campaign. President Obama nearly doubled the debt in eight years, bringing it to more than 100 percent of GDP. The continued increases in deficit are bringing the US Treasury into Greek territory.

There are indications that more increases in spending are to come. President Trump has proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan. Perhaps coincidentally, the price tag for Trump’s plan is almost exactly double that of President Obama’s infrastructure stimulus bill from 2009. All that is lacking are promises jobs from shovel-ready projects.

Similarly, Republicans seem ready to embrace a new family leave entitlement that is championed by both Donald and Ivanka Trump. The plan includes paid time off for six weeks for new parents courtesy of the federal government.

Other Republican big government priorities are not new. Trade protectionism was growing in the party even before Donald Trump vaulted to its head. Under President Trump, free trade has taken a beating as tariffs have been imposed and trade deals renegotiated. One of Trump’s first acts was to withdraw the US from the TPP free trade agreement. In the end, trade restrictions hurt American businesses and consumers by increasing the cost of goods.

Immigration policy has long been a big government aspect of the Republican platform as well. Most Republicans support border security, but immigration hardliners favor a crackdown to deport illegal immigrants that would require an expanded federal police bureaucracy.

Deportation of illegal immigrant workers would be expensive and counterproductive. CNN reported in 2016 that it cost more than $10,000 to deport each illegal immigrant. At the same time, deportations can result in labor shortages than increase costs for employers and ultimately for consumers as well.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Republicans would jettison their promises of fiscal restraint. After all, the same pattern has been followed several times in the past few decades. What is surprising is the extent and the speed with which they have done so.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Oh, Canada! Trudeau Says He Won't Accept Bad Deal On NAFTA


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back at Trump Administration attempts to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday. Speaking at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, Trudeau said that “no deal” might be more preferable to Canada than a deal that is revised along the lines that the Trump Administration proposes.

“We will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau’s comments came in the course of a podcast, “The Axe Files,” produced by the University of Chicago and CNN. Trudeau said that Canada valued trade with the United States, but would not accept a one-sided deal.

“When Canadians see me engaging constructively, collaboratively -- but firmly -- at the negotiating table on NAFTA, saying, 'Look we know there are ways to modernize and improve NAFTA in ways that will create a win-win-win when we include Mexico,' there is a path absolutely for that. But we are not going to take a win-loss just for the sake of getting a deal,” Trudeau said.

He added, “We know we can work towards a good deal. But we also know that we will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal. And being firm on that is, I think, what Canadians expect of me.”

During the campaign, President Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in the history of this country” even though many economists say the trade pact with Mexico and Canada has benefitted all three countries.

Canada and Mexico are able to drive a hard bargain at the NAFTA negotiations because they have other options. Both countries recently signed onto the new Trans Pacific Trade pact that will not include the United States. If the three nations cannot agree to continue NAFTA, Mexico and Canada will have free trade access to numerous new markets around the Pacific rim. Mexico already has 10 free trade agreements with 45 countries.

Still, Trudeau emphasized that continuing the deal would be beneficial to both countries. “Frankly, there is no country in the world that has a greater vested interest in the United States being successful than Canada," he said. "You know, when you sneeze, we catch a cold. I mean, we're so interlinked that absolutely we want to make sure it's a good deal for the United States, because that's part of making a good deal for Canada.”

Trudeau also addressed his recent controversial correction of an audience member who used the word “mankind.” In a clip that has been widely mocked, Trudeau said that “peoplekind” was the appropriate gender-neutral phraseology. Fox News reports that the prime minister called the comment “a dumb joke.”


Originally published on The Resurgent