Saturday, December 24, 2016

When Christians banned Christmas

publicdomainpictures.net
We hear a lot about the war on Christmas, but few remember that, once upon a time, Christmas was completely banned. This wasn’t in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It happened right here in America. The story begins with the Pilgrims. Yes, those Pilgrims. The same ones that we celebrated a few weeks ago when we had Thanksgiving dinner.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Pilgrims came to the New World in search of religious freedom. That’s true to a certain extent. They left England originally to avoid persecution, but they first settled in Holland. In Holland, they had religious freedom, but they had several complaints about life there.

According to Christianity Today, the Pilgrims didn’t like living in Holland because it was a hard place to make a living. They also thought that Holland, with its permissive culture, was not a good place to raise their children. The Pilgrims left Holland for America because they want a more pure and holy society.

As we all know, the Pilgrims moved to America in 1620. What many don’t think about is that, once established in New England, the Pilgrims were absorbed into the larger Puritan movement. The Puritans were reformers in the Church of England who rejected many of the trappings of the English church.

As the Puritan colonies in New England were growing, Puritans in the mother country were actually revolting against the king. The English civil war was fought between the Royalists, also called Cavaliers, who supported Charles I, the Catholic king, and the pro-Puritan forces of Parliament called “Roundheads.” The Roundheads were led by Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan military leader. After the Roundhead victory in 1645, Cromwell became the military ruler of England and the Puritan Parliament canceled Christmas.

Puritans hated Christmas because, even then it was largely a secular holiday. Christmas was celebrated with raucous partying and drinking, two things that were very unpopular among the Puritans, who were literally “puritanical.” After all, the Pilgrims had left Holland a few years earlier to escape this sort of sinful culture. They didn’t want it follow them to Massachusetts.

The Puritans also noted that Christmas was not Biblical. The Bible didn’t mention when Jesus was born and there was no record of early Christians celebrating the Nativity.  Puritans associated Christmas with the pagan Roman festival of Saturnalia and the winter solstice. Puritans also viewed every day as holy and spurned the idea that holidays were more special than any other day.

In Puritan England and Massachusetts, work went on as normal on Christmas Day. People who openly celebrated Christmas could be fined. In England, the Christmas spirit was hard to break. Pastors who attempted to preach on Christmas Day were arrested. Pro-Christmas sentiment ran so high that Parliament ordered shops to stay open and ordered that they be protected from violence and intimidation by people offended that they were open on the holiday.  

After Cromwell’s death in 1658, Christmas returned to England in 1660 when the monarchy was restored. The ban on Christmas lasted much longer in Puritan Massachusetts. Royal pressure led to lifting of the Christmas ban in 1681, but the holiday still wasn’t popular. The royal governor of Massachusetts held a Christmas Day service in Boston under the protection of redcoat troops in 1686. Anti-Christmas sentiment flared up around the time of the American Revolution due to its association with the crown. While not banned, Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in New England as late as the 1850s. Christmas became an official holiday in Massachusetts in 1856.

With the Christian concern today that secular forces are trying to eliminate Christmas, it’s ironic to think that it was Christians who once banned the celebration of the birth of Christ. Truth can definitely be stranger than fiction.

Originally published on The Resurgent


   

'Happy Holidays' flap is a snowflake issue

Pixabay.com
I’m a fan of Christmas. I am a Christian and I celebrate the holiday as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who I believe is the Son of God. Even though I joyfully celebrate Christmas, I recognize that not everyone does. For that reason, I’m not concerned in the least about the “Happy Holidays” controversy that erupts every year.

Every year there is a wave of indignant posts on social media where people denounce the phrase “Happy Holidays” as an assault on the Christian message of Christmas. People often take the greeting, as well as many other trivial matters such as a redesign of the Starbucks holiday coffee cup, as attacks on the Christian religion and react with anger and hostility.

Christmas greetings even became a political issue when Donald Trump vowed last year, “If I become president, we're gonna [sic] be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store ... You can leave happy holidays at the corner.”

I’m not offended when someone tells me “Happy Holidays.” Christmas is a holiday and is included in that greeting. The phrase doesn’t exclude Christmas. Rather it includes New Year’s Day, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and probably even Festivus. The phrase is simply a recognition that there are other holidays that occur within the December time frame and bundles them into one greeting. It also has the advantage of being easier to say than “Happy Merry Christmahanakwanzika.” Stores often use “Happy Holidays” because not all their customers celebrate Christmas and it is poor marketing to alienate and offend your customers.

More and more, the flap over saying “Happy Holidays” seems to be a snowflake issue. By that, I don’t mean a winter precipitation problem, but an issue similar to the liberal faux outrages by those sensitive souls derided as “snowflakes.” These universally offended types find something to be outraged about in everything and it seems that many conservatives are taking a cue from this behavior on several issues. Christmas is one example.

Why do conservative Christians feel offended when some people choose not to say “Merry Christmas?” Christianity is a voluntary religion. People have to choose to accept Christ. Belief in Christ and repentance cannot be forced. Isn’t it equally futile to try to force people to pay homage to Christ by saying “Merry Christmas” when they don’t want to?

The United States has freedom of religion. People should be free to celebrate and say, “Merry Christmas,” but they should also be equally free to say “Happy Holidays.” The government has no constitutional role in determining appropriate holiday greetings.

There is a real war on Christmas in some quarters. Bans on nativity scenes, Christmas trees and banning “Merry Christmas” are clearly wrong and, to use the liberal phrase, intolerant. There are attempts by some to turn Christmas into a “winter break.” These attempts should be resisted and haven’t been widespread for the most part. How many of us have personally been involved in such an attack on Christmas? Not me. I’ve only read of them in the outrage media.

Saying “Happy Holidays” should not be considered an attempt to excise religion from the public square. The word “holiday” is actually derived from the Old English word for “holy day.” When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” they are actually telling you to have a good holy day. Christmas, along with Easter Sunday, is one of the most holy of holy days for Christians.

To take the matter a step further, even the word “X-mas” is not an attack on Christmas. The “x” is not crossing “Christ” out of Christmas, according to students of the Greek language and theology. The “x” is actually shorthand for a Greek word meaning “Christ” that starts with the Greek letter “Chi,” which looks the same as our “x.” Far from being a modern invention, the shorthand has been in use for over a thousand years.

For snowflakes who do get hot and bothered when someone tells them “Happy Holidays,” there is a simple solution. My response when someone gives me the controversial phrase is to give them a big smile and say, “Merry Christmas” in a friendly way. Often they’ll respond back with “Merry Christmas” as well. This technique even worked before Trump won the election.

Don’t be a snowflake. Let’s focus on important issues and not trivialities.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 23, 2016

Trump calls for new nuclear arms race



MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is reporting that President-elect Donald Trump has called for a new nuclear arms race. The comment was allegedly made to Mika Brzezinski in a response to a Trump tweet yesterday.

The original tweet from Mr. Trump read, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

In a “Morning Joe” clip, Joe Scarborough says that they asked Mr. Trump for clarification. Brzezinski responds that Trump told her, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.”

“And outlast them all,” Scarborough adds.

“And outlast them all,” Brzezinski confirms.

“All right, you can put that down as breaking news,” Scarborough quips.

Last month, the Heritage Foundation released a report rating US nuclear forces as “marginal.” Heritage found that US nuclear forces depend on older weapons systems at a time when countries such as Russia and China are upgrading their nuclear forces. Other countries such as North Korea, Iran and India are also building and expanding their nuclear arsenals.

Trump’s original tweet came shortly after a year-end speech by Vladimir Putin in which Putin called upon Russia to “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.” The US and NATO have deployed the Aegis Ashore missile defense system to several countries that were formerly part of the Soviet bloc.

Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer during the Cold War, once said that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” Many observers believe that Putin’s foreign policy is aimed at restoring the former satellite countries of the Soviet Union into the orbit of the modern Russian Federation. Diplomatic and economic pressure and military attacks on countries such as Georgia and the Ukraine have furthered this goal.

Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has been perceived to be a proponent of Putin and Russia. He removed a plank from the Republican Party platform that would have called for lethal military aid to Ukrainians fighting Russia-backed rebel forces. Trump has also signaled a willingness to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Crimea and possibly even recognize Crimea as part of Russia. Many Trump appointees have strong links to Putin’s Russia.

The hardline response to Russian nuclear sabre rattling may also be linked to the Russian interference in the US election. Trump has been embarrassed by reports that Russia leaked Democratic documents in an attempt to help the Republican win the election. Trump may feel the need to talk tough after Putin’s nuclear comments because the hacking reports made him look weak.

It is too early to tell whether the comments from Trump and Putin will lead to a new arms race and Cold War. It is likely, however, that the Putin’s expansionist aims for Eastern Europe will put the two countries on a collision course that will test President Trump’s foreign policy skill and resolve.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mike Huckabee wants infrastructure jobs 'you cannot outsource'

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
It seems that Gov. Mike Huckabee is the latest conservative on Team Trump to fall victim to the Keynesian delusion that infrastructure spending is the way to revitalize the economy. A tweet by Fox News yesterday quoted Huckabee as saying, “The most effective way to put people on a job is to do infrastructure jobs b/c it’s the one thing you cannot outsource.”

The tweet does not offer a link to a clip of the segment, so Huckabee’s comment cannot be viewed in full context, but the statement comes after other members of the Trump transition team, including the president-elect himself, have signaled that infrastructure spending, most likely financed by debt, will be a top priority in the new administration.

While Huckabee is technically correct that construction jobs cannot be exported to foreign countries, the construction industry is a major employer of illegal immigrants. In 2012, four years into the unemployment crisis brought on by the Great Recession, Pew Research found that about 15 percent of construction and extraction jobs were held by illegal aliens.

During the campaign, it was pointed that Donald Trump had even used illegal aliens in the construction of the Trump Tower in the 1980s.  The Washington Post reported that Trump was also using illegal workers in the construction of his new hotel in Washington, DC, a charge that he denied.

Even without possibility of government infrastructure money going to illegal workers, Huckabee’s infrastructure comment shows a lack of deep thinking on the issue of jobs. Government spending on infrastructure can create jobs in the short term, but what happens when those projects are finished? Government projects often run behind schedule and over budget, but eventually they come to an end. If the underlying problems with the economy are not fixed the result will be a country with a lot of nice, new roads and bridges, a lot more debt and a chronic high unemployment rate.

The key to revitalizing the economy is to create a climate in which American companies can create things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. Tax and regulatory reform would allow American businesses to build things at prices that are competitive with the rest of the world.

When the federal government takes on more debt, it needs more tax money to pay back what is borrowed. Higher taxes and more government spending make the US less competitive. Neither families nor countries can borrow their way to prosperity.

The infrastructure stimulus has been tried and has failed numerous times. Most famously, President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” created the Works Progress Administration, an entire government agency whose purpose was to create infrastructure jobs for unskilled laborers. The WPA was responsible for many roads, bridges, parks, and post offices, but what it did not do was end the unemployment crisis.

More recently, President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 spent $787 billion on “shovel-ready” infrastructure jobs. The success of Obama’s program can be judged by the fact that unemployment is still a problem eight years later.

One conservative critic of Obama’s stimulus said at the time, Republicans in Congress “were elected to represent their constituents, but they can’t hardly do that and vote to pile on unimaginable debt on their grandchildren.” He continued, “If you think future generations of Americans can afford a congressional version of ‘shop-til-you-drop,’ then just remain silent, but I don’t plan to.”

Who was that outspoken critic of Obama’s stimulus boondoggle? It was Mike Huckabee.

When did borrowing money to create jobs paid for by the government become a conservative policy, governor?


Originally published on The Resurgent

Texas tries to defund Planned Parenthood


(AnonMoos/Wikimedia)
The Texas Tribune reports that the State of Texas has served notice to Planned Parenthood that it will defund the organization. The notice gives Planned Parenthood 15 days to appeal the decision to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Planned Parenthood has indicated that their response will be through the courts rather than through state administrative channels. “Planned Parenthood continues to serve Medicaid patients and will seek a preliminary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit filed in November 2015, following the state’s original threats to take action against Planned Parenthood’s patients,” Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in the Tribune.

The battle over funding in Texas began in October 2015 when Texas officials first gave Planned Parenthood notice of the state’s intent to cut off funding. The original notice gave the organization 30 days to respond or a “final notice of termination” would be issued. The final notice was actually issued more than a year later after there was no formal response from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the Texas defunding effort last year, but the suit lay dormant without the final notice.

The group previously received $3.1 million from Texas in Medicaid funds. About 90 percent of that figure is federal money while the remainder is paid for by the state. 

The notice cited a series of undercover videos that allegedly show that Planned Parenthood officials illegally conspired to sell body parts of aborted babies. Planned Parenthood denies the charges and claims that the videos were edited.   

“Your misconduct is directly related to whether you are qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner,” Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen wrote in the letter to the group. “Your actions violate generally accepted medical standards, as reflected in state and federal law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination.”

Several states have attempted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and the group has sued to keep the public money coming in. In recent months, Planned Parenthood has won suits against defunding in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, and Utah.

At issue is a portion of federal Medicare law that allows patients free choice of providers. “Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider," a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services representative said in a statement in 2015. "Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides. State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk.”

If state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are stymied by federal law, then the problem might be solved by the new Republican Congress. Congressional Republicans tried to defund the group at the federal level, but were blocked by Democrats and the threat of a veto by President Obama.

Next year, President Obama will not be able to block legislation cutting off taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, but Donald Trump’s position on the issue has not been consistent. Throughout much of the campaign, Trump opposed defunding Planned Parenthood, saying the group “does do wonderful things, but not as it relates to abortion.” On several occasions, Trump supported cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding for abortion, but not defunding the group entirely. In September, Trump did issue an unequivocal statement calling for full defunding of the group.

Under the Hyde amendment, originally passed in 1976, federal funds cannot be used for most abortions. The current version of the amendment contains an exception that does allow Medicaid funds to be used in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. Due to this law, federal funding for Planned Parenthood is already limited to providing services that are not related to abortion.

The Texas effort is unlikely to succeed due to its conflict with federal law. An effort by congressional Republicans stands a better chance, even with Donald Trump’s mixed record on Planned Parenthood.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reince Priebus says America should 'make everything'


From time to time, people in power will make a statement that is economically illiterate. Occasionally, that person will be a Republican. Reince Priebus was that person when he appeared on the Hugh Hewitt radio show earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Priebus, who is the incoming White House Chief of Staff for President-elect Donald Trump, told Hewitt, “We can make everything here, or our goal should be to try to make everything we can in the United States so that the money gets put in the pockets of Americans.”

On the surface, the statement is innocuous. It seems to be a simple statement in support of American business and manufacturing. After all, who wouldn’t want American manufacturers to produce everything domestically? It would eliminate the need for imports and erase the trade deficit.

The problem is that Priebus doesn’t understand competitive advantage. Competitive advantage allows companies or countries to produce a good or service that is preferable to that of its competitors. If a country can produce a product at a lower cost, a higher quality or both, then it will hold an advantage over its competitors. It would be impossible for a country to hold a competitive advantage on every product and service, just as it is impossible for an individual to excel at everything.

If Priebus fulfilled his dream of America producing everything, the result would be that many of these products would be inferior and/or more expensive than competing products made elsewhere. American products are often expensive for several reasons. American labor is expensive thanks to unions, regulations like the Affordable Care Act and the high American standard of living. The cost of real estate is high in many manufacturing areas of the US. The US corporate tax rate is the highest in the free world.

If every product was made in America, the economy and market would not be efficient. Some products would be more expensive or lower quality than products that could be purchased elsewhere. Either heavy restrictions would have to be placed on the free market to keep people from buying imported goods or inefficient American producers would be forced out of business. American consumers would be forced to pay more or buy shoddy products in many cases. Alternatively, the goods might be produced at lower costs by machines than by American workers.

For an example of why Priebus’s utopian dream wouldn’t work, look no further than Donald Trump’s deal with Carrier. Trump convinced the company not to move 800 jobs to Mexico, only to find that the company was planning to automate its Indiana plant and that many jobs would be lost anyway.

Mexico has a competitive advantage in building the heating and air conditioning units that Carrier produced in Indiana. The company said that it expected to save $65 million per year by moving the plant to Mexico. When a combination of political pressure and a $700,000 annual tax credit persuaded the company not to move, it didn’t change the economic advantage that Mexico held for the low-tech product. Automation and lower labor costs levelled the playing field.

In contrast, Carrier’s parent company also owns several aerospace companies, including Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky. These are high tech manufacturing companies that are profitable and adding jobs, even with plants in Connecticut, one of the most expensive states in the union. America holds a competitive advantage in aerospace manufacturing, partly due to a highly skilled labor force.

What Priebus is actually calling for is less economic choice. To allow American companies to make everything without going broke, it would require the United States to isolate itself from competing manufacturers. That is essentially the purpose of the protective tariffs proposed by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Priebus’s comment is a disturbing confirmation that Republicans are rejecting the free market in exchange for protectionism and isolationism. After eight years of stagnant growth and wages under President Obama, the desire to revitalize the country is understandable, but shutting America off from the world is not the answer.

A better answer would be regulatory and tax reform to make American companies more competitive. The government should also allow companies to pursue niches where they have an advantage as well as to cut costs where they aren’t competitive. As the legendary economist Milton Friedman once said, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, December 17, 2016

'Hamilton electors' won't stop Trump

There is a push among liberals to urge electors to reject Donald Trump and vote for someone – anyone according to one plea by Hollywood liberals – else for president. Republicans shouldn’t get upset by these attempts to deny Trump the presidency for one simple reason: They are doomed to fail.

According to the popular vote outcome, Donald Trump is expected to win 306 votes in the Electoral College. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to become president. This means that 37 Republican electors would have to abandon Trump. So far only one, Chris Suprun of Texas, has announced his intention to vote against Mr. Trump.

While the Hollywood appeal is true in its claim that the Constitution doesn’t require electors to vote for any particular candidate, many states do. And what the video doesn’t tell you is what happens next if Trump does not win the Electoral College vote on Dec. 19.

According to the Twelfth Amendment, the election would then go to the House of Representatives where the Dump Trump movement would face two insurmountable obstacles. The first is that the Constitution says that the House must choose from the top three electoral vote getters. At that point, the choice will only be between Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the third place finisher, if there is one. At this point, there is no consensus candidate for the faithless electors, who call themselves “Hamilton electors,” to rally around, let alone one that could unite Democrats with anti-Trump Republicans. John Kasich, one popular possibility, asked electors not to vote for him last week.

The second is that the House is controlled by Republicans who will almost certainly vote for Donald Trump. The vast majority of Republicans seem to have unified around Trump, at least for the moment.

The odds are long against the election ever making it to the House of Representatives in the first place. Most of the electors who seem to be willing to break faith with their parties and the voters of their states are Democrats. Politico reported in November that “at least a half-dozen Democratic electors” had joined the effort to stop Trump in the Electoral College, but so far Chris Suprun is the only Republican elector to publicly announce his intention to vote against the result of his state’s popular vote.

With the outcome of the Electoral College vote all but certain, the rogue electors can feel free to vote their conscience or resign their position to protest their opposition to their party nominees. It won’t make a difference. The Democrat electors, mostly Bernie Sanders supporters, have nothing more to lose than their party standing (plus state penalties) since their candidate is not going to win anyway.

For Republicans, the choice is more difficult since Trump will become president, with or without their votes. They risk their standing in the party if they take an unpopular stand against a president who has increased his own popularity since his upset victory over Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Party might forgive Bernie supporters. It is less likely that a GOP dominated by Donald Trump will forgive and forget.

Originally published on The Resurgent



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Liberal fake news doesn't excuse conservative fake news


News and media (Sollok29/Wikimedia)
Two of the big concerns of many conservatives about Donald Trump were that he would drag the party to the left on policy issues and that he would drag it into the gutter with his behavior. Trump’s proposals for an economic stimulus and more government spending have arguably moved the party toward the position of Keynesian liberalism. The response of many in the party to attacks on fake news sites fulfill the prediction about the corruption of Republican morality.

Articles on conservative sites have popped up all over the internet citing examples of fake news from mainstream media organizations. The examples are numerous and most of them are true. From Brian Williams who was fired for exaggerating his Iraq War reporting at NBC to Dan Rather who was fired for airing a “fake but accurate” report about George W. Bush’s national guard service to Hillary Clinton’s claim that she came under sniper fire in Yugoslavia to reports that Michael Brown was killed while his hands were up, bad reporting has been a frequent problem for even large news organizations.

The problem is that many conservatives seem to take the attitude that since liberal reporters don’t care about truth and accuracy, why should we? This is a bad response that does nothing to curb the publishing of fake news on either the right or left. Instead, it merely cheers on conservative bloggers in a race to the bottom where neither side can be trusted.

A better attitude would to follow your mother’s advice instead of following the mainstream media’s bad example. Who hasn’t been asked by their parents, in response to the juvenile defense that someone else did it too, “If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

Put bluntly, the mistakes and faults of others don’t give us an excuse to make the same mistakes. If we criticize the mainstream media for lackadaisical fact-checking and then write and spread stories like last year’s claim that Barack Obama was planning to implement martial law in Texas under the cover of the Jade Helm exercise, that doesn’t make us equal with the liberals who peddle lies. It makes us hypocrites.

An equally appropriate aphorism is that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” It’s impossible to fight lying liberals when conservatives are also lying. To fight lies requires credibility, which many conservative sites lack thanks to stories with no basis in fact like those about Jade Helm or Obama’s birth certificate.

If conservatives want to have the moral authority to criticize fake and erroneous reporting from mainstream outlets, they first have to clean up their own house. There are plenty of good, objective news sites that report from a conservative viewpoint without stooping to dishonesty and constant outrage stories. The Wall Street Journal is notably conservative and one of the best newspapers in the country. If you care about politics and current events, the subscription is well worth the few cents that it costs per day.

I’m proud to say that The Resurgent is also a dependable site. While not a “hard news” site, The Resurgent is a conservative outlet that steers clear of the liberal-outrage-of-the-day brand of journalism. At The Resurgent, we strive to present an accurate look at politics from a conservative viewpoint. We aren’t in the business of manufacturing clickbait. And, unlike the Wall Street Journal, The Resurgent is totally free, although we do accept donations to help defray our costs.

So be skeptical with what you read and forward. Fact check for yourself. Don’t spread false stories. When we put an end to the lies on conservative sites, we’ll be in a better position to attack liberal lies.


Originally published on the Resurgent

Russian hacking scandal grows


The scandal over Russian interference with the presidential election is growing. Over the weekend, the CIA released its assessment that Russia acted to intentionally aid Donald Trump’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded to the claim with an attack on the CIA.

The New York Times reported on Friday that American intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that Russia acted to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This assessment was based on the finding that the Russians had hacked the Republican National Committee as well as the Democrats, but did not release stolen Republican documents to Wikileaks or other websites.

The report confirms earlier reports from August and September that the Republican Party had been hacked. The Hill reported in August that a number of leaked Republican emails had appeared on DC Leaks, a website connected to the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party. The Republican email trove did not appear to be complete. For example, some of the posted emails were responses to messages that did not appear elsewhere on the site.

President-elect Trump responded by calling the CIA assessment “ridiculous” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Trump camp had previously said, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” implying that the CIA assessment should not be trusted.

Intelligence officials fired back in a statement saying, “It’s concerning that intelligence on Russian actions related to the U.S. election is being dismissed out of hand as false or politically partisan. The inclination to ignore such intelligence and impugn the integrity of U.S. intelligence officials is contrary to all that is sacred to national-security professionals who work day and night to protect this country.”

Trump has continually denied a Russian connection to the hacked Democratic emails both during the campaign and after. This in spite of the fact that Trump publically called on Russia to find and publish Hillary’s deleted emails in July. However, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence was briefed on the alleged Russian involvement in October, Pence said on CNN, “I think there's no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction. There should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.”

The evidence that Russia was behind the hacking is not new. The new assessment deals largely with the apparent motives. The CIA and the FBI have not come to the same conclusion that the hacking was done to hurt the Clinton campaign according to CNN. However, both agencies suspected Russian involvement in the hacking as early as July.

Officials who were briefed by both agencies last week said that the FBI responses were “vague” and “ambiguous.” The difference may be partly differences in organizational culture. The CIA takes available evidence and gives an estimate while the FBI has to gather enough evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. The dated nature of the Republican documents that are known to have been stolen is also a factor in the FBI’s failure to totally agree with the CIA assessment that the leaks were intended to help Trump.

Concern about the hacking is bipartisan. Republican senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joined Democrats Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to call for a congressional investigation into the hacking. “It's pretty clear to me that WikiLeaks was designed to hurt Clinton and it could be us tomorrow, to my Republican friends,” Graham said to CNN. “What if the Iranians hack into Trump's emails, because they don't like him being tough? As a nation, this is not a partisan issue.”

Fox News noted that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) appear to be backing a congressional investigation as well.

Speaker Paul Ryan stopped short of calling for an investigation, but expressed concern. “Speaker Ryan has said for months that foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement to Politico. “The speaker cannot comment on or characterize the content of classified briefings but he rejects any politicization of intelligence matters.”

Many Republicans appear unconcerned about the hacking and view it as an excuse for the Clinton loss or an attempt to delegitimize the Trump Administration. John Bolton, who is reportedly Trump’s pick to be the second-in-command of the State Department, questioned Russia’s involvement on Fox News. Russian propaganda site, RT, framed Bolton’s doubts as an argument that the hacking was a “false flag” by President Obama although Bolton never made that claim.

Although there has so far been no evidence that the Trump campaign was complicit in the DNC hacking, there is concern about Mr. Trump’s cozy relationship with the Kremlin. Trump has appointed numerous Russia-friendly cabinet members and advisors, including Rex Tillerson, who is reportedly Trump’s pick to be Secretary of State, and the administration’s affinity for Putin may affect its policy.

Even before the election, the Trump campaign was instrumental in a pro-Russia change to the Republican platform. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea, the party had called for lethal aid to the Ukrainian army in its fight against Russian-backed militants. That provision was stripped at the request of the Trump campaign. Trump has even considered dropping the sanctions on Russia and recognizing Crimea as Russian territory.

Max Boot points out in USA Today that “Republicans would be sputtering in outrage, and with good reason” if the Russians had released GOP emails to help Hillary Clinton because they saw her as a friendly alternative. That fact is a clue about the right way to handle the intervention that benefitted Trump. Regardless of whether Republicans benefitted, investigators need to pursue the truth about the tampering with America’s election.


Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Carrier to automate and eliminate jobs



The Carrier deal in which Donald Trump negotiated with United Technologies to keep the company from moving jobs to Mexico continues to unravel. One of the terms of the deal was that Carrier would invest $16 million in its Indiana facility, but now it appears that much of that investment will involve automation that will ultimately cost many workers their jobs.

Trump had claimed that the deal would save “over 1,100” jobs in Indiana. Union leaders and Carrier had previously said that only about 730 manufacturing jobs would stay in the US as a result of the deal. Now it appears that many of those jobs have been saved only temporarily.

CNN Money reports that Greg Hayes, CEO of Carrier’s parent company, says that automating the plant is needed to keep it profitable. “We're going to...automate to drive the cost down so that we can continue to be competitive," Hayes said. "Is it as cheap as moving to Mexico with lower cost labor? No. But we will make that plant competitive just because we'll make the capital investments there. But what that ultimately means is there will be fewer jobs.”

Hayes had previously talked about the reasons for moving Carrier’s operations to Mexico on “Mad Money with Jim Cramer.” “We have a very talented workforce in Mexico,” he said. “Wages are obviously significantly lower. About 80% lower on average. But absenteeism runs about 1%. Turnover runs about 2%. Very, very dedicated workforce.” Mexican workers make about $3 per hour while Carrier’s US employees can earn more than $20 per hour.

“Automation means less people," Hayes said on CNN. "I think we'll have a reduction of workforce at some point in time once they get all the automation in and up and running." At this point, there is no indication of how many jobs will be lost when the plant automates.

Trump’s difficulties with Carrier underscore the harsh reality of the high tech economy. The biggest threat to manufacturing jobs doesn’t come from foreign workers, but from new technology and robots.

During the campaign, Trump frequently complained that “We don’t make anything anymore.” In reality, manufacturing is still the largest sector of the US economy according to Market Watch. China took the lead in manufacturing in 2010, but the US is still the second largest manufacturer in the world. US manufacturing output is near its all-time high.

The problem is that, while manufacturing remains strong, many manufacturing jobs, like those at Carrier, have disappeared. CNN reported that the US has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. Some of these jobs were exported to other countries, but many were also lost to automation.

FiveThirtyEight described how rising wages and costs in China have inspired some companies to move their factories back to the US. The factories come back and contribute to the soaring US manufacturing output, but most of the jobs do not.

As the unemployment rate has fallen, many displaced manufacturing workers have shifted into other jobs. In the 1800s, American workers shifted from agricultural jobs to manufacturing jobs. Now another shift is underway from manufacturing to jobs in healthcare, construction and retail.  

Manufacturing jobs won’t totally disappear, but they will be focused into areas where the US has a competitive advantage. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Greg Ip points out that it wouldn’t make financial sense to keep Carrier’s furnace production in the US. The low tech product can be made more cheaply in Mexico or by robots. If Carrier persisted in using expensive Indiana labor to make these products, the company could eventually go out of business and the factory would close completely.

In contrast, another United Technologies company, Pratt & Whitney, builds high tech jet engines. The skilled labor required in manufacturing these jet engines cannot easily be farmed out to less developed countries or automated. In fact, Pratt plans to add 8,000 jobs in Connecticut over the next few years and, even before the Trump deal, UTEC had planned to offer retraining and new jobs with its aerospace companies to displaced Carrier workers.

The economy is changing and American companies have to be willing to change with it or perish. There is no way to put the genie of automation back into the bottle.


 Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 9, 2016

Americans trust the Onion more than Infowars

(https://www.flickr.com/photos/illuminating9_11/3475314018)


 There has been a lot of hubbub over fake news lately. The elevation of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon to White House status and the recent shooting at a Washington pizzeria that was associated with the "pizzagate" conspiracy theory played a role in the current fascination with fake news, but the proliferation of fake news outlets on the internet was bound to cause a stir sooner or later.

I realized several years ago that a lot of the articles that people were posting on Facebook were simply not true. Some were poorly researched or misinterpreted real events, but others were intentionally out to deceive. Some deceptive sites included disclaimers that they were “satire.” Others did not.

Now a new survey by Morning Consult shows that we probably don’t need to be worried too much about fake news. The poll found that Americans have internal BS detectors that are more highly refined than they are generally given credit for.

The survey asked participants to rate 13 popular news organizations, some real and some fake. What the pollsters found out will astound you!

A bipartisan sample rated one notorious fake news site, Alex Jones’ Infowars, as less credible than The Onion, a popular satire site. You heard that right. The conspiracy site, with a recent story headlined “METHODIST CHURCHES CONVERTING TO ‘VIRTUAL MOSQUES’ FOR MUSLIM MIGRANTS,” was deemed to be less believable than a site that carries on its masthead the Latin motto, “Tu stultus es,” which, when translated, means “You’re an idiot.”

The news outlets that were believed to be most credible were ABC, CBS, NBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and CNN. Each of these outlets was considered credible by more than 60 percent of respondents. Favorability for these outlets cut across party lines, although Democrats rated almost all outlets as more credible than Republicans. Fox News and MSNBC followed, each with 55 percent favorability. NPR scored credible with 51 percent and the Huffington Post with 46 percent.

Bringing up the rear were Steve Bannon’s Breitbart at 19 percent, The Onion at 18 percent and Infowars at 17 percent. The Morning Consult does point out that both Breitbart and Infowars were unfamiliar to almost half of the respondents. In both cases, of the people familiar with the sites, a larger number considered them not credible than credible.

When the results of the survey are broken down along party lines, the results are largely the same. The main change is that Fox News is the most trusted news source among Republicans while it ranks just above The Onion for Democrats. The three major networks and the WSJ rank high among both parties.

The rock bottom rankings for Infowars and Breitbart are richly deserved. While Infowars was a conspiracy site from Day One, Breitbart went from a real conservative news site under Andrew Breitbart to a page that is now known for hysterics about Jade Helm laying the groundwork for martial law and accusing Republicans of colluding with Democrats on “amnesty,” which became the site’s code word for any immigration reform proposal.

Breitbart and Infowars aren’t the only offenders. There is a whole cottage industry of “citizen journalists” who are actively misinterpreting or making up news. At one point, I started compiling a list of fake news sites, but it was impossible to keep pace with new web pages. Among the stories that I have seen are claims that the Affordable Care Act included language to create a secret police force, that Obamacare medical codes showed that Obama was going to bring the guillotine to America as a method of execution, and, of course, last year’s claims that secret tunnels under Wal-Marts were being used as staging areas to prepare for martial law that would keep President Obama in power.

If you are tempted to believe these and other stories floating around the internet, don’t. They were all 100 percent fake.

To avoid being taken in by fake news, work on enhancing your own internal BS detector. Here are a few tips:
1.       If you don’t recognize the site as a real news source, be skeptical. Look carefully, some fake news sites closely mimic the names and pages of real news sources.
2.       If it has a clickbait headline, don’t bother.
3.       When in doubt, look for links to the primary source that the writer used. Most legitimate news sites and blogs will link to their source material. If there is no link, use Google. If you can’t find the real story with Google, it probably doesn’t exist.
4.       Misspelled words, incorrect grammar and inflammatory language are red flags. Legitimate news sites have editors and at least make a pretense of being objective.

The bottom line is to take everything with a grain of salt and learn to fact check for yourself. In the brave new cyber world of Infowars and Breitbart, if it sounds too stupid to be true, it probably is.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump will 'work something out' with DREAMers

Ms Phoenix/Flickr
In the interview with Time Magazine that accompanies his selection as the Person of the Year, Donald Trump raised eyebrows with a comment that he will “work something out” for illegal aliens who came to the US as minors. Trump had previously said that the illegal immigrants, known as “DREAMers” for the DREAM Act that would have given them a path to legal status, would have to be deported.

Trump told Time in the Nov. 23 interview, “I want Dreamers for our children also. We’re going to work something out. On a humanitarian basis it’s a very tough situation. We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. But that’s a very tough situation.”

The DREAM Act was a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2001, but never passed into law. The law would allow illegal immigrants who entered the country before they turned 16 to apply for conditional resident status if they have five years of residency, earn a high school diploma or GED, show good moral character and pass background checks. Permanent residency could be granted if they serve in the US military or attend a higher education institution for two years. The DREAM acronym stands for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.”

Although the DREAM Act never became law, President Obama used Executive Orders to defer deportation for young illegals who have clean records. Obama’s Executive Order was the basis for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gives some DREAMers exemption from deportation and two-year work permits. Trump said in the campaign that he would terminate the program.

The Texas Tribune profiled several DREAMers in a post-election article. Many came as young teenagers to be with parents who were already in the US. Jessica Azua was 14 when she came to the US illegally. Now, at 25, she is graduate of Texas A&M. Edgar Navarrete, now 22 and a student at the University of Texas at Austin, came to the US with his parents as a toddler and has no memory of his hometown in Mexico. Illegal immigrants who came to the US at a young age under the direction of their parents have no lives in their native countries to return to.

Trump has reversed position on immigration before. Before running as a hardliner on immigration, Trump told DREAM activists in 2013, “You’ve convinced me” according to NBC Latino. In August, Trump considered a new immigration position in the midst of the campaign before reversing his reversal. Even as he seems to consider a compromise on the DREAMers, Trump has appointed immigration hardliners to his cabinet.

Trump has said since the election that he still intends to build his wall, but other aspects of his immigration policy may be subject to change. During the campaign, he insisted on deportation of all illegal aliens, but has since said on “60 Minutes” that deporting violent criminals will be a priority, then “after the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we're going to make a determination on the people that you're talking about who are terrific people.”

In the Time interview, Trump continues to call for a wall. “We’re going to build the wall. I’m going to build the wall. We’re going to have strong borders. But we’re also going to have people coming across the borders because we need workers.”

He also hints at other aspects of an immigration reform plan, which may see a change from the current family-based system to one that seeks to match immigrants to the needs of the US workforce. “We have to be able to have people come in to our country, because that’s good for all of us. It’s good for them, but it’s good for all of us. But we’re going to have very strong borders. We’re not going to have illegals coming in. But we’re going to have people coming in, but we’re also going to have them coming in based to a certain extent on merit.”

Deviation from his hardline deportation policy could cause a rift in Trump’s base, but might help more moderates to get behind Trump. Polling over the past few years has consistently shown that most Americans support a path to legalization for illegal aliens. Even exit polls of Republican primary voters, including many Trump voters, showed that the party was roughly split down the middle on the issue of legalization and that most opposed deportation of all illegals.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump wants to 'prime the pump' with infrastructure stimulus

Donald Trump has again embraced the idea of a stimulus spending bill to help jumpstart the economy. In his interview with Time Magazine for the Person of the Year issue, Trump said that it was necessary to “prime the pump” to increase economic growth.

During the campaign, Trump had advocated an economic stimulus plan that was larger than that proposed by Hillary Clinton. Last August, Trump discussed his ideas on stimulus on Fox Business (quoted in Bloomberg), saying, “Well, I would say at least double her [Hillary Clinton’s] numbers, and you're going to really need more than that. We have bridges that are falling down. I don't know if you've seen the warning charts, but we have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling.” Clinton’s plan had an estimated price tag of $275 billion.

To pay for his plan, Trump said, “We'll get a fund. We'll make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates…. People would put money into the fund. The citizens would put money into the fund,” he said, adding that he'd use “infrastructure bonds from the country, from the United States.”

Trump’s comments in the Time interview, which was conducted on Nov. 28, appear to indicate that he is not moving away from his plans to spend large amounts of money on an infrastructure stimulus. Trump’s full comment on the stimulus during the interview was vague on details.

“Well sometimes you have to prime the pump. So sometimes in order to get the jobs going and the country going, because look, we’re at 1% growth,” Trump said. “I was taking to the head of a major country, because most of them have called me and I’ve talked to all of them. ‘Yes, we are doing not well, not well. Our GDP is only 4.5%.’ I said wow, if our GDP was 4.5% we’d be the happy – I mean our GDP is probably less than 1% if you think about it. And going in the wrong direction.” GDP growth in the third quarter was reported at 3.2 percent.

Other members of the incoming Trump Administration have signaled their support for government intervention in the economy as well. In a post-election interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Steven Bannon, who will be a Senior Advisor to President Trump, said, I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it's the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Wilbur Ross, the incoming Secretary of Commerce, and Peter Navarro, an economist and advisor to Trump criticized Obama’s stimulus in a policy paper during the campaign. “All we have gotten from tilting at Keynesian windmills,” they wrote, “is a doubling of our national debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion under Obama-Clinton and the weakest economic recovery since World War II – combined with depleted infrastructure and a shrunken military.” Still, they don’t seem to have a problem with the idea of stimulus spending on infrastructure, just that the Obama spending was poorly targeted.

Steven Mnuchin, who will be President Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, has said that “taxes, regulatory, trade, [and] infrastructure” will be among the new administration’s top priorities. According to Reuters, Mnuchin said that the Trump team is considering creation of an “infrastructure bank” to fund projects. Mnuchin is also considering issuing Treasury bonds with terms as long as 50 or 100 years, far beyond the 30-year term of current federal debt.

Infrastructure stimulus spending is not typically a strategy supported by conservative Republicans. When President Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion stimulus package, he did so with no Republican votes.

The support of stimulus spending by the Trump Administration may set up an early confrontation with Republicans in Congress. Many Republican congressmen are deficit hawks who campaigned on cutting federal spending and shrinking the government. Trump’s plans for more government spending will put these Republicans in a crossfire between Trump supporters and debt-conscious voters in their districts.

The conflict will provide a window into the character of the new Republican Party. Will conservative Republicans stand for the traditional Republican platform of less spending and smaller government or will they listen to the siren song of borrowing and spending from the incoming president?


Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Carrier deal isn't all it was cracked up to be

Donald Trump’s vaunted deal with Carrier to keep jobs in Indiana seems to have been less than it originally seemed. The president elect had celebrated the deal that he claimed would save “over 1,100” manufacturing jobs in Indiana. Now a union leader is saying that Trump “lied his a-- off” about what the deal accomplished.

Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers 1999, told the Washington Post that he was optimistic when he heard the announcement about the deal in late November. Now Jones says that the claims that Trump made were misleading and that the number of jobs saved includes positions that Carrier never planned to transfer Mexico.

According to Jones, only 730 manufacturing jobs would be retained in Indiana and 550 production workers will still be laid off. Jones said that Trump apparently counted 350 research and development jobs that Carrier had never intended to move to Mexico as well as 80 nonunion clerical and supervisory jobs.

Jones said that when Trump addressed Carrier employees on Dec. 1, he waited for an acknowledgement that the 550 workers would still lose their jobs. Instead “he got up there and, for whatever reason, lied his a—off,” Jones said.

Jones, who says he voted for Hillary Clinton as the “better of two evils,” said, “Trump and Pence, they pulled a dog and pony show on the numbers. I almost threw up in my mouth.”

Still, more than 700 American jobs saved should be worth celebrating, right? After all, manufacturing jobs are well-paying, union jobs and keeping them in the US benefits the whole country. Or does it?

According to Business Insider, the week before Trump’s deal was announced, the company made another unilateral announcement. In a surprise move, Carrier announced that a five percent price increase would take place on January 1. Since the price increase was announced on Nov. 23, before the deal to keep the jobs in Indiana was reached, some doubt a connection between the two events, but Carrier was obviously in negotiations at that point and had been the butt of Trump’s criticisms throughout the campaign.

The price increase can be reasonably assumed to be an unintended consequence of Trump’s interference in the company’s operations. It was previously reported that Carrier employees make as much as $26 per hour which equates to $70,000 per year with overtime. Using Mexican workers at $3 per hour, Carrier would save a whopping $65 million per year.

On CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer,” the chairman and CEO of United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company talked about the reasons the company had planned to move. “We have a very talented workforce in Mexico,” Greg Hayes said. “Wages are obviously significantly lower. About 80% lower on average. But absenteeism runs about 1%. Turnover runs about 2%. Very, very dedicated workforce.”

Hayes went on to say that Carrier’s American workers were very experienced, but these high levels of experience were not required in the production of Carrier’s heating and air conditioning products in Indiana. The company had offered many workers transfers to its aerospace divisions where decades of manufacturing experience would have been a more valuable asset.

The reported details of the deal with Carrier included $7 million of tax credits from Indiana over 10 years. The financially astute reader may have calculated that moving to Mexico would have netted Carrier more than 92 times the savings of staying in Indiana, even with the new tax credits. To keep the company profitable and shareholders happy, something had to give.

The experience with Carrier comes with lessons for American voters as well as the incoming Trump Administration. First, Trump’s tendency to stretch to the truth until it broke in the campaign does not appear to have disappeared with his electoral victory. Trump’s statements will need close scrutiny and should be taken with a grain of salt.


Second, even Donald Trump cannot rewrite the laws of economics. Central planning by a Republican president does not work better than central planning by a Democrat. When government interferes with markets, it is subject to the law of unintended consequences no matter who is making the deal.

Originally published on The Resurgent 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Are the lessons of Pearl Harbor forgotten?

As America remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor that occurred 75 years ago today, I have to wonder how well we remember the lessons of that day of infamy. Everyone remembers the Japanese sneak attack that Sunday morning, but not everyone remembers the events that led to war.

Two of the factors that resulted in the destruction of the American Pacific fleet are rearing their heads in modern American policy. First was American military weakness that was not widely recognized at the time. Second was an attitude of isolationism that was brought on by the economic malaise of the Great Depression. There are parallels to both in 2016.

After WWI, the “war to end all wars,” the American military was placed on the back burner. Particularly after the onset of the Great Depression, the US military was placed behind FDR’s public works projects in importance. While the federal government built national parks and post offices, the army and navy languished.

As Japan and Germany built up their armed forces in the 1930s, the New Deal gave them a head start of almost a decade. At the beginning of WWII, the US Army was smaller than the army of Portugal at about 180,000 men. The air force, which was then part of the army, had only a few hundred planes, many of which were already obsolescent. In 1941, the US Navy had only six aircraft carriers to split between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They faced a fleet of 10 new Japanese carriers.

The situation is analogous to today’s American military. The Heritage Foundation recently found that the US armed forces were understrength and weak after years of protracted wars and budget cuts. Modernization has been sacrificed to maintain current strength while potential adversaries like Russia and China have both expanded and modernized their forces.

Isolationism grew from the Great Depression as well, but had roots that ran deeper. After WWI, Congress rejected American membership in the League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations. While the US actively intervened in Central America, Americans did not want to involve themselves in European or Asian politics. Protectionist policies like the Smoot-Hawley tariff served to both further isolate America from the world while at the same time preventing economic recovery.

America first,” a slogan heard on both sides of the political aisle this year, was also a popular phrase in the 1930s. When President Roosevelt felt it necessary to intervene against Japanese aggression in China and Nazi aggression in Europe, he could not do so openly due to opposition at home. Father Charles Coughlin and aviator Charles Lindbergh were among the celebrities who whipped up isolationist sentiment against American involvement overseas.

Today, political figures on both sides of the aisle have argued against American involvement against aggressive and expansionist governments. It was Republican opposition that derailed President Obama’s plan to intervene against Assad in Syria, a failure that led to the protracted civil war and more instability in the region. Donald Trump removed the plank from the Republican platform that called for lethal aid for Ukraine in its fight against insurgents backed by Vladimir Putin. China is building islands in the South China Sea that will become military bases while the United States does nothing.

Pearl Harbor was the result of a perfect storm of military weakness and inward-looking policies that allowed dictatorships to flourish. When tyrants like Hitler thought that no one dared oppose them, they decided to expand their borders. The desire to avoid war at all costs while failing to maintain military readiness eventually led to a war that cost millions of lives. Tragically, these lessons of Pearl Harbor appear to have been forgotten.  


Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 2, 2016

Obama to skip Castro funeral


Many had wondered if President Obama would make a pilgrimage to Havana for the Fidel Castro funeral next Tuesday. As it turns out, he isn’t. Even though attending state funerals is a part of the job description of the vice president, Joe Biden won’t be making the trip across the Straits of Florida either.

Obama is not totally snubbing the mourning Cubans however. The Los Angeles Times reports that the president will dispatch two informal emissaries to the communist island. Obama will send Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the ChargĂ© d'affaires ad interim of the US embassy in Cuba, and Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy National Security Advisor, to send off the departed dictator. DeLaurentis is the top ranking US diplomat in Cuba and has been nominated to be the first US ambassador to Cuba since the fall of the Batista regime.

A fake news story had claimed that Obama had originally planned to attend the funeral personally, but had changed his mind when Donald Trump, citing an Executive Order by John F. Kennedy, threatened to have Obama arrested when Trump took office. In an article debunking the story, Snopes points out a disclaimer on the site that published the story that says, “All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.”

Obama did issue a formal statement after Castro’s death in which he equivocated on Castro’s legacy, saying, “Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Left unsaid by Obama was that Castro’s “enormous impact” included a swath of destruction and death for the island. Castro was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans, many of whom faced firing squads on his orders. Many thousands more were imprisoned and untold numbers fled the island. Many, including relatives of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, made new lives in the United States.


President Obama lifted the 50-year-old US embargo on Cuba in 2014. Donald Trump, whose company was accused during the campaign of violating the embargo in the 1990s, has indicated that his administration may not continue Obama’s policy of dĂ©tente. In a tweet, Trump recently stated, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

Originally published on The Resurgent