Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Carol Countdown


If you’re like me, one of your favorite things about the Christmas season is the Christmas music. As a traditional person and a Christian, I love classic Christmas carols, but there are many new Christmas songs that I also enjoy.

Christmas songs range from the sublime to the awful (“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” I’m looking in your direction). Almost any singer who has recorded more than two albums has also released a Christmas album. When it comes to Christmas, there is no shortage of variations to choose from, even though you might not be able to tell this from the Christmas Top 40 repeated ad infinitum on the department store muzak.

To celebrate this Christmas, I have put together a list of ten Christmas songs that are among my all-time favorites. Some are religious, some are not. Some are old, some are new. Feel free to disagree and list your own favorite Christmas songs in the comments.

10. “Please Come Home for Christmas,” The Eagles. I like many kinds of music, but, first and foremost, I’m a classic rock fan and The Eagles are the one of the greatest classic rock groups of all time. Their Christmas song is in the vein of “Blue Christmas,” but The Eagles version is a more bluesy, personal plea that resonates with anyone who has ever spent a Christmas away from their loved ones. The Christmas season can be a very lonely one for some people. “Please Come Home for Christmas” isn’t as well known or as oft-covered as “Blue Christmas,” but, for my money, it’s a much better song.

9. “Christmas 1915,” Celtic Thunder. This song combines my love of classic Christmas carols with my love of history. “Christmas 1915” tells the story of the World War I Christmas Truce when Christmas-loving German and British soldiers very nearly derailed the war. The sampling of “Silent Night” to underscore a temporary lull in the brutal trench warfare is tear-inducing. The song represents both the best and worst instincts of man as soldiers cease fighting in celebration of the birth of the Savior only to kill their fellow revelers in hand-to-hand fighting the next day. If you can listen without getting choked up, you’re a better man than I am.

8. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Burl Ives. Like “Christmas 1915,” this carol laments how far man has strayed from God’s ideal. In this world, “hate is strong and mocks the song of ‘peace on Earth, good will to men.’” The song was written in 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as he pondered how his son, a Union soldier, was severely wounded and almost paralyzed during the Civil War. The song ends with the stirring promise of the bells that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

This version is performed by Burl Ives, a singer and actor most popular in the 1950s and 1960s. You may recognize Ives’ voice from other classic Christmas songs such as “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

7. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Bing Crosby. Many popular Christmas songs seem rooted in war when families were ripped apart by fighting. This is also the case for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Written in 1943, the song represents a letter home from an American soldier fighting overseas in World War II. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was a fervent desire that would not be fulfilled for most soldiers for another two years, but they would be present with their families “if only in my dreams.” The song is an anthem for those who are separated from their families at Christmas.

The song was originally recorded by crooner Bing Crosby, who also had popular versions of many other Christmas songs that were destined to become Christmas classics. A bit of trivia is that the B-side of the original single of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was “Danny Boy,” a ballad now associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

6. “Mary Did You Know?” Pentatonix. “Mary Did You Know?” is a new classic written by Christian comedian, Mark Lowry. The song asks Mary a rhetorical question. Yes, she knew that she was giving birth to the Son of God because the angel told her, but did she really understand the impact of that her son would have on the world. Could any mortal have comprehended that “when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?” Unlike many contemporary Christian songs, the theology is deep here. This beautiful version of the song is by acapella group, Pentatonix.

5. “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Elvis Presley. No list of Christmas songs would be complete without an entry from The King. Elvis Presley is more known for “Blue Christmas,” but the song is so ubiquitous that it has become a parody of itself. There is even a cover performed by Porky Pig (it’s worth a listen). I prefer my Christmas blues by the Eagles, but I like to hear the velvet voice of Elvis praise the King of Kings in traditional Christmas carols.  

4. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” Johnny Cash. This is another traditional carol with many great versions. The song is a hymn by Charles Wesley that mixes an explanation of Christian theology with the joyous news that Jesus was “born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” This is the ultimate meaning of Christmas: That Jesus, “our Emmanuel” (literally, “our God with us”), was born to die for our sins. The Christmas nativity points directly to the cross of Easter.

This version of the song is performed by Johnny Cash, the country music singer with one of the most distinctive voices in the world. Cash was not just singing a song. His belief in Christ changed his life and saved his marriage and career. When he sang about the joy of Christ’s birth, Cash meant every word.

3. “Joy to the World,” Celtic Woman. It’s easy to see the angelic chorus above Bethlehem on a dark night two thousand years ago when you close your eyes and listen to this song. The song, which is based on verses of the Bible (Psalm 98, 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17-18), is a heavenly birth announcement. Celtic Woman is a world-renowned Irish ensemble.

2. “Silent Night,” Michael Bublé’ and the Trinity Boys Choir. “Silent Night” was originally an Austrian carol, written in German by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr in 1818. The soft, tender song paints a picture of the sleeping town of Bethlehem where “shepherds quake at the sight” of angels attending to the newborn King of Kings. Unlike the boisterous celebration of “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald,” “Silent Night” is quietly worshipful. It is almost as if the singers want to avoid waking the sleeping infant or inhabitants of the town. This is the perfect song to end a Christmas Eve candle service on a reverent note.

Michael Bublé, who performs this version, has recorded one of the most popular Christmas albums of recent years. The German lyrics are performed here by German singer Adaliz von Goltz.

1.“O Holy Night,” Josh Groban. This is my favorite Christmas carol. The song seems to sum up the meaning of Christmas in a moving, solemn song. “O Holy Night” was originally written as a poem based on the Gospel of Luke by Placide Cappeau, a French wine merchant, in 1847. Adolphe Adam set the poem to music soon after.

This beautiful song is a serene moment in the tumultuous Christmas season. It is pause for reflection on the holiness of the moment. The final stanza hints at the ultimate promise of Christmas that will be fulfilled on Christ’s return: “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.”

This version is performed by Josh Groban, an American singer and songwriter. You can hear the original French lyrics performed by famed tenor, Enrico Caruso, here.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
-Luke 2:14

Merry Christmas to all!


Trump Wins ‘Lie of the Year’

A few years ago, Politifact named President Obama’s statement that “you can keep your doctor,” the website’s Lie of the Year. This year that dubious honor will go to President Trump for his repeated denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“When the nation’s commander-in-chief refuses to acknowledge a threat to U.S. democracy, it makes it all the more difficult to address the problem,“ Politifact said. “For this reason, we name Trump’s claim that the Russia interference is a hoax as our Lie of the Year for 2017.”
At times, the president has conceded that Russia meddled in the election, but as recently as last month Trump said that he believed Russian President Putin’s claim that Russia did not have a role in the election interference. At the same time, Trump said that he also believed US intelligence agencies who have pinned the blame for the cyberattacks squarely on Putin’s government.
There are two separate Russia tracks to the Russia story. The first is the accusation that Russia interfered with the election through “fake news,” the hacking of Democrat emails and cyberattacks on the voting infrastructure. There is ample evidence to support this aspect of the Russia story, which was the subject of a report released by US intelligence agencies last January. Many Trump Administration officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary James Mattis and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, have all confirmed Russia’s meddling in the election.
The second aspect to the Russia story is the possibility of collusion by members of the Trump campaign. Collusion has not been confirmed, but campaign emails show that members of the Trump campaign were open to working with Putin’s Russia.
In September, the president called the Russia hacking story a “hoax” in a tweet. The tweet addressed Russian ads on Facebook, part of the Russian meddling story rather than the collusion claims.
Trump acknowledged that Russia had attacked the election last January, but waffled on the issue afterward. In July, the president said, “It could have very well been Russia but it could well have been other countries and I won't be specific but I think a lot of people interfered.”
Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Was Wrong (And Right) About Trump

In the wake of a historic tax reform bill and almost all the way through President Trump’s first year in office, I have a confession to make. I was wrong about Donald Trump.

Prior to the election, I had three major objections to Donald Trump. I felt that he was unqualified to be president, I doubted his conservative ideology and I had questions about his character and temperament. On the point of his political ideology at least, events have so proven my fears unfounded and I have to admit that the Trump Administration has accomplished more for conservatives than I expected. In addition to tax reform, Trump’s only significant legislative win thus far, his judicial appointments and deregulation represent important gains that should be applauded by conservatives like me.

In spite of the limited successes of the Trump Administration, I still cannot offer my unlimited support to President Trump. Even though his administration has governed far more conservatively than I dared hope, my other objections to a Trump presidency remain.

With respect to Trump’s qualification to lead the government, he has confirmed my fears. After 11 months as president, Trump has shown himself to be the same man that he was on the campaign trail. Trump’s successes seem to have more to do with his cabinet appointees than with Trump’s skill at governance. With respect to tax reform, the success seems to have come despite Trump rather than because of him. While Republican congressional leaders worked to write and gather support for the bill, Trump was tweeting about NFL players.

While Trump’s lack of legislative experience did not derail the tax reform bill, the president’s distracting behavior may have contributed to the bill’s unpopularity. Like the Democrats in 2010, Republicans have expended their political capital on a bill that most voters don’t want. Astoundingly, the Republican tax cuts are even less popular that some past tax increases. If President Trump had used his bully pulpit and Twitter account to educated the public about the positive effects of lowering the corporate tax rate, the chief goal of the bill, and how individual taxes will go down for most taxpayers as well, the GOP might have found more support for the legislation.

The grunt work of passing tax reform was carried out by Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who get little credit for their efforts. Realizing this, President Trump was uncharacteristically gracious to McConnell in a tweet congratulating him on the passage of the tax reform bill.

Sadly, events have also confirmed my fears about Trump’s character and temperament. The president’s behavior has caused several notable setbacks for the Republican Party over the past few months. Mr. Trump’s war of words with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, while popular with conservatives, has brought the United States to the brink of a second Korean War. President Trump originally had the right instincts in Alabama when he said that Republican candidate Roy Moore should withdraw. Moore stayed in and Mr. Trump eventually reversed course and endorsed Moore, shortly before Moore suffered an embarrassing defeat. Moore’s behavior and Trump’s endorsement damaged the Republican brand.

If 2017 has shown anything, it is that the Trump Administration has a surprising amount of potential. Possibly because President Trump is an outsider with few preconceived notions of acceptable policy positions there are opportunities for significant changes, such as the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, during his presidency.

The downside is that Trump’s erratic behavior and low approval ratings continue to dog the GOP. Polling shows that Democrats have an enormous lead in the generic congressional ballot leading into 2018. If Republicans and President Trump cannot win voters over to their agenda, then future “winning” will be impossible and previous gains will be endangered.

I don’t view Donald Trump as a conservative savior or as the only man who could have turned the country around. Any of the other Republican candidates would have arguably done a better job and accomplished more, such as passing the health care reform bill. Nevertheless, Donald Trump is the president that we have. Looking at his record objectively, Trump is undoubtedly “better than Hillary,” which is a low bar in itself.

If Trump wants to be great, he must change and rise to the occasion. He must put down his phone and show himself to be the dealmaker that he claimed to be during the campaign. Trump must tone down the rhetoric and reach beyond his base to moderate voters. Trump’s presidency depends on winning the support of people who did not vote for him in 2016. He cannot assume that will cruise to re-election with another popular vote loss and victory in the Electoral College. The tax reform bill may help, but it won’t be enough to stave off an electoral landslide by itself.

The stakes are high. If the Democrats win control of Congress next year, prospects for advancing the Republican agenda will be nil. Worse, President Trump’s entire legacy would be at risk. A Democrat Congress might be able to start rolling back the accomplishments of 2017 and impeachment would be a real possibility.

The best way for Trump to defend his legacy and continue to advance his agenda is make peace with Democrats. Tax reform was passed with a simple majority, but other bills will require Democrat votes for cloture. The already small Republican majority will be smaller yet when Doug Jones (D-Ala.) joins the Senate.

Trump may realize this. In a tweet that sounds as if it could have been written by Democrat, Trump said, “At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a Bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!”

If Trump can successfully pivot to the center, he may be able to appeal to moderate voters and save his presidency.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Ted Cruz: Dems Told Single Moms 'Tough Luck' on Tax Reform

When the Republicans need a fiery orator to make a point, the most obvious senator that comes to mind is Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The staunch conservative typically pulls no punches and that was the case this week when he delivered a blistering criticism of Democrat opposition to the tax reform bill on the Senate floor.

Cruz pointed out that the bill doubles the child tax from $1,000 to $2,000, a provision that would particularly help single parents, yet “Every single Democrat in this body is going to say to the single mom ‘tough luck. We aren’t cutting your taxes,’” Cruz said. He also noted that his amendment to the bill includes an expansion of educational savings plans to allow parents to spend the educational IRA money on K-12 schools.

The senator called out the Democrat claim that the bill would make taxes go up for most Americans. “In January, take a look at your paystubs,” Cruz said. “The Democrats are claiming, wildly falsely, that somehow your taxes are going to go up. Let me tell you, for virtually every American taxpayer in the country, your taxes are going to go down.”

To prove his point, Cruz noted that “every single income tax bracket is going down.” He also pointed out that the standard deduction is being doubled.

“There is one subset of people whose taxes will go up,” Cruz conceded, “Rich people in high tax Democratic states.”

Cruz urged voters to look at their paystubs in January and, “if they weren’t telling the truth, if you’re paying less taxes, you ought to stop and ask yourself, ‘Gosh, why did 48 Democrats in the Senate all tell me something that was false?’”

After noting that Democrats have crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans for tax relief in the past, Cruz answered the question of why the current Democratic caucus voted in lockstep against the reform bill.

“Because they can’t stand the President,” Cruz said. “They’re angry at the President. That’s fine. If they’re angry at the President, stand up and yell at the President, but don’t take it out on kids who are homeschooled. Don’t take it out on kids with disabilities.”

The tax reform bill passed on Wednesday with a party line vote. Despite providing tax relief for the middle class, the bill was largely unpopular among voters. FiveThirtyEight pointed out that the tax cuts were even less popular than some tax increases have been.

The responsibility for the bill’s unpopularity lies with media misrepresentations of the bill based on Democratic falsehoods, but Republicans who did not adequately defend and explain the legislation share the blame. If every Republican spoke as strongly in favor of tax reform as Sen. Cruz, public opinion would be very different.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, December 18, 2017

Donald Trump Not Considering Firing Mueller

Over the past few weeks, many Trump partisans have been encouraging the president to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Calls for Mueller’s dismissal have only increased amid the revelations that one of the FBI agents assigned to Mueller’s team sent private emails to his mistress in which he called Trump an “idiot.” On Sunday, President Trump attempted to put to rest speculation that Mueller is about to be shown the door.

“No, I'm not,” Trump replied when asked by reporters if he was considering firing Mueller.

The president then asked, “What? Are you surprised?”

The president also dismissed concerns by his lawyers that the Mueller team had improperly obtained emails from the Trump transition team. “I can't imagine there's anything on (the emails), frankly, because as we said, there's no collusion. No collusion whatsoever," Trump said. "But a lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad.”

Whether the president can fire legally Mueller is the subject of debate. Whether the president could directly fire the special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice is a gray area, but Trump could fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and replace him with someone willing to fire Mueller. It is also a gray area as to whether such actions by the president would constitute obstruction of justice.

Although many Republicans have grown critical of Mueller’s probe, Democrats have warned the president not to interfere. A move by the president to interfere with the Russia investigation could lead to impeachment charges if the Democrats win control of Congress next year.

“Firing Bob Mueller without cause would be clearly obstruction of justice,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

A second possibility is that Republicans will appoint a second special counsel to investigate allegations of bias in the Department of Justice. Such a move would be less confrontational than firing the special investigator, but would also give Republicans ammunition to discredit Mueller’s findings.

President Trump does seem to have learned a lesson since last spring. His abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey led directly to the Mueller investigation and sparked a firestorm that threatened to turn even many Republicans against him. This time, the president seems to be biding his time and attempting to undermine Mueller’s investigation by eroding confidence in his objectivity and integrity.

Trump’s statement was a not a pledge not to fire Robert Mueller, but it does seem that Mueller’s dismissal is not imminent, as many had feared. The president may just be waiting for a more opportune moment to make his move.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Democrats Hold Double-Digit Lead In 2018 Generic Ballot

Coming on the heels of the loss of Luther Strange’s Alabama Senate seat to Democrat Doug Jones, there is more bad news for Republicans. A poll that measures the generic approval of the two parties now shows Republicans with a 14-point deficit. The Monmouth University poll is the latest sign that a Democrat wave is building for 2018.

Other surveys of generic ballot preferences over the past few months have yielded similar results with some surveys showing Democrat support at or above 50 percent. A FiveThirtyEight roundup of generic ballot polls showed that Democrats lead by 11 points on average.

In the past, generic ballot polling has been a leading indicator of performance in midterm elections. In 2010, Republicans held a 10-point lead in generic ballot polling just prior to their takeover of the House of Representatives. The pattern repeated in 2014 when Republicans were favored by about five points. In contrast, Democrats lead by 12 points prior to the wave election of 2008.    

The generic ballot is not a fait accompli. Democrats still have to recruit candidates and mount successful campaigns to unseat Republicans, but the polling does represent a disadvantage for the GOP. Republicans may be able to stem the tide by acting now to shore up approval.

The problem for Republicans is that there are very few avenues toward better approval ratings in the 11 months left before the election. The GOP has not been able to pass any significant legislation in spite of holding both houses of Congress and the presidency.

The party is currently pinning its hopes on tax reform, but voters disapprove of the bill by almost a two-to-one margin. The situation is reminiscent of Democrats ramming through the unpopular Affordable Care Act in the hopes that it would become more popular after it passed. Ironically, after costing the Democrats both houses of Congress and the White House, Obamacare did become more popular. In the summer of 2017, Obamacare was more popular than failed Republican attempts to repeal it.

The easiest way for Republicans to stop their falling approval is to rein in President Trump, although this is easier said than done. The same Monmouth poll shows Trump at 32 percent approval with 56 percent disapproving. This is close to, but slightly below, the average of polling on FiveThirtyEight.

The average loss of congressional seats by a president with an approval rating below is 50 percent is 36 seats. If Republicans don’t do much better than average next year, the Democrats will take control of the House.

While many economic indicators are good, unforced errors and distractions by the president are hurting the GOP. If President Trump’s behavior could be moderated, say by locking him out of Twitter, the party would undoubtedly benefit.

A second hint for Republicans is that the nation at large and the Republican base are very different. Candidates and policies that please the base, Roy Moore for example, are often unpopular with the rest of the country. The GOP should consider moderate and independent voters when nominating candidates this spring. It should also sell it policies to public before enacting them so it isn’t placed in the position of voting for unpopular bills as was the case with both tax reform and health care reform.

Polling shows that Republicans are in danger of repeating history. There may still be time to avert an electoral disaster in 2018, but time is running out. Republicans have to act now to reverse their sagging approval rating, but many have not even acknowledged that there is a problem.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Alabama May Have Just Saved the GOP

Last night, the Republican Party got its first break in over a year.

The defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama may sting for a while, but it may just be the wakeup call that the GOP needed. To lose a Senate seat in one of the most conservative states in the South is quite an accomplishment. There will be plenty of blame and finger-pointing to go around, but ultimately the fault lies with Roy Moore himself, along with the people who elevated him to the nomination.

The candidate was obviously never properly vetted by Republicans, but if the Washington Post could find a handful of women from Moore’s past, why couldn’t his Republican primary adversaries? Perhaps Moore was considered untouchable in Alabama conservative circles for his high-profile resistance to the removal of the Ten Commandments monument and the implementation of same-sex marriage, but, in truth, these were examples of judicial activism that should not have been applauded by people who support the rule of law. There are ways to resist bad rulings, but Moore’s actions were not appropriate for his position.

Even beyond the obvious, there were signs of skeletons in Moore’s closet if Republicans had cared to look. In 2002, amid the Ten Commandments controversy, the Montgomery Advertiser hinted that Moore’s associates had stories to tell, but were biding their time.  “Some of those who worked with Moore roll their eyes when asked about him but keep their mouths shut,” Todd Kleffman wrote. “There are plenty of stories to tell, the longtime secretaries, parole officials and lawyers said, but not on the record and not now, while Moore sits atop the state court system and controls its purse strings.”

Part of the blame for Moore also lies with former Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.), who appointed another weak candidate, Luther Strange, to fill the Senate seat of Jeff Sessions when he was tapped to become attorney general by Donald Trump. Strange was tainted by Bentley’s corruption as well as purported ties to the Republican establishment. Even though President Trump endorsed Strange, Moore attacked him by linking him to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In a healthy party, ties to party leaders are a good thing, not a liability.

Steve Bannon and the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party also share the blame. In recent years, the Republican establishment has been subject to its own derangement syndrome in which many members of the Republican base put party leaders on a level with Democrats. This intra-party feuding led directly to the nomination of both Donald Trump and Roy Moore in primaries where a main qualification for many Republican voters was that candidates should be from outside the Republican mainstream.

While both Trump and Moore were Republican outsiders, they were also outside the American mainstream. Donald Trump eked out a victory because enough voters in the right places saw him as less threatening than Hillary Clinton. In Moore’s case, his questionable record combined with the allegations of sexual misconduct and a bevy of embarrassing statements and ultimately turned much of his own party against him. Even President Trump, at a September rally for Strange, expressed doubts about Moore’s ability to win a general election.

The lesson that Republicans should learn from Roy Moore is that “at least he isn’t Hillary” only works when a candidate is running against Hillary. It doesn’t work when the opposition candidate is Doug Jones, a decent man with a good record, and the Republican candidate is a man who seemed to think fondly of the slavery era in a state where blacks make up more than a quarter of the population.

In the past few years, Republicans seem to have forgotten the Buckley Rule that conservative voters should nominate the most conservative candidate who can win. If conservative voters take this lesson to heart, they will nominate decent, sane, mainstream conservatives in the primaries that will be held in a few months. If they truly learn the lesson of Roy Moore, they will reject candidates from Steve Bannon’s crackpot wing of the party.

Roy Moore’s loss may have come at just the right time for the party. Many signs are pointing to a Democrat wave in 2018. It may already be too late to stop the Democrat landslide, but if Republicans look for candidates that appeal to voters outside the anti-establishment wing of the GOP they may be able to prevent a total wipeout and at least maintain control of the Senate.

In the short term, there will be anger against the Republicans who crossed party lines to vote for Doug Jones or who cast their ballots for a write-in candidate. If Republican voters don’t insist on good candidates, they will continue getting candidates who rely on the “at least he’s not [insert Democrat here” argument. Rather than betraying the Republican Party and traditional Republican principles, the Republicans who had the moral courage to rebel against a deeply flawed and embarrassing candidate may have actually saved the Republican Party.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media Is Ripping Society Apart

There are plenty of voices decrying the pernicious effects of social media on society, but when one of those voices is an architect of Facebook’s rise to near omnipresence, it draws a bit more attention. That was the case when Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, spoke to a group of graduate students at the Stanford University School of Business last month.

“I feel tremendous guilt,” Palihapitiya, currently the CEO of Social Capital and owner of the Golden State Warriors, said. “I think we all knew in the back of our minds — even though we feigned this whole line that there probably aren’t any really bad unintended consequences — I think in the back deep, deep recesses of our minds, we kind of knew something bad could happen, but I think the way we defined it was not like this.”

“It literally is at a point now,” he continued, “where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is truly where we are.”

Palihapitiya explained how online popularity is a vicious circle, prompting more and more outlandish and extreme behavior to keep the “likes” coming. “The short-term dopamine driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he said. “No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

“We curate our lives around the perceived sense of perfection,” he added, “because we get rewarded in these short-term signals. Hearts, likes, thumbs up, and we conflate that with value, and we conflate it with truth. And instead, what it really is, is fake, brittle popularity.”

“It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave,” Palihapitiya said.

To anyone on Facebook or Twitter who has ever watched their post go viral, this sounds familiar. The feeling of validation that comes from a popular post is psychologically comforting, but also addictive. You want to keep the affirmation coming. That requires more viral posts

The easy way to get your posts noticed above all the background noise of the internet is to be extreme. The truth of the parental wisdom that some children misbehave because any attention is better than being ignored is proven everyday online.

“I don’t have a good solution,” he said. “My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore.” He also said that he does not allow his children to use social media.

“You don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” Palihapitiya said. “It was unintentional, but now you have to decide how much you’re willing to give up.”

While social media is not inherently evil, it is engineered to keep users coming back so that companies like Facebook and Twitter can generate more revenue from advertising and other services. The ultimate solution is for people to discipline themselves to limit their consumption of social media sites. For some, that might mean deleting the apps from your phone to keep yourself from compulsively checking your notifications every few minutes. Others might find it necessary to delete their accounts altogether.

The world can live without knowing our political opinions or what we had for dinner. We can live without knowing all the little details of other people’s lives as well. We have one life to live. We should make the most of it. Each of us must decide whether we want a real life or virtual one.

“If you feed the beast,” Palihapitiya said “that beast will destroy you.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Scarborough On Bannon: 'A Southern Man Don't Need Him Around Anyhow'

Know your audience and your subject is basic advice for any public speaker. Violating that rule led to an embarrassing gaffe for Steve Bannon as he stumped for Roy Moore in Midland City, Ala yesterday. During his speech, Bannon decided to riff on Trump critic, Joe Scarborough, with embarrassing results. A tweet by Jonathan Allen of NBC News tells what happened next.

Before attacking Scarborough, Bannon should have doublechecked where the MSNBC host went to school. What are the odds that a talk show host that Bannon decided to vilify in Alabama was a graduate of the University of Alabama? In the case of Joe Scarborough, the odds were 100 percent to Bannon’s dismay.

Scarborough quickly responded with a series of tweets, beginning with a simple school slogan.

A second tweet mocked Bannon’s brag about attending Georgetown and Harvard. Ivy League schools are not well respected by Southern voters. The resentment of carpetbagging Yankees is deeply ingrained in Alabama as well as many other parts of the South. Attending Harvard won’t necessarily hurt your reputation, but bragging about it certainly will.

Scarborough delivered a body blow by paying homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic Southern anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama.”  The song was written in 1974 as a response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and includes a line that describes just how much importance Southerners attach to Yankee opinions about their culture. While Bannon, a native Virginian, isn’t technically a Yankee by birth, he is closely associated with New York these days.

In a final tweet, Scarborough drove home the point that Bannon, the pseudopopulist, is in reality a New York banker who worked for Goldman Sachs. The investment banking firm has long been a bogeyman for many on the right. While many politicians, from Ted Cruz to Hillary Clinton, were criticized for ties to Goldman Sachs, Donald Trump and Steve Bannon’s ties to the company have received little attention. Scarborough’s use of the colloquialism, “reckon,” just twists the knife.

While Steve Bannon’s case of foot-in-mouth disease won’t make or break Roy Moore, it is characteristic of the unforced errors and poor vetting that plague Bannon-backed candidates. Roy Moore’s background was replete with red flags that he would be a poor candidate in the general election. In Arizona, Bannon supports Kelli Ward, a state legislator widely mocked for her association with conspiracy theories. Paul Nehlen, another Bannon protégé who lost in a landslide to Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), was recently seen on Twitter telling John Podhoretz to “eat a bullet.” Stay classy, Nehlen.

Bannon’s Alabama gaffe is just one more example of poor research and planning by the Breitbart publisher and former White House strategist. Bannon’s picks, while often popular in GOP circles, are often poison at the ballot box in general elections. If Republicans follow Bannon, the party is likely to find itself on the way to electoral oblivion.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, December 11, 2017

Alabama Sen. Shelby Rejects Roy Moore As Another Embarrassing Statement Surfaces

The weekend before the closely-watched Alabama senatorial election, another scandal emerged for Republican Roy Moore. An audio clip surfaced from an appearance by Moore on a conspiracy-related internet talk show in which Moore agreed with the hosts that voiding all constitutional amendments after the 10th “would eliminate many problems.”

Moore’s comments came on a 2011 episode of the “Aroostook Watchmen,” a right-wing internet talk show based in Maine. On an audio recording obtained by CNN, Moore responded to a statement from one of the hosts advocating an amendment that would void every amendment that was not part of the original Bill of Rights.

“That would eliminate many problems,” Moore replied. “You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.”

Moore specifically cited the 17th Amendment, which changed the process for electing senators. Originally, senators were selected by state legislatures, but the amendment made it so that senators were chosen directly by the people of the state. Following the host’s lead, Moore also criticized the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War and includes the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

“The danger in the 14th Amendment, which was to restrict, it has been a restriction on the states using the first Ten Amendments by and through the 14th Amendment,” Moore said. “To restrict the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first Ten Amendments prevented them from doing. If you understand the incorporation doctrine used by the courts and what it meant. You'd understand what I'm talking about.”

“For example, the right to keep and bear arms, the First Amendment, freedom of press, liberty,” Moore continued, “Those various freedoms and restrictions have been imposed on the states through the 14th Amendment. And yet the federal government is violating just about every one of them saying that -- they don't, they don't -- are not restrained by them.”

There is a total of 27 amendments to the Constitution. Some other important amendments that come after the 10th included the abolition of slavery (13th), guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race (15th), extending the right to vote to women (19th), and the prohibition of poll taxes (24th).

Moore did not specifically advocate a return to slavery, but he was previously criticized for another quote in the Los Angeles Times from September 2017 in which he seemed to downplay the institution.  An audience member asked Moore when he thought America was last great. Moore answered, “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another.... Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

While the clip did not specifically mention the 19th Amendment, Roy Moore did co-author a legal textbook that argues that women should not elected to public office.

In a response to CNN, the Moore campaign denied that the candidate ever supported the repeal of 16 amendments. “Once again, the media is taking a discussion about the overall framework for the separation of powers as laid out in the constitution to twist Roy Moore's position on specific issues,” a spokesman said in an email. “Roy Moore does not now nor has he ever favored limiting an individual's right to vote, and as a judge, he was noted for his fairness and for being a champion of civil rights.”

“Judge Moore has expressed concern, as many other conservatives have, that the historical trend since the ratification of the Bill of Rights has been for federal empowerment over state empowerment,” the campaign spokesman said.

In the same episode of “Aroostook Watchmen,” Moore seems to embrace several conspiracy theories as well. Moore implied that Barack Obama was not a citizen and expressed support for “new hearings into what really happened on 9/11.” Moore has long questioned the validity of Obama’s birth certificate including a statement in December 2016.

The Moore campaign told CNN that he “believes that Islamic terrorists were responsible for the 9/11 attacks, [has] made rebuilding the military one of his key campaign purposes, and is the only Senate candidate with experience serving in a combat zone.”

The combination of Moore’s past and his embarrassing behavior have led many Republicans to reject their party’s candidate. On Sunday, Alabama’s senior Senator, Republican Richard Shelby, revealed that he did not vote for Roy Moore.

“I'd rather see the Republican win, but I'd rather see a Republican write-in,” Shelby said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore.”

Shelby did not say who he voted for, but Lee Busby, a retired Marine, entered the race as a conservative write-in candidate in November. There is speculation that Shelby may have voted for Col. Busby.

Originally published on The Resurgent

South Texas Snow

It isn’t every day that Houston wakes up to a blanket of snow covering the ground, but that was the surprise that greeted many South Texas residents this morning.

A winter storm covered the Texas prairie with the white stuff from San Antonio to Houston last night, surprising many residents this morning. No significant accumulation was expected in the Houston area as late as yesterday. Even though there were flurries last night, few Houstonians expected to wake and see the ground covered with white.

Houston snow is rare, but not unheard of. Houston’s ABC affiliate, KTRK, noted that snow has been recorded in the city 35 times since 1895. The last measurable snowfall was in December 2009. Snow is more common in northern areas of Texas such as Dallas and Amarillo than Houston, which is at approximately the latitude as Jacksonville, Fl.

A rare South Texas blizzard, called a “blue norther,” may have actually changed the course of Texas history. In 1836, Santa Ana’s army encountered such a blizzard on the way to San Antonio. Several of the poorly equipped Mexican soldiers died in the storm. Moving animals and wagons through the frozen mud exhausted others and sapped morale and delayed the arrival of the Mexican army at the Alamo.

This year’s snow is more enjoyable for Texans. From the hill country to the Gulf coast, children are engaging in snowball fights, eating snow ice cream and trying to scrape enough snow together to build a small snowman. Without equipment to remove snow and ice or salt roads, many schools are closed even for the light dusting. Residents, both young and old, are giddy about the once-in-a-decade event.

The snow in Houston caps off a year of highs and lows for the city. 2017 began with a Super Bowl. The end of the summer saw Hurricane Harvey bring disastrous flooding to the area. In October, the Astros thrilled the city with its first World Series title. Now, as the year draws to a close, the rare snowstorm seems magical.

Most of the snow will be gone by lunchtime as temperatures climb to high near 50, but in the meantime, Houstonians of all ages will revel in it.

“It’s beautiful,” said nine-year-old Sarah. “It’s a winter wonderland.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 8, 2017

Al Franken's Senate Is Rated As A Tossup

As Minnesota begins to prepare for a special election to fill the Senate seat of the soon-to-be-resigning Al Franken, there seems to be at least a slight hope that Republicans might wrest control from the Democrats. In blue Minnesota, a Republican pickup would be a long shot, but it isn’t out of the question.

When Franken resigns, the first step in the process will be for Gov. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) to appoint a temporary successor. A permanent replacement will be picked in a special election in November 2018. Dayton has not announced who will replace Franken, but whoever he chooses will have the advantage of incumbency in the special election. However, as Luther Strange (R-Ala.) learned the hard way, appointed incumbents are not assured of victory in special elections.

Shortly after Franken’s intention became known, the Cook Political Report moved the Minnesota Senate race into the tossup category. Jennifer Duffy points to Franken’s 312-vote margin in 2008 as well as Hillary Clinton’s half-percent victory over Donald Trump in 2016 as evidence that a Republican could be competitive in a statewide race in Minnesota.

The FiveThirtyEight blog agrees, noting that the state of Minnesota gives Democrats only a slight advantage while the generic congressional ballot currently has Democrats leading Republicans by eight points. The formula shows a generic Democrat leading in the Minnesota race by about nine points. In comparison, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who recently eluded jail on corruption charges thanks to a mistrial, is forecast to win his reelection by about 20 points in a deep blue state using the same formula.

The biggest unknown variable is who the candidates will be. Two likely Republican contenders are Tim Pawlenty, a popular former governor who ran for president in 2012, and Norm Coleman, who lost his senatorial seat to Franken in 2008 in what many believe was a stolen election. There are at least a half-dozen other Republicans and as many Democrats who may toss their hats in the ring as well.

No matter who the Republican candidate is, 2018 is shaping up to be a difficult year for Republicans, especially in states that lean Democrat. Many early signs, from fundraising data to President Trump’s approval rating, point to a possible Democrat wave building for the midterm elections next year.

Nevertheless, Franken’s resignation will make things a little bit harder for the Democrats. Minnesota’s open seat brings the total of Senate seats that Democrats must defend to 24. Four of those, including Minnesota, are currently rated as tossups by Cook. The loss of any of these seats would make Democrat hopes of winning control of the Senate very unlikely. Events and candidates may mean that Minnesota isn’t a tossup long, but, for the moment, the Gopher State provides a glimmer of hope for the GOP.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Democrats Seize The Moral High Ground

Republicans have a tendency toward shooting themselves in the foot and this week was no exception. With their abrupt about-face on accused sexual harassers John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), the Democrats have captured the moral high on the issue of sexual misbehavior.

For a while it seemed as though both parties would look equally hypocritical on the issue of sexual misdeeds. For weeks, the lists of officials in both parties who were credibly named by numerous accusers grew longer and longer while partisans promptly excused their allies and condemned their enemies.

That changed this week when the Democratic Party suddenly turned first against Conyers and then against Franken. Conyers announced his retirement on Wednesday. Franken’s resignation came on Thursday after 32 Democratic senators called on him to resign.

The Democrat reversal could not have come at a more inopportune time for Republicans. After tepid support for Roy Moore for several weeks, President Trump endorsed Moore on Monday with a charge to the accused child molester to “Go get 'em, Roy!” The same day Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had previously called on Moore to drop out of the race, said, “ It'll be up to the people of Alabama to make this decision” and dismissed the possibility that the Senate would refuse to seat Moore if we wins. The Republican National Committee, which had previously severed ties with Moore suddenly made a contribution of $170,000 to Moore’s financially strapped campaign.

Perhaps the Democrats were waiting on the Republicans to go all-in on Moore to offer up Conyers and Franken as sacrificial lambs. Perhaps the timing was coincidental due to new revelations about Conyers and Franken. In any case, the events of the week could not have been better timed for Democrats.

Moore, who has said that he didn’t “generally” date teenage girls when he was in his 30s, seems to retain a slight lead in polling for the Alabama Senate race. This in spite of contradictory statements about the sexual assault allegations and whether he dated his wife while she was still married to her first husband as well as other scandals such as financial improprieties at his charity and his advancement of conspiracy theories.  

It was a classic bait and switch. Republicans took the bait and supported Roy Moore and the Democrats promptly switched to a hardline on sexual misconduct. The result will be that for the remainder of the Alabama campaign, and though the 2018 elections if Moore wins, Democrats will batter Republicans about the head with charges that the party, which claims to be the party of Christian principles and family values, fully supported a candidate who is credibly accused of being a sexual predator of teenage girls.

What’s worse is that the Democrats will be absolutely right. In the 2018 elections, Republicans will already be defending a do-nothing Congress and an erratic and unpopular president. Now, they must justify their support for Roy Moore as well.

The GOP has faced a similar conundrum in the past. In 1991, David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Louisiana. In an election that presaged this decade’s races to the bottom, Duke’s opponent was Edwin Edwards, a Democrat who had been tried twice on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and bribery. Edwards was so disliked by Louisiana Republicans that the outgoing governor, Buddy Roemer, coined the slogan, “Anyone but Edwards.”

That year, unlike recent history, Republicans did not embrace a flawed candidate, claiming that the opposition was worse. Instead, Republicans did the unthinkable. Pushing their partisan tendencies aside, the Louisiana GOP endorsed Democrat Edwards under the slogan, “Vote for the crook. It’s important.”

The question for today’s Republicans is, “What is important?” 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trump Recognizes Jerusalem, Plans Embassy Move

President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel in a speech on Wednesday. The United States was one of the first nations to recognize Israel as a country in 1948, but had never recognized Jerusalem as its capital. The US had considered Tel Aviv to be the Israeli capital until today.

“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” President Trump said in New York Times transcript. “This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious,” added the president. “That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

Jerusalem and the British territory of Palestine were partitioned between Arabs and Jews by the United Nations in 1947. Israel declared its portion of Jerusalem to be its capital in 1949. Israel forces reunified the city during the Six Day War of 1967, but Arabs consider East Jerusalem to be capital of the Palestinian state.

Few countries have recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and embassies are located in Tel Aviv. The Czech Republic, Germany and Russia are among the nations that consider West Jerusalem to be the Israeli capital, but even those nations do have embassies there.  

Trump indicated that relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem will come soon. “I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said. “This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.”

“This decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” Trump added. “The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Roy Moore Apparently Dated His Wife While She Was Still Married

Roy Moore, the scandal-plagued Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, may have dated his wife while she was still married to her first husband in spite of claims to the contrary. An analysis of court documents and Moore’s own claims about their courtship indicates that Moore and Kayla Kisor may have met before Kayla filed for divorce and dated before the divorce was final.

The Washington Examiner recently pointed out the apparent contradictions between Moore’s account, published in his 2005 book, “So Help Me God,” and court records from Kayla Kisor’s divorce case. Moore wrote that, after meeting Kayla at church shortly before Christmas 1984, “I was determined to get to know her, but Kayla, divorced and with a beautiful little girl, Heather, who was nearly a year old, was not interested in a relationship with anyone.”

However, when the Examiner looked into the details of Kisor’s case, they found that she had only separated from her first husband, John Charles Heald, on Dec. 1, 1984. Kisor did not file for divorce until Dec. 28, 1984 and it was several months before her divorce was finalized on April 19, 1985.

“Regardless of when they met, Judge and Kayla did not date while she was still with her ex-husband or legally married,” Moore campaign spokesman Brett Doster told the Examiner.

In Moore’s account, he and Kayla began dating “soon after” she visited the law office of one of Moore’s colleagues “early in the new year” of 1985. According to Moore, the couple dated “for about a year.”

A source familiar with Kayla’s first marriage told the Examiner that Moore gave Kayla’s daughter a puppy for Valentine’s Day in 1985, two months before Kayla’s divorce was final. It was “was always an assumption” that the couple dated while Kayla was still legally married, the source said.

Moore and Kayla were married on Dec. 14, 1985, approximately a year after their first meeting and eight months after Kayla’s divorce became final. Roy Moore was 38 and Kayla was 24 at the time.

Kayla was 21 at the time of her first marriage, which lasted two-and-a-half years. Her petition for divorce cited “cruel treatment during the marriage.”

Roy Moore has been accused by numerous women of harassing teenage girls in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In some cases, the women say that Moore touched them inappropriately. One of the accusations of sexual assault came from a 14-year-old girl.

AL.com provides a further description of Moore’s 1984 meeting with Kisor. “Sitting with her mother on the sofa against the wall was a beautiful young woman,” Moore wrote in his book. “I learned that her name was Kayla.”

Moore wrote that he had met Kayla previously, but did not specify when. He did describe the occasion: “Many years before, I had attended a dance recital at Gadsden State Junior College. I remembered one of the special dances performed by a young woman whose first and last names began with the letter 'K.' It was something I had never forgotten. Could that young woman have been Kayla Kisor? Anxious to meet her, I began with the line, 'Haven't we met somewhere before?’”

In an interview cited by Newsweek earlier this year, Moore said, “I was standing at the back of the auditorium and I saw her at the front and I remember her name, it was Kayla Kisor, K.K. It was, oh gosh, eight years later or something, I met her and when she told me her name I remembered K.K.”

Eight years prior to their 1984 meeting would have been about 1976 or 1977. Moore would have been 29 and Kayla 15 at the time of their first meeting. Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Moore of assaulting her in a car when she was 16, was a high school sophomore in the same class as Kayla Kisor in 1977.

Moore’s spokesman said the questions about the discrepancies from the Washington Examiner were “really scraping the bottom of the barrel.” The Washington Examiner is a conservative newspaper.

The Examiner noted that Moore’s campaign has attacked the credibility of his accusers “based on alleged inconsistencies in marginal details of their accounts.” The Moore campaign has called Moore’s signature in a yearbook a forgery and questioned such details as locations of telephones and names of restaurants.

“Amid an outpouring of misconduct allegations, Moore’s campaign has clearly set the standard that details are important and should be vetted rigorously,” The Examiner responded. “Why, then, should the inconsistencies surrounding Moore’s story not draw his own credibility into question?”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Federal Charges For Illegal Immigrant In Steinle Killing

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the illegal immigrant who was acquitted in California of killing Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier, has been indicted by a federal grand jury. Zarate will now face federal charges for possessing a gun as convicted felon and an illegal alien.

Zarate was acquitted of murder by a California jury last week in a case that provoked widespread outrage. Zarate admitted to accidentally killing Steinle with a single shot from a stolen pistol. The shot ricocheted off the ground before striking Steinle in the back. The same jury convicted Zarate of being a felon in possession of firearm, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in California.

The federal charges include possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm by an illegally present alien. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits double jeopardy, trying a person for the same offense twice, but there are exceptions to the rule. The Supreme Court ruled in Blockburger v. United States (1932) that offenders could be tried separately for offenses stemming from the same act if each offense required a different element of proof.

In the past, the federal government has prosecuted cases in which defendants were acquitted in state courts. The most famous such cases stem from the Civil Rights Era in which racists who were acquitted of crimes against blacks by local juries were then tried on federal civil rights charges.

After the Zarate’s acquittal, President Trump called the verdict “disgraceful” in a series of tweets.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, December 4, 2017

Lindsey Graham: War With North Korea 'Becoming More Likely'

On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) became the latest Republican to publicly acknowledge that war between the US and North Korea is becoming more and more likely. On “Face the Nation,” Graham said that the “policy of the Trump administration is to deny North Korea the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tipped missile.” Stopping the North Korean nuclear and missile programs would almost certainly require military action.

“We’re getting close to a military conflict because North Korea’s marching toward marrying up the technology of an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top that cannot only get to America, but deliver the weapon,” said Graham, who serves on the Senate Armed Services committee. “We’re running out of time. McMaster said that yesterday. I’m going to urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.”

“South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” Graham added. “It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. So, I want them to stop sending dependents. And I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”

When asked how close the US was to war, Graham answered, “The intelligence community can tell you that better than I can, but I had an extensive discussion with the administration about this topic. The policy of the Trump administration is to deny North Korea the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tipped missile.”

“Not to contain it. Denial means preemptive war as a last resort,” Graham stressed. “That preemption is becoming more likely as their technology matures. Every missile test, every underground test of a nuclear weapon, means the marriage is more likely. I think we’re really running out of time.”

Graham warned, “If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”

Graham said that he thinks that Congress should be talking about the possibility of pre-emptively striking North Korea. “I think the president, as inherent authority as commander-in-chief, has the ability to strike North Korea to protect the American homeland, but this discussion needs to happen among ourselves [in Congress].”

Graham’s comments come shortly after talk show host Joe Scarborough said that White House insiders have believed “that we are going to have a ground war in Korea… for a very long time.” In the past week, other members of the Trump Administration, including UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, have similarly warned that war may be close.  

If the Trump Administration is determined to prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear-armed missile that can target the United States, war might be the only option. North Korea “will not negotiate away its [nuclear] arsenal,” says Todd Rosenblum, a delegate to the Four Party talks with North Korea and China in the 1990s. “Few believe there is anything we, China or anyone else can offer the North to give up its strategic deterrent… on terms remotely viable to us.”

There is also no surgical option in North Korea. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned in July that war with North Korea would be “horrific” and “would be a loss of life unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes, and I mean anyone who's been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there's a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.”

Nevertheless, Dunford argued in September, “I think we should assume today that North Korea has that capability [to strike the continental US] and has a will to use that capability.”

China has warned that it will intervene to aid North Korea if the US launches a pre-emptive attack. In 1950, Chinese intervention in the first Korean conflict led to a stalemate with three years of heavy fighting.

“China prefers a damaged buffer state over one that collapses and ends as a part of a pro-West, unified border state with strong ties to Washington,” says Rosenblum.

The US and South Korea are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, a North Korea equipped with nuclear ICBMs is a direct threat to the United States. On the other, a pre-emptive strike would set off a long and bloody war that might also directly threaten the continental United States.

Originally published on The Resurgent