Day: March 7, 2018

America Is Finally Catching Up on Clean Coal


When Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement last June, France, Germany, and Italy were quick to subject Washington to a never-ending barrage of criticism.  But in what can be described only as the height of hypocrisy, these same countries have been more than happy to keep their power plants running using American coal.  As so often when coal is involved, the gap between their rhetoric and action exposes the painful dishonesty infecting the debate.

In 2017, total American coal exports increased by 58 percent compared to 2016, amounting to 95 million tons – of which 40 million went to Europe, despite the continent’s leaders’ vow of curtailing coal.  That the Obama administration was out to severely curtail fossil fuel use is well known.  The former president’s scorn for coal was abundantly obvious, and the Paris agreement was its embodiment.  Despite proclaiming the U.S. the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” in May 2008, Obama soon back-flipped once in office and turned against the resource.

Within a year, Obama unleashed the war on coal when he proposed a nationwide cap-and-trade system targeting local plants, stifling coal companies with excessive regulation, and cutting billions in funding for clean coal projects across the country.  Worse, what remained of the federal grants for such projects was allowed to be willfully misspent.  In an example of the utter incompetence of the Obama White House, power firm Summit Power Group squandered parts of a $450-million stimulus grant on absurd excesses rather than using the money to advance a long sought after clean coal project in Texas.

Glaring lack of oversight and a willfully destructive attitude toward coal aside, the decision to kill coal was yet another a massive miscalculation of the left.  Failing to look ahead, Obama did his best to unravel American coal during what should have been a time of progress for clean coal technology development.

Luckily, the current White House is taking a different approach in an attempt to make up for lost time.  Instead of throwing millions and millions of taxpayer dollars at renewables, the 2019 budget proposal flat-out slashes funding for renewable energy – an industry that remains all too immature to cover a significant amount of U.S. energy needs despite previous government handouts.

The financial groundwork for effective clean coal technology research is buoyed through a host of measures to boost investments into carbon capture technology.  A plan for tax credit extensions will incentivize carbon capture by offering a tax extension for every ton of carbon dioxide that is captured and then either sequestered or used in another field of production, such as oil recovery.  At the same time, the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Research and Development will receive a cash injection of $502 million.

Naturally, Democrats are up in arms about these policy moves.  Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, released a press statement deriding the budget proposal’s priorities as “not the priorities of the American people.”  Like so many of his fellow perennial do-gooders, he is gravely mistaken.  For starters, the export increases to Europe (and Asia) have boosted mining jobs across the U.S., signaling an unexpected renaissance for an industry that was fighting for its life not too long ago.  The surge is such that coal-producers are reopening previously shut down mines.  In Indiana, for example, coal firm Alliance Resource Partners is reopening a mine it had to decommission in 2015, the same year the Paris agreement was forced through.

The constructive approach to coal is not only bolstering the domestic economy; it is also central to advancing American interests abroad.  The U.S. has clawed itself back into a position to rapidly advance its know-how in the clean coal sector at a time when major world economies are investing heavily in coal power.  For example, India will continue to rely first and foremost on clean coal, using high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal plants, for at least another 30 years to cover its growing energy needs.  And in China, the International Energy Agency has predicted that coal will account for more than 55% of energy demand by 2022.

In pushing for a global “Clean Coal Alliance” at the U.N. climate conference in Germany late last year, the U.S. forcefully asserted its claim to leadership in boosting clean coal use around the globe.  An alliance including Australia, Indonesia, China, India, Ukraine, Poland, and Japan would also place a lot of pressure on international institutions like the World Bank to reconsider their needlessly rigid stance on renewables.  The World Bank in the past demonstrated a clear bias in favor of renewables projects by ending financial support for coal-fired plants.  Yet recent budget plans add a lot of weight and credibility to the creation of the alliance, providing coal-reliant countries with the means to circumvent World Bank restrictions.

Despite years of missed opportunity and wasted money, the Trump administration is kicking production into overdrive.  Never mind the naysayers: the Europeans themselves have clearly realized they cannot sustain their economies through other fuel sources alone.  And while the ideologues at home cry foul play, it is important to remember that this country was built on coal, innovation, and invention.  America is back on track to lead the way.

When Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement last June, France, Germany, and Italy were quick to subject Washington to a never-ending barrage of criticism.  But in what can be described only as the height of hypocrisy, these same countries have been more than happy to keep their power plants running using American coal.  As so often when coal is involved, the gap between their rhetoric and action exposes the painful dishonesty infecting the debate.

In 2017, total American coal exports increased by 58 percent compared to 2016, amounting to 95 million tons – of which 40 million went to Europe, despite the continent’s leaders’ vow of curtailing coal.  That the Obama administration was out to severely curtail fossil fuel use is well known.  The former president’s scorn for coal was abundantly obvious, and the Paris agreement was its embodiment.  Despite proclaiming the U.S. the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” in May 2008, Obama soon back-flipped once in office and turned against the resource.

Within a year, Obama unleashed the war on coal when he proposed a nationwide cap-and-trade system targeting local plants, stifling coal companies with excessive regulation, and cutting billions in funding for clean coal projects across the country.  Worse, what remained of the federal grants for such projects was allowed to be willfully misspent.  In an example of the utter incompetence of the Obama White House, power firm Summit Power Group squandered parts of a $450-million stimulus grant on absurd excesses rather than using the money to advance a long sought after clean coal project in Texas.

Glaring lack of oversight and a willfully destructive attitude toward coal aside, the decision to kill coal was yet another a massive miscalculation of the left.  Failing to look ahead, Obama did his best to unravel American coal during what should have been a time of progress for clean coal technology development.

Luckily, the current White House is taking a different approach in an attempt to make up for lost time.  Instead of throwing millions and millions of taxpayer dollars at renewables, the 2019 budget proposal flat-out slashes funding for renewable energy – an industry that remains all too immature to cover a significant amount of U.S. energy needs despite previous government handouts.

The financial groundwork for effective clean coal technology research is buoyed through a host of measures to boost investments into carbon capture technology.  A plan for tax credit extensions will incentivize carbon capture by offering a tax extension for every ton of carbon dioxide that is captured and then either sequestered or used in another field of production, such as oil recovery.  At the same time, the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Research and Development will receive a cash injection of $502 million.

Naturally, Democrats are up in arms about these policy moves.  Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, released a press statement deriding the budget proposal’s priorities as “not the priorities of the American people.”  Like so many of his fellow perennial do-gooders, he is gravely mistaken.  For starters, the export increases to Europe (and Asia) have boosted mining jobs across the U.S., signaling an unexpected renaissance for an industry that was fighting for its life not too long ago.  The surge is such that coal-producers are reopening previously shut down mines.  In Indiana, for example, coal firm Alliance Resource Partners is reopening a mine it had to decommission in 2015, the same year the Paris agreement was forced through.

The constructive approach to coal is not only bolstering the domestic economy; it is also central to advancing American interests abroad.  The U.S. has clawed itself back into a position to rapidly advance its know-how in the clean coal sector at a time when major world economies are investing heavily in coal power.  For example, India will continue to rely first and foremost on clean coal, using high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal plants, for at least another 30 years to cover its growing energy needs.  And in China, the International Energy Agency has predicted that coal will account for more than 55% of energy demand by 2022.

In pushing for a global “Clean Coal Alliance” at the U.N. climate conference in Germany late last year, the U.S. forcefully asserted its claim to leadership in boosting clean coal use around the globe.  An alliance including Australia, Indonesia, China, India, Ukraine, Poland, and Japan would also place a lot of pressure on international institutions like the World Bank to reconsider their needlessly rigid stance on renewables.  The World Bank in the past demonstrated a clear bias in favor of renewables projects by ending financial support for coal-fired plants.  Yet recent budget plans add a lot of weight and credibility to the creation of the alliance, providing coal-reliant countries with the means to circumvent World Bank restrictions.

Despite years of missed opportunity and wasted money, the Trump administration is kicking production into overdrive.  Never mind the naysayers: the Europeans themselves have clearly realized they cannot sustain their economies through other fuel sources alone.  And while the ideologues at home cry foul play, it is important to remember that this country was built on coal, innovation, and invention.  America is back on track to lead the way.



Source link

Why the GOP Needs to Win in November


As much as any other magazine, Foreign Affairs is one whereby the globalists and foreign policy elite within the U.S. speak to one another. Its March/April 2018 edition is devoted to bemoaning the foreign policies of Donald Trump. Needless to say, the authors for that issue are, to varying degree, anti-Trump and horrified at his election. This is neither surprising nor is it newsworthy given the nature of FA. However, some of their thinking, especially from Jake Sullivan and Eliot Cohen. 

At the nub, FA is fearful that President Trump is setting about to disrupt world order which they have carefully crafted since 1945. And for the record, the FA crowd does not use an incendiary term like the New World Order to describe its agenda. They preferred to call it liberal hegemony with the U.S. being the hegemon guided, of course, by their Masters of the Universe-type wisdom

The foundations of this liberal hegemony requires nearly unrestricted trade into American markets, the U.S. military as guarantor of world security, a matrix of alliances, multinational trade agreements, nation building, support for international institutions like the United Nations, unimpeded flow of goods, capital, and people across borders, and the ensuing dilution of U.S. national sovereignty.  A cynic would say much of this amounts to America continuing to inordinately shoulder the burdens of the world as was perhaps necessary in the aftermath of WWII. 

It’s an understatement to say that Trump’s election has ruffled feathers at FA. Still, these globalists find a degree of relief in the fact that the president has been hamstrung in getting many of his policies enacted. FA cites things such as the courts, the media, Congress, insubordinate subordinates, inability to control government agencies, and general inertia. The hope of the FA-types is that they will be able to either outlast Trump, convert him, or wear him down.

Let’s look at Eliot Cohen first. His background includes the dubious distinction as being one of the first neoconservatives who publicly advocated for war against Iraq and Iran. Cohen got his wish in Iraq but not in Iran. As to Iraq, the man is unapologetic to this date. 

Cohen is also one of the Republicans who formally signed on to the #NeverTrump movement in 2016. 

Continuing in his #NeverTrump mode, Cohen wrote of his personal distaste for Donald Trump in the January 2017 issue of the Atlantic

“Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his programs but his character. we were right. And friends who urge us to tone it down, to make peace with him, to stop say as loudly as we could ‘this is abnormal,’ to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong.”

Such are Cohen’s personal feelings. But Cohen goes overboard in the current Foreign Affairs with his article “Trump’s Lucky Year.” After recognizing that among the top three advisers in the Trump administration on foreign policy are generals — John Kelly (White House chief of staff), James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis (Secretary of Defense), and H.R. McMaster (national security adviser), Cohen writes:

” …what will happen if and when the president decides on a course of actions that his advisers deem highly dangerous but nevertheless legal. With over a century of drilled obedience to the commander in chief under their collective belt, the generals might not be willing to subvert decisions with which they disagree…”

This is breathtaking. Cohen is worried Trump’s advisers might not subvert legal actions of the president of the United States if, in their own mind, they think such actions are ‘dangerous.’ Obviously, Cohen is so morally challenged that he fails to realize the honest thing to do in such a circumstance would be to resign, not to ‘subvert’ the president. Is there a word that describes the action that Cohen is implicitly calling for?     

FA introduces Jake Sullivan as the youngest-ever director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department. The Obama Administration sent him to Oman for the first of many secret meetings that would lay the foundation for the Iran nuclear deal. Sullivan has also been a former adviser to both Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden and is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Sullivan’s article “The World After Trump” has one valuable piece of information:

” … Trump must not be handed a second term. The difference between one and two terms is not 1X vs 2X but more like 1X vs 10X. For one thing, Obama needed two terms to get to the ideas he campaigned on in 2008, and if the same process is true for Trump, his second term could be cataclysmic.”

Yes, a second Trump term would be ‘cataclysmic’ — cataclysmic for the globalists but a godsend for the greater American public. Contributing to Sullivan’s 10X factor is the belief that, with a second term, President Trump will have the time to gain his footing, weed out weak subordinates, get a handle on the administrative state, and generally start to overcome the inertia involved in turning the ship of state around. Also, with a second term, the Republican Party could well evolve into being more Trump friendly. Everyone loves a winner.

Sullivan also dreads a second Trump term because “Trump’s reelection would confirm that Trumpism is in fact the new normal in the United States, not just an aberration.” 

This last sentence is a warning, a harbinger of what’s to come. Yes, the globalists fought against Donald Trump in 2016. But they never expected him to win. To the foreign policy establishment, Trump was a buffoon, a joke. Things will be different from here on out now that they know Trump can win. The knives will be out in 2020. Then, the swamp will marshal every critter, large and small, in its domain against Trump and his base of deplorable supporters. The attacks will be savage and multidimensional, making 2016 look like child’s play.

In boxing, a one-two punch is most effective. That’s a left jab immediately followed by a powerful right hook. The jab sets up the hook. That is what the anti-Trumpers are attempting. A prelude to 2020 presidential election is this year’s midterms. The jab. This is critical to both sides. Should the Democrats take the House in November, Trump will face a headwind of distractions, among which could well be impeachment. This will cripple the Trump agenda and make his reelection extremely difficult — the knockout.

On the other hand, if the GOP maintains control of the House in November, it will be the globalists who risk being worn down by Trump’s reinvigorated MAGA agenda. The stakes are high. It would be a shame to lose to the foreign policy elite, the Democrats, and the rest of the anti-Trump coalition after coming so far in 2016. 

As much as any other magazine, Foreign Affairs is one whereby the globalists and foreign policy elite within the U.S. speak to one another. Its March/April 2018 edition is devoted to bemoaning the foreign policies of Donald Trump. Needless to say, the authors for that issue are, to varying degree, anti-Trump and horrified at his election. This is neither surprising nor is it newsworthy given the nature of FA. However, some of their thinking, especially from Jake Sullivan and Eliot Cohen. 

At the nub, FA is fearful that President Trump is setting about to disrupt world order which they have carefully crafted since 1945. And for the record, the FA crowd does not use an incendiary term like the New World Order to describe its agenda. They preferred to call it liberal hegemony with the U.S. being the hegemon guided, of course, by their Masters of the Universe-type wisdom

The foundations of this liberal hegemony requires nearly unrestricted trade into American markets, the U.S. military as guarantor of world security, a matrix of alliances, multinational trade agreements, nation building, support for international institutions like the United Nations, unimpeded flow of goods, capital, and people across borders, and the ensuing dilution of U.S. national sovereignty.  A cynic would say much of this amounts to America continuing to inordinately shoulder the burdens of the world as was perhaps necessary in the aftermath of WWII. 

It’s an understatement to say that Trump’s election has ruffled feathers at FA. Still, these globalists find a degree of relief in the fact that the president has been hamstrung in getting many of his policies enacted. FA cites things such as the courts, the media, Congress, insubordinate subordinates, inability to control government agencies, and general inertia. The hope of the FA-types is that they will be able to either outlast Trump, convert him, or wear him down.

Let’s look at Eliot Cohen first. His background includes the dubious distinction as being one of the first neoconservatives who publicly advocated for war against Iraq and Iran. Cohen got his wish in Iraq but not in Iran. As to Iraq, the man is unapologetic to this date. 

Cohen is also one of the Republicans who formally signed on to the #NeverTrump movement in 2016. 

Continuing in his #NeverTrump mode, Cohen wrote of his personal distaste for Donald Trump in the January 2017 issue of the Atlantic

“Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his programs but his character. we were right. And friends who urge us to tone it down, to make peace with him, to stop say as loudly as we could ‘this is abnormal,’ to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong.”

Such are Cohen’s personal feelings. But Cohen goes overboard in the current Foreign Affairs with his article “Trump’s Lucky Year.” After recognizing that among the top three advisers in the Trump administration on foreign policy are generals — John Kelly (White House chief of staff), James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis (Secretary of Defense), and H.R. McMaster (national security adviser), Cohen writes:

” …what will happen if and when the president decides on a course of actions that his advisers deem highly dangerous but nevertheless legal. With over a century of drilled obedience to the commander in chief under their collective belt, the generals might not be willing to subvert decisions with which they disagree…”

This is breathtaking. Cohen is worried Trump’s advisers might not subvert legal actions of the president of the United States if, in their own mind, they think such actions are ‘dangerous.’ Obviously, Cohen is so morally challenged that he fails to realize the honest thing to do in such a circumstance would be to resign, not to ‘subvert’ the president. Is there a word that describes the action that Cohen is implicitly calling for?     

FA introduces Jake Sullivan as the youngest-ever director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department. The Obama Administration sent him to Oman for the first of many secret meetings that would lay the foundation for the Iran nuclear deal. Sullivan has also been a former adviser to both Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden and is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Sullivan’s article “The World After Trump” has one valuable piece of information:

” … Trump must not be handed a second term. The difference between one and two terms is not 1X vs 2X but more like 1X vs 10X. For one thing, Obama needed two terms to get to the ideas he campaigned on in 2008, and if the same process is true for Trump, his second term could be cataclysmic.”

Yes, a second Trump term would be ‘cataclysmic’ — cataclysmic for the globalists but a godsend for the greater American public. Contributing to Sullivan’s 10X factor is the belief that, with a second term, President Trump will have the time to gain his footing, weed out weak subordinates, get a handle on the administrative state, and generally start to overcome the inertia involved in turning the ship of state around. Also, with a second term, the Republican Party could well evolve into being more Trump friendly. Everyone loves a winner.

Sullivan also dreads a second Trump term because “Trump’s reelection would confirm that Trumpism is in fact the new normal in the United States, not just an aberration.” 

This last sentence is a warning, a harbinger of what’s to come. Yes, the globalists fought against Donald Trump in 2016. But they never expected him to win. To the foreign policy establishment, Trump was a buffoon, a joke. Things will be different from here on out now that they know Trump can win. The knives will be out in 2020. Then, the swamp will marshal every critter, large and small, in its domain against Trump and his base of deplorable supporters. The attacks will be savage and multidimensional, making 2016 look like child’s play.

In boxing, a one-two punch is most effective. That’s a left jab immediately followed by a powerful right hook. The jab sets up the hook. That is what the anti-Trumpers are attempting. A prelude to 2020 presidential election is this year’s midterms. The jab. This is critical to both sides. Should the Democrats take the House in November, Trump will face a headwind of distractions, among which could well be impeachment. This will cripple the Trump agenda and make his reelection extremely difficult — the knockout.

On the other hand, if the GOP maintains control of the House in November, it will be the globalists who risk being worn down by Trump’s reinvigorated MAGA agenda. The stakes are high. It would be a shame to lose to the foreign policy elite, the Democrats, and the rest of the anti-Trump coalition after coming so far in 2016. 



Source link

Federal Overreach and the National Concealed Carry Law


When the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was first introduced in January of 2017, it quickly garnered support from a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives, but this was not an indication of how the average American gun owner feels about the controversial legislation.

The bill’s creator, Rep. Richard Hudson, justified the Reciprocity Act by saying, “Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines, and this legislation guarantees that.”

For libertarians, this bill is not a matter of our Second Amendment right; rather, it’s a matter of federal overreach.  Under Concealed Carry Reciprocity, state gun laws would be rendered null and void, as anyone with a concealed carry permit in one state would be able to travel across state lines while armed.

A 2017 study indicates that it’s not just those who value state autonomy who are opposed to the bill.  A national survey found that 83 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of independents believe that people with a legal right to carry concealed should have to pass a test demonstrating that they can “safely and lawfully handle a gun in common situations they might encounter.”

The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is also ardently against the bill.  The group has taken to social media to urge the public to join its fight to block the law.  Some states have already made their position known.  As of February 1st of 2016, Virginia no longer recognizes concealed handgun permits from 25 other states.  Other states are likely to follow Virginia’s lead.

Why?

Because the Constitution acknowledges that different states have different cultures and different needs where guns are concerned.  Public safety, policing, and right to carry are dependent on several factors, factors that the current bill does not take into consideration.

Law enforcement officials in the state of New Jersey have already expressed concern about the Reciprocity Act.  Jersey City public safety director James Shea told a reporter, “Each state has the right to determine what’s right for them, but if you’re telling me that the other 49 states have to acknowledge this law, we better get together and have standards we can all agree on.”

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence released a statement last year opposing “attempts to mandate concealed carry reciprocity nationwide because such schemes severely undermine successful, well established state laws governing carrying concealed firearms.”

The concealed carry bill, which is has made its way through the House, has approximately 213 co-sponsors and the full support of President Trump.  Among those who have espoused it are some unlikely proponents.

Six Democrats – Georgia rep. Sanford Bishop, Texas rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas rep. Vicente Gonzalez, Wisconsin rep. Ron Kind, Minnesota rep. Collin Peterson, and Oregon rep. Kurt Schrader – have voted in favor of Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

Rep. Bishop has voted against his party on five gun control bills in total.  If we go on his example alone, one would think liberals are getting more liberal in their views on guns, but this is far from the truth.

This month has seen the Dems piling on when it comes to pushing gun control, relying on the Parkland shooting to sway Republicans on the issue of “red flag” legislation.  The red flag law would grant courts the power to strip gun owners of their firearms at the behest of an owner’s family member or spouse.

The law, which is designed to remove weapons from those who are deemed a potential threat, is unlikely to be effective.  On the contrary, such a law could set a dangerous precedent.  After all, a manipulative individual could persuade a judge of his partner’s altered mental state for malicious reasons or even in an attempt to leave that individual bereft of guns and, therefore, more vulnerable.

The recent wave of gun bills misses the boat when it comes to self-defense.  In the case of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, the bill fails to consider the implications it might have.  Not only does it infringe on states’ independent rights, but it also leaves those states vulnerable to crimes that might otherwise not be committed.

The types of handgun best suited for concealed carry are compact and easy to conceal, hence the name.  They sometimes feature a manual safety, which ensures that they cannot go off without warning.  And one thing that’s seldom mentioned is the fact that folks with a CCW permit can actually save lives rather than taking them.

In July of 2009, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article about a CCW permit-holder wounding and subduing a robber after the criminal opened fire on a convenience store clerk and store patrons.  The permit-holder saved eight lives that night, something that would not have been possible had he not been armed at the time.

There is a substantial number of cases like this in the U.S. and plenty of evidence that concealed carry can prevent crime.  According to the Department of Justice’s Uniformed Crime Report, states with right-to-carry laws have a 30 percent lower rate of homicides.

Concealed carry shoulder holsters complement compact handguns in a way that allows for easy concealment and comfort.  These are irrefutable facts that all parties should be able to agree on.  But a concealed carry law that blocks states’ rights to enforce their own laws is something that is neither constitutionally sound nor lawful.

States and their citizens need to be more vocal about their opinions where this sort of legislation is concerned.  We the People need to let the government know what we feel is right.  It is important for responsible, law-abiding gun owners to let their voices be heard.

The government is supposed to work for us, not against us.

Thus far, there have been two roll call votes on the bill.  It has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.  Now is the time for Americans to have a discussion about this problematic piece of legislation.

When the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was first introduced in January of 2017, it quickly garnered support from a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives, but this was not an indication of how the average American gun owner feels about the controversial legislation.

The bill’s creator, Rep. Richard Hudson, justified the Reciprocity Act by saying, “Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines, and this legislation guarantees that.”

For libertarians, this bill is not a matter of our Second Amendment right; rather, it’s a matter of federal overreach.  Under Concealed Carry Reciprocity, state gun laws would be rendered null and void, as anyone with a concealed carry permit in one state would be able to travel across state lines while armed.

A 2017 study indicates that it’s not just those who value state autonomy who are opposed to the bill.  A national survey found that 83 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of independents believe that people with a legal right to carry concealed should have to pass a test demonstrating that they can “safely and lawfully handle a gun in common situations they might encounter.”

The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is also ardently against the bill.  The group has taken to social media to urge the public to join its fight to block the law.  Some states have already made their position known.  As of February 1st of 2016, Virginia no longer recognizes concealed handgun permits from 25 other states.  Other states are likely to follow Virginia’s lead.

Why?

Because the Constitution acknowledges that different states have different cultures and different needs where guns are concerned.  Public safety, policing, and right to carry are dependent on several factors, factors that the current bill does not take into consideration.

Law enforcement officials in the state of New Jersey have already expressed concern about the Reciprocity Act.  Jersey City public safety director James Shea told a reporter, “Each state has the right to determine what’s right for them, but if you’re telling me that the other 49 states have to acknowledge this law, we better get together and have standards we can all agree on.”

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence released a statement last year opposing “attempts to mandate concealed carry reciprocity nationwide because such schemes severely undermine successful, well established state laws governing carrying concealed firearms.”

The concealed carry bill, which is has made its way through the House, has approximately 213 co-sponsors and the full support of President Trump.  Among those who have espoused it are some unlikely proponents.

Six Democrats – Georgia rep. Sanford Bishop, Texas rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas rep. Vicente Gonzalez, Wisconsin rep. Ron Kind, Minnesota rep. Collin Peterson, and Oregon rep. Kurt Schrader – have voted in favor of Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

Rep. Bishop has voted against his party on five gun control bills in total.  If we go on his example alone, one would think liberals are getting more liberal in their views on guns, but this is far from the truth.

This month has seen the Dems piling on when it comes to pushing gun control, relying on the Parkland shooting to sway Republicans on the issue of “red flag” legislation.  The red flag law would grant courts the power to strip gun owners of their firearms at the behest of an owner’s family member or spouse.

The law, which is designed to remove weapons from those who are deemed a potential threat, is unlikely to be effective.  On the contrary, such a law could set a dangerous precedent.  After all, a manipulative individual could persuade a judge of his partner’s altered mental state for malicious reasons or even in an attempt to leave that individual bereft of guns and, therefore, more vulnerable.

The recent wave of gun bills misses the boat when it comes to self-defense.  In the case of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, the bill fails to consider the implications it might have.  Not only does it infringe on states’ independent rights, but it also leaves those states vulnerable to crimes that might otherwise not be committed.

The types of handgun best suited for concealed carry are compact and easy to conceal, hence the name.  They sometimes feature a manual safety, which ensures that they cannot go off without warning.  And one thing that’s seldom mentioned is the fact that folks with a CCW permit can actually save lives rather than taking them.

In July of 2009, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article about a CCW permit-holder wounding and subduing a robber after the criminal opened fire on a convenience store clerk and store patrons.  The permit-holder saved eight lives that night, something that would not have been possible had he not been armed at the time.

There is a substantial number of cases like this in the U.S. and plenty of evidence that concealed carry can prevent crime.  According to the Department of Justice’s Uniformed Crime Report, states with right-to-carry laws have a 30 percent lower rate of homicides.

Concealed carry shoulder holsters complement compact handguns in a way that allows for easy concealment and comfort.  These are irrefutable facts that all parties should be able to agree on.  But a concealed carry law that blocks states’ rights to enforce their own laws is something that is neither constitutionally sound nor lawful.

States and their citizens need to be more vocal about their opinions where this sort of legislation is concerned.  We the People need to let the government know what we feel is right.  It is important for responsible, law-abiding gun owners to let their voices be heard.

The government is supposed to work for us, not against us.

Thus far, there have been two roll call votes on the bill.  It has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.  Now is the time for Americans to have a discussion about this problematic piece of legislation.



Source link

Valentine's Day Wake-Up Call from Parkland


The Valentine’s Day massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the latest in a series of mass school shootings dating back to the Columbine, Colorado shooting in 1999. Evoking shock, these crimes inevitably prompt a call to pray for the victims and their families.   

Calls for prayer are natural and appropriate after such wanton evil acts, but the question begs:  What about prayers invoking protection in advance of danger? That’s not likely following two Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s — Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp — which declared school-sponsored prayer unlawful. The fact is that the departure of God from public schools combined with schools being soft targets as gun-free zones has been an invitation to evil — an invitation that has been answered repeatedly by the deranged prone to violence.

But it is not just public schools that have become God-free zones. Increasingly since the 1960s we have been crowding out God and His teachings about love, kindness, compassion and morality from the public square. Increasingly over the years, Americans have been bombarded by the entertainment industry’s nonstop output and celebration of depravity and violence in music, video productions, and video games. Is it really any wonder why so many have become desensitized about the value of life? 

The breakdown of standards and values has brought on confusion, unrest, alienation and a loss of the sense of caring community. In the midst of this cultural devolution and disintegration, some might hope for a government fix. But the is little evidence that public sector programs can fix social and moral problems. 

Most large American cities experienced a marked decline after “Great Society” war on poverty welfare programs were introduced in the 1960s. Welfare programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children decimated poor families — creating perverse incentives to have more children out of wedlock — undermining and devaluing fatherhood and the two-parent nuclear family. Without the role model and discipline provided by a father, many kids run wild and are unable to focus and learn. No wonder so many inner cities became urban poverty plantations, while school failures and social pathologies proliferate — often leading to crime and violent behavior. 

The Parkland, Florida school shooting should be a wake-up call for the nation. Parkland is an affluent city and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is considered one of the best public schools in the state. Yet federal and local government agencies were no more effective in stopping this shooting than their counterparts’ have been in stopping wholesale murder in poor Chicago neighborhoods. Despite nearly three dozen reports to and interventions by law enforcement regarding the unhinged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz — including his statements of intention to kill people and become a  “professional school shooter” — the FBI and Broward County law enforcement utterly failed to protect Parkland  students.

In some ways this local failure and dysfunction is related to that of other government agencies with larger mandates. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been failing to take proper care of veterans for decades, resulting in many preventable deaths. Politicians and Social Security administrators doom future generations by staying the course to certain insolvency. The Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be in a perpetual losing battle to interdict and stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the U.S.  And of course, so long as user demand remains high there will never be a victory in that war. 

A growing number of Americans recognize that there is limited success and frequent unexpected harmful consequences to public sector programs, particularly when they discourage people from taking personal responsibility and encouraging voluntary good works or when they have no intersection with religious organizations whose primary purpose is to thwart evil and provide care for and meaning to people’s lives.     

What led to the Parkland, Florida atrocity were a series of missed opportunities that are so mindboggling and numerous that one can only hope that the magnitude of these failures will result in the immediate upgrading of on-site school security systems, and more importantly a lasting societal awakening and hunger for cultural and spiritual renewal.     

In thinking about what that would that look like, consider insight from Darrell Scott — the father of one of the victims of Columbine, CO school shooting — who testified to U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1999. First, he noted that men and women are three-part beings, consisting of body, soul and spirit, and “[w]hen we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.”

Second, Mr. Scott said that “[w]e have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence… We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgement that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!”

The First Amendment explicitly says that it is not the role of government to establish any specific religion. But isn’t it time for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to reestablish venues in schools to provide voluntary opportunities to learn about and connect to the source of all that is good?  Similarly, in the public square if we started with frequent acknowledgement of what is inscribed on every coin and bill used in commerce — that we trust in God — we could silence much of the hate that has come to fill our airwaves.   

Scott Powell lives near Parkland, Florida. He is senior fellow at Discovery Institute, headquartered in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org

The Valentine’s Day massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the latest in a series of mass school shootings dating back to the Columbine, Colorado shooting in 1999. Evoking shock, these crimes inevitably prompt a call to pray for the victims and their families.   

Calls for prayer are natural and appropriate after such wanton evil acts, but the question begs:  What about prayers invoking protection in advance of danger? That’s not likely following two Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s — Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp — which declared school-sponsored prayer unlawful. The fact is that the departure of God from public schools combined with schools being soft targets as gun-free zones has been an invitation to evil — an invitation that has been answered repeatedly by the deranged prone to violence.

But it is not just public schools that have become God-free zones. Increasingly since the 1960s we have been crowding out God and His teachings about love, kindness, compassion and morality from the public square. Increasingly over the years, Americans have been bombarded by the entertainment industry’s nonstop output and celebration of depravity and violence in music, video productions, and video games. Is it really any wonder why so many have become desensitized about the value of life? 

The breakdown of standards and values has brought on confusion, unrest, alienation and a loss of the sense of caring community. In the midst of this cultural devolution and disintegration, some might hope for a government fix. But the is little evidence that public sector programs can fix social and moral problems. 

Most large American cities experienced a marked decline after “Great Society” war on poverty welfare programs were introduced in the 1960s. Welfare programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children decimated poor families — creating perverse incentives to have more children out of wedlock — undermining and devaluing fatherhood and the two-parent nuclear family. Without the role model and discipline provided by a father, many kids run wild and are unable to focus and learn. No wonder so many inner cities became urban poverty plantations, while school failures and social pathologies proliferate — often leading to crime and violent behavior. 

The Parkland, Florida school shooting should be a wake-up call for the nation. Parkland is an affluent city and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is considered one of the best public schools in the state. Yet federal and local government agencies were no more effective in stopping this shooting than their counterparts’ have been in stopping wholesale murder in poor Chicago neighborhoods. Despite nearly three dozen reports to and interventions by law enforcement regarding the unhinged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz — including his statements of intention to kill people and become a  “professional school shooter” — the FBI and Broward County law enforcement utterly failed to protect Parkland  students.

In some ways this local failure and dysfunction is related to that of other government agencies with larger mandates. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been failing to take proper care of veterans for decades, resulting in many preventable deaths. Politicians and Social Security administrators doom future generations by staying the course to certain insolvency. The Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be in a perpetual losing battle to interdict and stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the U.S.  And of course, so long as user demand remains high there will never be a victory in that war. 

A growing number of Americans recognize that there is limited success and frequent unexpected harmful consequences to public sector programs, particularly when they discourage people from taking personal responsibility and encouraging voluntary good works or when they have no intersection with religious organizations whose primary purpose is to thwart evil and provide care for and meaning to people’s lives.     

What led to the Parkland, Florida atrocity were a series of missed opportunities that are so mindboggling and numerous that one can only hope that the magnitude of these failures will result in the immediate upgrading of on-site school security systems, and more importantly a lasting societal awakening and hunger for cultural and spiritual renewal.     

In thinking about what that would that look like, consider insight from Darrell Scott — the father of one of the victims of Columbine, CO school shooting — who testified to U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1999. First, he noted that men and women are three-part beings, consisting of body, soul and spirit, and “[w]hen we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.”

Second, Mr. Scott said that “[w]e have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence… We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgement that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!”

The First Amendment explicitly says that it is not the role of government to establish any specific religion. But isn’t it time for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to reestablish venues in schools to provide voluntary opportunities to learn about and connect to the source of all that is good?  Similarly, in the public square if we started with frequent acknowledgement of what is inscribed on every coin and bill used in commerce — that we trust in God — we could silence much of the hate that has come to fill our airwaves.   

Scott Powell lives near Parkland, Florida. He is senior fellow at Discovery Institute, headquartered in Seattle. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org



Source link

In Search of Liberty


In Search of Liberty takes viewers on a patriotic journey showing the importance of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments.  It educates and reminds people the values the Founding Fathers wanted to emphasize: civil liberties and limited government. 

It begins with the famous Nancy Pelosi quote, that we must “pass the bill to find out what is in it,” and how President Obama said he was going to use pen and phone to sign executive orders.  In other words, who needs Congress to pass legislation?  The important point to consider is that education has fallen into the hands of those who want to keep the people ignorant.  The video shows both Democratic and Republican presidents during their inaugurations being sworn in and stating they will “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  That’s a far cry from what Pelosi and President Obama did.

Norm Novitsky, the director and producer, told American Thinker, “The United States of America is governed by a written Constitution, a landmark legal, philosophical, and political document that greatly limits the power of government; safeguards certain individual rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion; and establishes a system of ‘checks and balances.’  It should be a bipartisan document.  Unfortunately, Hollywood would not want to distribute the movie because of the subject matter, so we decided to use a robust social media campaign and do it ourselves.”

The movie has Benjamin Franklin coming back to life, emphasizing how “[a]n investment in knowledge pays the best interest” to a modern-day family who is ignorant about the supreme law of the U.S.  Key aspects of the Constitution are outlined, and important amendments, such as those guaranteeing freedom of religion and speech, the right to bear arms, warrants for search and seizure, and states’ rights, are shown to be vital in everyday life.  The Ellis family is enlightened on how a document that undergirded our country over two centuries ago continues to shape and define our modern nation.  The U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and amendments are the forces that separate and balance the powers of government, safeguarding the rights of individuals and majority rule.

The reason for having Ben Franklin as the Founding Father who would guide people through the key elements of the Constitution: “[w]e wanted someone with a lot of interesting attributes including his use of gadgets.  We were able to have a 21st-century dimension using cars and other technology.”

The film explains the rule of law by making interesting points using football and poker games.  It shows how people get upset if there is cheating or if the rules are not enforced.  People in their everyday lives want to adhere to the rules, yet, when it comes to the most important rules of the land, many ignore the Constitution and feel that it is misguided as well as outdated.  Novitsky noted, “When representation favors a certain group and disregards the Constitution, it is similar to a sports event where the referee shows bias.  The point I wanted to make is that the Constitution should not be favoring any one person or group.”

After seeing the movie, many should consider what is happening today.  Novitsky wants Americans to understand that the president should be the one to execute the laws that Congress legislates.  During the interview, the issue of DACA was brought up, where President Trump is blamed for causing the problem.  Too bad more people do not watch this movie, because just maybe they would understand that the president is actually following the Constitution as he forces Congress to do its job. 

Another issue addressed is the 2nd Amendment.  Today, the president and others speak of reasonable gun control.  The film has a quote: “[t]he problem with gun crimes is that people blame the guns.”  In other words, the gun is a tool.  After watching this scene, people might think of other tools that will not work if not for the person.  Take, for example, a pen.  If both a gun and a pen are placed on a table, nothing happens.  A person needs to pick up a pen, click it, and then actually point it to the paper for it to work.  Similarly, a person needs to pick up a gun, point it at a person, pull the trigger.  So is it the object that is to blame or the person?

Novitsky strongly believes that people must be aware of their constitutional rights.  He stated, “George Washington said the Constitution is the people’s only keeper and that ‘the power under the Constitution will always be in the people.’  Our first president did not say the government, but referred to the people.”  This is happening today, when Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and other companies have decided on their own, and are not forced by the government, to have reasonable ways they will sell guns.”

What he hopes to achieve with this movie is to “help people to rediscover the Constitution and bring it back into the hearts and minds of all people.  After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution,’ and that it is important to ‘educate and inform the whole mass of people[.] … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.'”

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

In Search of Liberty takes viewers on a patriotic journey showing the importance of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments.  It educates and reminds people the values the Founding Fathers wanted to emphasize: civil liberties and limited government. 

It begins with the famous Nancy Pelosi quote, that we must “pass the bill to find out what is in it,” and how President Obama said he was going to use pen and phone to sign executive orders.  In other words, who needs Congress to pass legislation?  The important point to consider is that education has fallen into the hands of those who want to keep the people ignorant.  The video shows both Democratic and Republican presidents during their inaugurations being sworn in and stating they will “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  That’s a far cry from what Pelosi and President Obama did.

Norm Novitsky, the director and producer, told American Thinker, “The United States of America is governed by a written Constitution, a landmark legal, philosophical, and political document that greatly limits the power of government; safeguards certain individual rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion; and establishes a system of ‘checks and balances.’  It should be a bipartisan document.  Unfortunately, Hollywood would not want to distribute the movie because of the subject matter, so we decided to use a robust social media campaign and do it ourselves.”

The movie has Benjamin Franklin coming back to life, emphasizing how “[a]n investment in knowledge pays the best interest” to a modern-day family who is ignorant about the supreme law of the U.S.  Key aspects of the Constitution are outlined, and important amendments, such as those guaranteeing freedom of religion and speech, the right to bear arms, warrants for search and seizure, and states’ rights, are shown to be vital in everyday life.  The Ellis family is enlightened on how a document that undergirded our country over two centuries ago continues to shape and define our modern nation.  The U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and amendments are the forces that separate and balance the powers of government, safeguarding the rights of individuals and majority rule.

The reason for having Ben Franklin as the Founding Father who would guide people through the key elements of the Constitution: “[w]e wanted someone with a lot of interesting attributes including his use of gadgets.  We were able to have a 21st-century dimension using cars and other technology.”

The film explains the rule of law by making interesting points using football and poker games.  It shows how people get upset if there is cheating or if the rules are not enforced.  People in their everyday lives want to adhere to the rules, yet, when it comes to the most important rules of the land, many ignore the Constitution and feel that it is misguided as well as outdated.  Novitsky noted, “When representation favors a certain group and disregards the Constitution, it is similar to a sports event where the referee shows bias.  The point I wanted to make is that the Constitution should not be favoring any one person or group.”

After seeing the movie, many should consider what is happening today.  Novitsky wants Americans to understand that the president should be the one to execute the laws that Congress legislates.  During the interview, the issue of DACA was brought up, where President Trump is blamed for causing the problem.  Too bad more people do not watch this movie, because just maybe they would understand that the president is actually following the Constitution as he forces Congress to do its job. 

Another issue addressed is the 2nd Amendment.  Today, the president and others speak of reasonable gun control.  The film has a quote: “[t]he problem with gun crimes is that people blame the guns.”  In other words, the gun is a tool.  After watching this scene, people might think of other tools that will not work if not for the person.  Take, for example, a pen.  If both a gun and a pen are placed on a table, nothing happens.  A person needs to pick up a pen, click it, and then actually point it to the paper for it to work.  Similarly, a person needs to pick up a gun, point it at a person, pull the trigger.  So is it the object that is to blame or the person?

Novitsky strongly believes that people must be aware of their constitutional rights.  He stated, “George Washington said the Constitution is the people’s only keeper and that ‘the power under the Constitution will always be in the people.’  Our first president did not say the government, but referred to the people.”  This is happening today, when Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and other companies have decided on their own, and are not forced by the government, to have reasonable ways they will sell guns.”

What he hopes to achieve with this movie is to “help people to rediscover the Constitution and bring it back into the hearts and minds of all people.  After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution,’ and that it is important to ‘educate and inform the whole mass of people[.] … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.'”

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.



Source link

The Blessings of Judaism and Christianity


While Jews prepare for Pesach and Christians prepare for Easter, it is a proper time to consider and to grasp the enormous blessings of these great faiths of Jews and Christians, both of which are reviled and slandered and despised not because of their failures, but because of their triumphs.

It is part of Judaism and of Christianity to accept the grim fact that the world despises those who follow these religions.  This hatred is profoundly irrational.  Consider the rage vented on Israel, which wishes only peace on that narrow strip of land that is holy to Jews.  Consider the rage vented on Christians in the media for following the Gospel of Love.  Yet nearly every good and noble movement or deed has its roots in Judaism or Christianity. 

The status of women, for example, found liberation in the rights granted to women in Judaic law and the special honor bestowed on the many great women in the Tanakh, something revolutionary in the ancient world.  The status of women under Christianity was so deeply ingrained that as Christian Europe colonized India, China, and the rest of the Old World, such hideous practices as the suttee and foot-binding were suppressed.

Slavery in the ancient world was a horror, but slaves, uniquely, had rights under Jewish law.  Christianity explicitly recognized the spiritual equality of slaves and masters, and from Africa to Ireland, Christian leaders campaigned against this evil.  Slavery was essentially abolished in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Pope Paul III in 1537 issued the bill Sublimis Deus, which expressly declared any slavery, regardless of race or creed, null and void.

The global anti-slavery movement in the 19th century was championed by men like William Wilberforce whose voices compelled the Christian world to embrace the abolition of slavery and ended that institution in the lands ruled by Christians.

Compassion for animals also has deep roots in Judaism, and it is not for nothing that the Psalms of the Tanakh read so movingly about animals.  The campaign to outlaw cruelty to animals was almost exclusively waged by Christians, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law against cruelty to animals in 1641.  American Evangelical Christian preachers in the 19th century were required to have sermons at least once a year on the evils of cruelty to animals. 

Jews and Christians also dramatically elevated the intellectual life of the world.  The first people to have universally literate males were Jews, whose requirement for Bar Mitzvah was to read Torah in Hebrew.  The first nation to have universally literate people, regardless of sex, was Scotland, whose church required all boys and girls to be literate. 

Jews also engaged in spirited intellectual debates almost as soon as the Babylonian Captivity ended, and this produced a tradition of free discussion and inquiry.  The modern university evolved exclusively out of the cathedral schools of the Middle Ages and became the pinnacle of scientific and analytical thinking for the whole world for the next several centuries.  Anyone who imagines that medieval Europe was ignorant or backwards is bigoted and wrong.  The geniuses of that era dwarf our modern “thinkers,” and a single work, Friar Bacon’s Opus Magnus, reveals one of the greatest and most comprehensive minds in human history.

Why, then, are Judaism and Christianity so reviled and condemned?  This hatred is the result not of its failures, but rather of its triumphs.  The lands that began as Israel were poor and miserable until the Jews made the deserts flourish.  The world Christendom changed was a nightmarish realm of helpless women, brutalized slaves, and tormented animals until Christians forced change upon these lands. 

We are in danger, as the long cold war against Judaism and Christianity programs more and more people to hate and fear the only thing that brings love and peace into the world, of losing the only true hope of mankind.  All the economic growth, all the technological gadgetry, all the plans of all the politicians in the world will fail if these faiths are reduced to irrelevance in our lives.  The hour is near when, one way or the other, humanity will embark on a course that will either save us or reduce us to pathetic and hopeless drones.

While Jews prepare for Pesach and Christians prepare for Easter, it is a proper time to consider and to grasp the enormous blessings of these great faiths of Jews and Christians, both of which are reviled and slandered and despised not because of their failures, but because of their triumphs.

It is part of Judaism and of Christianity to accept the grim fact that the world despises those who follow these religions.  This hatred is profoundly irrational.  Consider the rage vented on Israel, which wishes only peace on that narrow strip of land that is holy to Jews.  Consider the rage vented on Christians in the media for following the Gospel of Love.  Yet nearly every good and noble movement or deed has its roots in Judaism or Christianity. 

The status of women, for example, found liberation in the rights granted to women in Judaic law and the special honor bestowed on the many great women in the Tanakh, something revolutionary in the ancient world.  The status of women under Christianity was so deeply ingrained that as Christian Europe colonized India, China, and the rest of the Old World, such hideous practices as the suttee and foot-binding were suppressed.

Slavery in the ancient world was a horror, but slaves, uniquely, had rights under Jewish law.  Christianity explicitly recognized the spiritual equality of slaves and masters, and from Africa to Ireland, Christian leaders campaigned against this evil.  Slavery was essentially abolished in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Pope Paul III in 1537 issued the bill Sublimis Deus, which expressly declared any slavery, regardless of race or creed, null and void.

The global anti-slavery movement in the 19th century was championed by men like William Wilberforce whose voices compelled the Christian world to embrace the abolition of slavery and ended that institution in the lands ruled by Christians.

Compassion for animals also has deep roots in Judaism, and it is not for nothing that the Psalms of the Tanakh read so movingly about animals.  The campaign to outlaw cruelty to animals was almost exclusively waged by Christians, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law against cruelty to animals in 1641.  American Evangelical Christian preachers in the 19th century were required to have sermons at least once a year on the evils of cruelty to animals. 

Jews and Christians also dramatically elevated the intellectual life of the world.  The first people to have universally literate males were Jews, whose requirement for Bar Mitzvah was to read Torah in Hebrew.  The first nation to have universally literate people, regardless of sex, was Scotland, whose church required all boys and girls to be literate. 

Jews also engaged in spirited intellectual debates almost as soon as the Babylonian Captivity ended, and this produced a tradition of free discussion and inquiry.  The modern university evolved exclusively out of the cathedral schools of the Middle Ages and became the pinnacle of scientific and analytical thinking for the whole world for the next several centuries.  Anyone who imagines that medieval Europe was ignorant or backwards is bigoted and wrong.  The geniuses of that era dwarf our modern “thinkers,” and a single work, Friar Bacon’s Opus Magnus, reveals one of the greatest and most comprehensive minds in human history.

Why, then, are Judaism and Christianity so reviled and condemned?  This hatred is the result not of its failures, but rather of its triumphs.  The lands that began as Israel were poor and miserable until the Jews made the deserts flourish.  The world Christendom changed was a nightmarish realm of helpless women, brutalized slaves, and tormented animals until Christians forced change upon these lands. 

We are in danger, as the long cold war against Judaism and Christianity programs more and more people to hate and fear the only thing that brings love and peace into the world, of losing the only true hope of mankind.  All the economic growth, all the technological gadgetry, all the plans of all the politicians in the world will fail if these faiths are reduced to irrelevance in our lives.  The hour is near when, one way or the other, humanity will embark on a course that will either save us or reduce us to pathetic and hopeless drones.



Source link

When Italy Gets Blue


What is there to say, and what is there to do?  Can we help but rejoice that a land such as Italy came to be?  Its treasures, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Giuseppe Verdi, have given infinite pleasure.  By contrast, the political world, as indicated by the result of the parliamentary election in Italy on March 4, 2018, is conspicuous by uncertainty, unpredictability, and deadlock, making government tenure more precarious than the city of Venice threatened by high water.  The problem now is to end deadlock by wedlock, or arranged marriage of the political parties, none of which has majority support, in the forthcoming fragmented hung parliament.

Some features of the result are clear: a surge in popular electoral support for populist and far-right parties; a distaste for establishment parties; a decline in the center-left and social democracy; a rise in Euroskeptism that may affect the Brexit E.U. negotiations with Britain; and above all, opposition to immigration, a conviction that may coincide with the attitude of President Donald Trump. 

There may be no second acts in American lives, but there are examples of comeback performances in Italy, a country that has witnessed 64 governments in the last 70 years.  The most arresting exemplification of this second time around is Silvio Berlusconi, the 81-year-old Il Cavaliere, charismatic abominable showman of business and politics.  Starting his career as a seller of vacuum cleaners, as crooner, a fan of Nat King Cole, with large repertoire in night clubs and cruise ships, he became a billionaire reputed to be worth $8.7 billion, succeeding as a construction and real estate mogul, owner of a cable TV and broadcasting empire, newspapers, and a publishing house, the A.C. Milan football team until last year, and as a politician who reached the top.  

Berlusconi’s second act should come as no surprise, since he once modestly identified himself as “the Jesus Christ of politics…I sacrifice myself for everyone.”  Perhaps as part of that sacrifice, he entered politics, he said, because the “heirs of the communists were about to seize power after demolishing democracy with the political use of justice.”  In 1993, he founded Forza Italia (Go Italy), named after a battle cry at Italian soccer games, and became prime minister for nine years in four governments.  During that period, he had a colorful, notorious private life, involved in sex scandals, so-called “bunga, bunga,” with showgirls and with a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer.  That striking lifestyle is still evident now that his current girlfriend is 49 years younger than he.

In 2013, Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to a term of four years but was not sent to prison because of his age.  He was, however, stripped of his seat in the Senate and prevented from holding office until 2019.  Nevertheless, even with face lifts and changed skin, facial features, and hair, he remained a strong personality, involved in political affairs, including a friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, with whom he shared holidays and with whom he visited Crimea in 2015.  Ever the optimist, Berlusconi proclaimed his motto: “carry the sun in your pocket to offer it to all the people you meet.”

He scored an early victory in his political comeback when in November 2017 he backed and campaigned for a center-right coalition that included Forza Italia that was successful in the Sicily regional election, gaining 39% of the vote against the 35% of the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party.

In the general parliamentary election held on March 4, 2018, he supported a similar center-right coalition, allying his Forza Italia with the League headed by Matteo Salvini and with the Brothers of Italy led by Giorgia Meloni against the same political forces, moderate, left, and far right.  He campaigned indefatigably on a platform to cut taxes, raise pensions, increase infrastructure spending, and boost welfare payments, but above all anti-immigrant policy.

However, the 2018 election result has relegated Berlesconi from expected center stage to the wings.  Forza got only 14% of the vote compared with the 17% of the League and 4% for the Brothers.  The largest number, and the implicit winner, is the Five Star Movement with 32%.  The biggest loser is the Democratic Party, which in 2014 had 40% of the vote but was reduced to 19% in 2018.

Berlesconi is therefore no éminence grise, and his attempted political resurgence was not a triumph.  He was overtaken as leader of his own coalition by Matteo Salvini, a 44-year-old former left-winger from Milan who reinvented himself to become the leader of the anti-immigrant party, the League, formerly the Northern League.  With bombastic rhetoric, he concentrated on a few issues: leaving the Euro system, stopping immigration, and wariness about Muslims.  He transformed the party from a regional to a national force, dropping the name “Northern,” and conducted an energetic campaign, even in southern Italy, the Mezzogiorno.

Interestingly, Salvini has cooperated with Russian president Putin’s United Party and opposed sanctions against Russia and Putin, whom he admires, but he has also adopted a Trump-like slogan: “Italy first.”

The Five Star Movement, led by 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, elected to parliament in 2013, where he became V.P. of the Chamber of Deputies, got 32% of vote, getting strong support from discontented youths and from the Mezzogiorno.  Formed in 2009 by the popular comedian Beppe Grillo, the M5S is populist.  It advocates a number of positions: anti-establishment, anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic, and environmentalist.  It calls for laws on various issues: allowing earlier retirement and making it more difficult for workers to be fired; a minimum monthly income and direct democracy.  It also calls for improved relations with Russia and disapproves of Western, implicitly American, military intervention in the Middle East and Asia.  Whatever the outcome of political bargaining, it will be a pillar in the next parliament.    

The center-left Democratic Party, led by 42-year-old Matteo Renzi, former prime minister and ex-mayor of Florence, and prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, declined.  As a result, Renzi has resigned leadership of the party.

At the extreme is the far-right Brothers of Italy, led by 40-year-old Giorgia Meloni, hostile to E.U. economic and immigration policies.  Less important but even more extreme are Forza Nuova, which speaks of “Italy to the Italians,” and CasaPound (taking its name from Ezra Pound), which admires Mussolini.  It is disturbing that the small hometown of Mussolini, Redappio in northern Italy, with a stone mausoleum of Il Duce and fascist memorabilia, is visited by about 50,000 people a year, some of whom give the fascist salute and praise him for protecting the “white race.”

The necessary government coalition can take a number of possibilities, since there is no one majority party, and there is no clear outcome, but it is clear that support for traditional institutions and parties has been reduced with the rise and attractiveness of populist parties and the decline of the center-left, which is in retreat in Italy as in other European countries.

The rise of populism results from economic and political difficulties.  Italy has been troubled by a number of problems: high rate of unemployment, nationally 11% and youth 34%; low economic growth, 1.5% compared with the E.U. average of 2.4%; lack of growth in productivity; high public-sector debt; declining birth rates and a population that fell by 100,000; an aging population, with 30% over 60; and above all, the problem of immigration that brought more than 620,000 asylum-seekers to Italy in the last four years.

For a time, the view was prevalent that the development of history would lead to worldwide spread of liberal democracy and free-market economies.  That view is now challenged by the nationalist, populist wave sweeping Europe and now Italy, and by increasing lack of faith in existing institutions.  There is no historical law leading to change in society and politics.  The U.S. administration must take account of the growing nationalism and racism now registered in European elections.  The Italian election did not reflect the Neapolitan song; it was not la bella cosa, a beautiful thing in a sunny day.

What is there to say, and what is there to do?  Can we help but rejoice that a land such as Italy came to be?  Its treasures, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Giuseppe Verdi, have given infinite pleasure.  By contrast, the political world, as indicated by the result of the parliamentary election in Italy on March 4, 2018, is conspicuous by uncertainty, unpredictability, and deadlock, making government tenure more precarious than the city of Venice threatened by high water.  The problem now is to end deadlock by wedlock, or arranged marriage of the political parties, none of which has majority support, in the forthcoming fragmented hung parliament.

Some features of the result are clear: a surge in popular electoral support for populist and far-right parties; a distaste for establishment parties; a decline in the center-left and social democracy; a rise in Euroskeptism that may affect the Brexit E.U. negotiations with Britain; and above all, opposition to immigration, a conviction that may coincide with the attitude of President Donald Trump. 

There may be no second acts in American lives, but there are examples of comeback performances in Italy, a country that has witnessed 64 governments in the last 70 years.  The most arresting exemplification of this second time around is Silvio Berlusconi, the 81-year-old Il Cavaliere, charismatic abominable showman of business and politics.  Starting his career as a seller of vacuum cleaners, as crooner, a fan of Nat King Cole, with large repertoire in night clubs and cruise ships, he became a billionaire reputed to be worth $8.7 billion, succeeding as a construction and real estate mogul, owner of a cable TV and broadcasting empire, newspapers, and a publishing house, the A.C. Milan football team until last year, and as a politician who reached the top.  

Berlusconi’s second act should come as no surprise, since he once modestly identified himself as “the Jesus Christ of politics…I sacrifice myself for everyone.”  Perhaps as part of that sacrifice, he entered politics, he said, because the “heirs of the communists were about to seize power after demolishing democracy with the political use of justice.”  In 1993, he founded Forza Italia (Go Italy), named after a battle cry at Italian soccer games, and became prime minister for nine years in four governments.  During that period, he had a colorful, notorious private life, involved in sex scandals, so-called “bunga, bunga,” with showgirls and with a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer.  That striking lifestyle is still evident now that his current girlfriend is 49 years younger than he.

In 2013, Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to a term of four years but was not sent to prison because of his age.  He was, however, stripped of his seat in the Senate and prevented from holding office until 2019.  Nevertheless, even with face lifts and changed skin, facial features, and hair, he remained a strong personality, involved in political affairs, including a friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, with whom he shared holidays and with whom he visited Crimea in 2015.  Ever the optimist, Berlusconi proclaimed his motto: “carry the sun in your pocket to offer it to all the people you meet.”

He scored an early victory in his political comeback when in November 2017 he backed and campaigned for a center-right coalition that included Forza Italia that was successful in the Sicily regional election, gaining 39% of the vote against the 35% of the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party.

In the general parliamentary election held on March 4, 2018, he supported a similar center-right coalition, allying his Forza Italia with the League headed by Matteo Salvini and with the Brothers of Italy led by Giorgia Meloni against the same political forces, moderate, left, and far right.  He campaigned indefatigably on a platform to cut taxes, raise pensions, increase infrastructure spending, and boost welfare payments, but above all anti-immigrant policy.

However, the 2018 election result has relegated Berlesconi from expected center stage to the wings.  Forza got only 14% of the vote compared with the 17% of the League and 4% for the Brothers.  The largest number, and the implicit winner, is the Five Star Movement with 32%.  The biggest loser is the Democratic Party, which in 2014 had 40% of the vote but was reduced to 19% in 2018.

Berlesconi is therefore no éminence grise, and his attempted political resurgence was not a triumph.  He was overtaken as leader of his own coalition by Matteo Salvini, a 44-year-old former left-winger from Milan who reinvented himself to become the leader of the anti-immigrant party, the League, formerly the Northern League.  With bombastic rhetoric, he concentrated on a few issues: leaving the Euro system, stopping immigration, and wariness about Muslims.  He transformed the party from a regional to a national force, dropping the name “Northern,” and conducted an energetic campaign, even in southern Italy, the Mezzogiorno.

Interestingly, Salvini has cooperated with Russian president Putin’s United Party and opposed sanctions against Russia and Putin, whom he admires, but he has also adopted a Trump-like slogan: “Italy first.”

The Five Star Movement, led by 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, elected to parliament in 2013, where he became V.P. of the Chamber of Deputies, got 32% of vote, getting strong support from discontented youths and from the Mezzogiorno.  Formed in 2009 by the popular comedian Beppe Grillo, the M5S is populist.  It advocates a number of positions: anti-establishment, anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic, and environmentalist.  It calls for laws on various issues: allowing earlier retirement and making it more difficult for workers to be fired; a minimum monthly income and direct democracy.  It also calls for improved relations with Russia and disapproves of Western, implicitly American, military intervention in the Middle East and Asia.  Whatever the outcome of political bargaining, it will be a pillar in the next parliament.    

The center-left Democratic Party, led by 42-year-old Matteo Renzi, former prime minister and ex-mayor of Florence, and prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, declined.  As a result, Renzi has resigned leadership of the party.

At the extreme is the far-right Brothers of Italy, led by 40-year-old Giorgia Meloni, hostile to E.U. economic and immigration policies.  Less important but even more extreme are Forza Nuova, which speaks of “Italy to the Italians,” and CasaPound (taking its name from Ezra Pound), which admires Mussolini.  It is disturbing that the small hometown of Mussolini, Redappio in northern Italy, with a stone mausoleum of Il Duce and fascist memorabilia, is visited by about 50,000 people a year, some of whom give the fascist salute and praise him for protecting the “white race.”

The necessary government coalition can take a number of possibilities, since there is no one majority party, and there is no clear outcome, but it is clear that support for traditional institutions and parties has been reduced with the rise and attractiveness of populist parties and the decline of the center-left, which is in retreat in Italy as in other European countries.

The rise of populism results from economic and political difficulties.  Italy has been troubled by a number of problems: high rate of unemployment, nationally 11% and youth 34%; low economic growth, 1.5% compared with the E.U. average of 2.4%; lack of growth in productivity; high public-sector debt; declining birth rates and a population that fell by 100,000; an aging population, with 30% over 60; and above all, the problem of immigration that brought more than 620,000 asylum-seekers to Italy in the last four years.

For a time, the view was prevalent that the development of history would lead to worldwide spread of liberal democracy and free-market economies.  That view is now challenged by the nationalist, populist wave sweeping Europe and now Italy, and by increasing lack of faith in existing institutions.  There is no historical law leading to change in society and politics.  The U.S. administration must take account of the growing nationalism and racism now registered in European elections.  The Italian election did not reflect the Neapolitan song; it was not la bella cosa, a beautiful thing in a sunny day.



Source link