VIDEO: A Taxing Week for Republicans

“Tax reform is a noble goal but an ugly process,” Howard Kurtz said, almost sympathetically. He won’t have to convince Republicans of that, as they slog through one of the biggest tax rewrites since Ronald Reagan. It’s a grueling process for the members and staff, who not only feel the weight of the task — but the weight of expectation. For a party who hasn’t delivered on its key promises to voters, this debate is the debate for changing that.

While the rest of the city was emptying out for Veterans Day, the light on the Capitol dome was still on, signaling the ongoing work of the chambers underneath. That work turned out to be incredibly good news for families, as the House Ways and Means Committee passed a much-improved version of the tax reform package Americans were introduced to last week. Heeding the chorus of conservatives’ concerns, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) made the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act even stronger — thanks to a 29-page amendment that addresses everything from the Johnson Amendment to marriage penalties and the adoption credit. Happy with the work of his committee, Brady told reporters that this proposal “reflects the consideration and thought we’ve heard on both sides of the aisle.”

It was a big win for families, who stand to keep a lot more of their hard-earned money, and it was a win for free speech. Unlike the earlier draft of the bill, churches aren’t the only ones that’ll have the opportunity to speak freely in the political process — so will nonprofit and faith-based groups. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) were able to expand the old language and incorporate their Free Speech Fairness Act into the bill, which stops the IRS from policing the speech of churches and other charitable organizations. That’s a huge relief for men and women of faith, who watched the Obama IRS breathe down the necks of nonprofits and religious entities, threatening to take away their tax exempt status if they dared to talk about moral or political issues.

Most importantly, the House plan recognizes that families are at the heart of our economy. By increasing the child tax credit (the most popular piece of the proposal, according to polling), moms and dads can provide better for their children. And with the changes to education savings accounts, that includes unborn children. Now, expectant parents will be able to put aside money for their babies’ future learning. Marriage tax penalty rates are significantly reduced — something that pro-family groups like FRC have been advocating for years.

Ivanka Trump, who flew back early from her dad’s Asian tour, was thrilled to see the tax relief for parents.

“The average American family,” she points out, “spends almost 30 percent of pre-tax income on the cost of childcare. So the cost of childcare has gone through the roof and families just can’t afford it… The GOP idea is not to have government become more involved in providing affordable childcare services but rather to deliver a tax plan that will empower parents to better care for their kids — which means leaving parents with more of the money they’ve earned rather than allowing the government to take it via taxation and reallocating it as it sees fit.”

Americans overwhelmingly agree, Politico shows in a new survey. While the liberal media is busy panning the plan, they may be the only ones. According to the poll, 45 percent of the country supports the GOP’s proposal, an almost 10-point gap from the 36 percent who don’t. Most Americans think it would have a positive impact on them (36 percent) than negative (25 percent). And with the greatest enthusiasm, most say it would benefit the economy (42 percent); only 22 percent disagreed.

That’s good news for House Republicans, who have plenty of hurdles to go before H.R. 1 is a reality. The Senate, with its own draft of tax reform, may be the biggest. But House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is still confident the two chambers can work something out. “Yes, the Senate bill is going to be different than the House bill, because you know what? That’s the legislative process. But what’s encouraging in all of this is… we have a framework that we established with the White House and the Senate, and these bills are being written inside that framework.” Ironing out the differences won’t be easy, but it is doable. “The House will pass its bill, the Senate will pass its bill, and then we will get together and reconcile the differences, which is the legislative process, and that’s how this process will continue.”

In the meantime, we tip our hats to House Republicans for listening to voters and giving conservatives a plan they can be proud of. For more on the tax debate, check out FRC’s Ken Blackwell on Fox Business.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


Also in the November 10 Washington Update:

The Heart of a Warrior

Strategic Partners for the New Year!

GOP Tax Reform is Democrat-Lite. Where’s the Conservatism?

When the GOP unveiled the outline of their big tax reform plan last week, they billed it as one of the largest tax cuts in history. If only that were true. It cuts the corporate tax rate which even Democratic economists (not politicians, they have to demagogue everything) see as necessary. This is easily the strongest point in the plan. But there’s now a hitch even there.

All of our western nation competitors have cut their corporate tax rates in recent years (Germany went from 40% to 15%!) leaving the U.S. as the highest rate in the industrialized world at 35%. That makes U.S. soil uncompetitive, and that’s bad for American jobs, companies and the economy. So, yes, that is good and necessary — but more later as even it may be imperiled.

Once we get past that corporate tax cut, there is very little cheer from a conservative perspective for individual American taxpayers. There’s an actual tax increase for the wealthy with a bubble tax rate of 46% for those earning more than $1 million until they make up for a tax cut at the lower ends — which pay hardly any taxes now at all. So an actual tax increase! How is that in any way conservative? Does anyone need reminding that the rich are already carrying most of the income tax load — far more than their “fair share?” Or that it is the rich who are the job-creators? Apparently just the party representing conservatism.

It will change from here for the worse as it looks to get votes in both chambers. But overall, it looks a lot like the GOP tax cut plan is largely a sop to class warfare, a totally swampy cave from the most basic principles of conservatism. Outside the corporate tax cut, it is nothing more than Democrat-lite. It looks like one big shell game to ensure that the government keeps growing and the “rich” get soaked, because rich people are, you know, evil.

Getting into the details is not worthwhile as it will change. Essentially, it reduces tax brackets except the highest one and eliminates some deductions — that latter of which means more taxes paid.

Fortune magazine fact-checked the middle class cuts and found a mixed bag:

“But the proposal’s conflicting provisions and phase-outs of certain benefits suggest that taxes could rise for some middle-class earners over time. Middle-income people in states with high state income taxes or who have many children, high medical bills or heavy student debt are particularly at risk of a bigger tax hit. Others may benefit modestly from the lower tax rates and revamped credits and deductions.”

Shell game.

Remember, this proposal is essentially the starting negotiating point. If the swamp acts as normal, what will happen from here is that this proposal will be larded up with more special interests and hidden garbage like the bubble tax and become worse. Bottom line: We could end up with even worse than we have right now.

Good job, guys. Glad we gave you a majority so you could act like little Democratic class warfare warriors and make sure leviathan keeps chewing us up — while pitching it as this huge tax cut. More and more conservatives outside the ruling class are catching on as the details get examined.

This all is more than disappointing. Just like repealing Obamacare (although that was really on a small number of Senate Republicans who lied during re-election, including John McCain.) Just like keeping the Dreamer Act (Trump.) Just like no money for building the wall (Congress.)

The only big promises kept so far are by Trump on deregulation and appointing conservative justices and judges — few of which have been confirmed, yet. That’s a pretty short list of promises kept, and none of them from the GOP-controlled Congress.

The Republican Party used to stand for basic conservative principles: limited government, reduced tax burdens, de-regulation over an overly regulatory state, personal responsibility, individual freedoms, equality under the law.

Where are these to be found in this tax plan? Where are they found in the budget outline approved previously? Where are they in the various (and failed) Obamacare repeals? Where are they in building a wall and enforcing existing laws?

Do we have a party of limited government or do we have Democrats-but-burden-Americans-more-slowly?

Where is President Trump on the tax proposal?

Populists and conservatives look at the tax code differently.

Since Trump is more populist than conservative in philosophy — although a lot of his policies have been conservative — it was incumbent on actual supposed principled conservatives such as Speaker Paul Ryan to come through with strong tax reform that made American corporations more competitive, gave all Americans tax relief and for goodness sake, shrank government.

This does the first, but whiffs on the next two.

However, Trump was the avatar for Americans who wanted change, who knew we needed change. Washington was a place filled with self-promoting creatures who cared first and only about re-election as their pathway to power, prestige and wealth. They feed the beast.

And it works great for them, for lobbyists, for bureaucrats, for the nest of hangers-on that feed off ever burgeoning government. But not for Americans. And many Americans know this. Washington long has been out for only Washington. Trump was seen as someone who might be able to at least take a step forward in draining a little of the scumminess out, shake up the status quo.

So while he is a populist, it was still disappointing to see him so strongly onboard with this “biggest tax cut in history” nonsense. Part of this may be because Republicans aren’t presenting what he wanted. But part is because of the mantra that “Republicans need a win!”

Here’s an idea. How about if Americans get a win?

Starting to make any real change in Washington, D.C. requires an almost revolutionary vision for a Capitol that works for Americans. Trump rightly identified the problem being the seedy Washington culture. But tweeting and complaining about it doesn’t change anything. And calling a questionable class warfare tax plan the biggest tax cut in history doesn’t change the swamp, either.

Potential saving grace — repeal Obamacare mandate

Republicans are looking to include repealing the Obamacare individual insurance mandate. That would totally change the dynamics and value of the tax plan…if they actually do.

This is a two-fer winner. The first and most important part is that it is a win for individual American liberties. Personal freedoms from heavy, distant government intrusion is a bedrock conservative principle.

The individual mandate is maybe the most onerous element of Obamacare. Forcing all Americans to buy a private-sector product was always an atrocity — upheld 5-4 by an outrageous U.S. Supreme Court decision that put the reputation of the Court above the rights of the American people by calling the mandate a “tax.” The result was that it ended up eroding both. A terrible decision. Getting rid of this monstrous assault on individual liberties is a huge benefit.

Second, it’s good for Americans’ wallets by allowing millions to choose not to have insurance, or traditional health insurance, and keeping money they earn to spend how they choose.

Democrats would undoubtedly demagogue such a move — they laughably denounced the original proposals as tax cuts for the rich before even seeing it, because they are on autoplay — and the media would report the move as “throwing 13 million off their health insurance.” But of course it does no such thing. It allows people the choice, and an estimated 13 million Americans would choose not to have insurance. See how that works, media? Americans should have that freedom.

House leadership seems onboard with doing this, although it was not in their initial proposal. It still may be. However, the Senate plan revealed today does not include the mandate, and delays the corporate tax — the only strong element — for a year. Any delays are problematic because too often it has meant that it never actually happens.

The entire tax “reform” efforts just further reveal how badly the swamp needs draining — and how difficult that is to do.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.

California NAACP Calls ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ ‘Racist.’ Here’s Why Frederick Douglass Loved It.

Editorial Note: California’s NAACP has launched a campaign to remove “The Star-Spangled Banner” as America’s national anthem because it is “one of the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black songs in the American lexicon.” The organization expressed support for NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who launched the recent movement to kneel for the national anthem before sports events. The following is a reprint of an August 2016 Daily Signal article about why the song was beloved by former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

National Football League player Colin Kaepernick created a stir on Friday when he refused to stand for the national anthem at the start of a preseason game. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback cited the prevalence of racism and oppression in America as the primary reasons he sat during the playing of the song.

The Bay Area football star has been fading over the last few years and he’ll likely be doing a lot of sitting this season—for the national anthem or otherwise. But Kaepernick’s protest has initiated a national debate over patriotism and respect for the American flag.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812; it was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931 and has been a staple at sports events for more than a century. The song is filled with martial and patriotic references, finishing with a stanza that makes an ode to America as the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

To the majority of Americans, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a moving tribute to what the country represents: freedom, duty, bravery, and commitment to the men and women serving in the armed forces. Clearly, Kaepernick—who makes millions of dollars playing the game he loves—has a different view of what the over two-century-old song represents.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told the NFL media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Lambasting “The Star-Spangled Banner” isn’t a new phenomenon. Liberal groups and commentators have tried to get the tune replaced for years, citing racism (Key was a slave owner) and the inherent “militarism” of the song.

An op-ed in The Intercept supported Kaepernick’s actions by dredging up a few stanzas, since removed from the modern rendition of the anthem, that explicitly mention slavery. Columnist Jon Schwarz wrote that the song “literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.”

Hyperbolic reactions to one of America’s oldest patriotic songs fly in the face of what perhaps a dwindling number of Americans understand. Although the American republic was founded with many imperfections and contradictions—such as the institution of slavery—the timeless principles laid at its foundation have led to more human prosperity for a wider variety of people than any civilization in human history.

Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who played a critical role in the abolitionist movement in the mid-19th century, had been a frequent critic of American policy and the existence of the “peculiar institution.” However, he believed that the dearly held principles of the Declaration of Independence, and its unequivocal statement that all men are “created equal,” would eventually lead to slavery’s dissolution.

Douglass pulled no punches in criticizing slavery as a massive contradiction in American life, but he understood the evils of the system would be corrected by embracing the country’s origins rather than rejecting them. He encouraged black Americans to sign up and fight for the Union under the American flag during the Civil War, played a crucial role in recruitment efforts, and convinced many former slaves to serve in the military and embrace the United States as the vessel—not the thwarter—of freedom.

“It’s nice to know that we live in a country where sitting down during the anthem won’t land you in jail or worse.” —@RashadJennings

Douglass was known to frequently play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin for his grandchildren in the years after the war. He said in an 1871 speech at Arlington National Cemetery that “if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army.”

For the most part, fans and players in the NFL embrace a similar view of the United States.

Rashad Jennings, a black athlete who plays for the NFL’s New York Giants channeled Douglass in his support for the national anthem and the American flag. He told the New York Daily News, “It’s nice to know that we live in a country where sitting down during the anthem won’t land you in jail or worse.”

Jennings said he was proud to stand for the song and continued to explain why he supports the values contained in its verses:

I figure if it was the intention of our Founding Fathers to keep America a nation of slaves, then it wouldn’t have chosen a song where all four verses end with ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ instead of ‘land of the free, home of the slave.’

Jennings’ teammates made a point to stand at attention for the national anthem during a Saturday night game against the New York Jets.

Gallup polls indicate there has been a rapid decline of American pride in their country in recent years—a dangerous slide for a multiethnic republic bound together by principles and institutions rather than national origin.

Kaepernick’s outright attack on what the American flag exemplifies is just the latest sad episode of Americans’ abandonment of the hallmarks of their unity and love of country. This is why it is important for Americans who still believe in what the country was founded on to stand and support the symbols of our way of life.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Jarrett Stepman

Jarrett Stepman is an editor for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Jarrett. Twitter: 

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who started the modern movement to kneel for the national anthem at sports events. Photo: Loren Elliott/ZUMA Press/Newscom.

Here’s Why an Unborn Baby Was Counted as a Person in the Texas Massacre

The sheriff deputies who assessed the fatalities at the bloody crime scene at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, counted the death toll as 26 because one of the victims was a mother carrying an unborn child inside of her.

The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 recognizes unborn children as separate victims for federal and military crimes. Texas law also defines a human being to include “an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth,” and recognizes an unborn baby as a potential crime victim.

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“This has been a longstanding priority for us, and something we were instrumental in pushing,” said Jennifer Popik, a director for the National Right to Life, according to The New York Times. “The principle here is that there’s two victims. For a family already invested in the child, for the grandparents, this is a loss.”

Abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America defends harsher penalties for perpetrators who commit crimes against pregnant women, however, the group strongly opposes crime victim laws and “personhood” laws that give unborn babies separate legal status from the mother. These laws are an attempt to prevent women from getting abortions, according to NARAL.

“We need tougher laws on the books that increase criminal penalties for individuals who target pregnant women, and we stand with our allies in support of meaningful legislation to prevent future acts of gun violence,” said NARAL spokesperson Kaylie Long.

President Donald Trump’s administration has also defined life at conception. The Department of Health and Human Services “accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” according to a draft plan from the agency.

Even New York’s World Trade Center memorial includes the words “and her unborn child” after the names of the pregnant women who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Thirty-eight states currently have fetal homicide laws.

Grace Carr

Grace Carr is a reporter for The Daily Caller News Foundation. Twitter: @gbcarr24

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Diversity Visa Lottery: A Game of ‘Russian Roulette’

American sovereignty and security dismantled under the guise of “diversity.”

On Tuesday, October 31, 2017 New York City suffered a deadly terror attack on a well-known and heavily used bike path in lower Manhattan, just blocks from what, in the wake of the terror attacks of 9/11, had come to be known as “Ground Zero.”

The perpetrator of this heinous savage attack is a 29-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, who reportedly legally immigrated to the United States in 2010 subsequent to winning the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Consequently, attention immediately turned to the Diversity Visa Program that annually enables approximately 50,000 aliens annually to enter the United States as lawful immigrants.

Aliens who participate in this visa lottery are citizens of countries that send the United States the smallest number of lawful immigrants.  These aliens do not need to possess any special skills or abilities and do not need to have any family ties to the United States.

There is no application fee for this category of immigrant visa. Under this program apparently being “diverse” is all that matters. This does absolutely nothing to benefit America or Americans and therefore must be terminated.

The State Department provides a table for Fiscal Years 2007-2016 for “Immigrant Number Use for Visa Issuances and Adjustments of Status in the Diversity Immigrant Category.”

Clearly, more than 16 years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the “All Clear” has not sounded and the “War on Terror” continues on as more innocent victims are slaughtered.  Nevertheless, there are members of Congress who have recently questioned the legal authority known as AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists) being used by President Trump to deploy members of the U.S. Armed Forces to wage war against ISIS, Al Qaeda and related deadly terrorist organizations. AUMF was passed by Congress just days after the attacks of 9/11.

Ironically, the latest deadly terror attack in New York City was carried out even as some members of Congress were publicly questioning AUMF, incredibly complaining that it gives President Trump too much discretion to deploy our armed forces to fight terrorist organizations that seek to kill as many Americans as possible, especially within our own borders.

Those politicians must not have gotten the memo that wars and armed conflicts do not end because leaders unilaterally wish that the wars or conflicts would end.  Wars only end when both sides agree to a cease-fire or a more permanent solution is reached.  Peace can only be achieved when the aggressors are forced to cease hostile actions.  Invariably, this requires the demonstration of unwavering resolve.  This requires the use, or threat of use, of overwhelming force.

The United States has no alternative.

Under the leadership of the Trump administration Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban and other related terror organizations are facing military pressure that is forcing them out of their strongholds in Syria, but they are not laying down their arms.  Instead they are dispersing around the world determined to use terrorism as a means of continuing the battles within the borders of other countries.

The United States is the country that terrorists are most determined to attack. The borders of the United States are our first line of defense and last line of defense against these savage terrorists.

It is therefore more than a little ironic that, while the administration’s plans to construct a secure wall also the U.S./Mexican border are denounced by many political “leaders,” just two days after this latest deadly terror attack in Manhattan NBC News reported that New York City is installing barrier walls along the west side highway bike path.

That wall to protect the bike path is, however, largely cosmetic. It will do nothing to stop terrorists from ramming vehicles into pedestrians crossing intersections or walking on sidewalks throughout New York City

A wall on the border, however, would constitute a significant element of what needs to be a cohesive and coordinated strategy to prevent the entry of terrorists, criminals and contraband into the United States.

In point of fact, the 9/11 Commission Staff Report on Terrorist Travel detailed numerous instances where terrorists made use of visa and immigration benefit fraud to enter the United States also to embed themselves in the United States.

Page 54 contained this excerpt under the title “3.2 Terrorist Travel Tactics by Plot.”

Although there is evidence that some land and sea border entries (of terrorists) without inspection occurred, these conspirators mainly subverted the legal entry system by entering at airports.

In doing so, they relied on a wide variety of fraudulent documents, on aliases, and on government corruption. Because terrorist operations were not suicide missions in the early to mid-1990s, once in the United States terrorists and their supporters tried to get legal immigration status that would permit them to remain here, primarily by committing serial, or repeated, immigration fraud, by claiming political asylum, and by marrying Americans. Many of these tactics would remain largely unchanged and undetected throughout the 1990s and up to the 9/11 attack.

Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.

Intensifying efforts to maintain so-called “sanctuary cities” hobble efforts to enforce our immigration laws from within the interior of the United States and thus are Ignoring the 9/11 Commission warnings.

Additionally, President Trump’s executive order to prevent terrorists from entering the United States which has come to be referred to as the “Travel Ban” is actually known as the Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.

The courts, including the Supreme Court, has block the implementation of President Trump’s Executive Order which parallels existing federal law, Section (f) of 8 U.S. Code § 1182, and has been invoked by prior Presidents including Carter, Bush (43) and Obama.

The war on terror has multiple fronts. To win we must fight the war on terror here, there and everywhere.

Furthermore, where the entry of international terrorists into the United States is concerned, since the attacks of 9/11 other terrorists have also entered with a variety of visas.

To mention just two of many such instances, consider the San Bernardino terror attack perpetrated by Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.  Farook was an native-born American whose parents came to the United States from Pakistan.  Malik was born in Saudi Arabia, moved to Pakistan and then was granted a K-1 fiancé visa pursuant an application filed by Farook.

On December 2, 2015 they carried out a savage terror attack which resulted in the slaughter of 14 innocent victims and the wounding of 22 more victims.  It is theorized that she may have radicalized her husband.

The Tsarnaev brothers who carried out the deadly terror attack at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, had entered the United States with their family and were subsequently granted political asylum which then enabled them to acquire lawful immigrant status. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving younger of the two brothers has been convicted for his crimes and has been sentenced to be executed.  He became a naturalized citizen shortly before the attacks.  Applicants for naturalization are supposed to undergo a Good Moral Character investigation. Clearly this vetting process failed.

Indeed, there are numerous failures of the immigration system that, although were identified by the 9/11 Commission, have yet to be effectively addressed.

Ironically, just a couple of weeks before the latest attack, my article Homeland Security Uncovers Massive Immigration Failures that focused on two DHS Inspector General reports that detailed dire immigration failures.

Clearly it can be stated that DHS Ineptitude Facilitates Terrorist Operations.

In the weeks and months after the attacks of 9/11 our leaders constantly reminded us that for the terrorists to succeed, they (the terrorists) need only “get it right” once.  On the other hand, in order to protect Americans from terror attacks, our officials needed to be right 100% of the time.

Every time an alien gains entry into the United States, either legally or illegally, terror groups are provided with an opportunity to infiltrate the United States.

In this perilous age, this is the equivalent of the deadly game of “Russian Roulette.”

Hope is not a strategy, the President must be given the resources to defend our nation and our citizens and those resources must extend well beyond our borders.

ICE agents need to have the cooperation of local and state police in enforcing our laws and to cultivate informants and cooperators within ethnic immigrant communities.  This is not a new concept, but an old one.  It was how my colleagues and I routinely operated back when I first became an INS special agent decades ago.  It not only helped to keep America and Americans safe, but especially helped to keep the immigrants in every ethnic immigrant community safe.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.

Culture is Downstream of Politics

By Maggie Gallagher and Frank Cannon

Walk into any room full of Christian conservative donors, and someone will say, “Politics is downstream of culture.” Every head in the room will nod. Nothing is more entrenched as conventional wisdom among Christian conservatives. Like most truisms, this one is only partly true. As people change their beliefs about what is true and good, politics changes as well. But putting culture above politics as a distinct sphere is profoundly mistaken, for politics is part of culture.

Politics allows the American people to give public form to what they believe to be true, good, and important; it is also the main way Americans decide which views are “within the pale” and which are beyond it. Elites of the left dominate most other domains: the mainstream media, the academy, the arts, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and increasingly the Chamber of Commerce and corporate suites. When an idea or issue drops out of politics, therefore, progressives can easily stigmatize it as outside the mainstream, extremist, and intolerable, effectively ending conversation. But election results feed back into culture. Political realities can override the dictates of the left, as Trump’s election reminds us.

Politics is full of cultural content. When our ideas find success at the polls, traditional believers find out that they are not alone, isolated, or on the fringe. This strengthens our voice in the public square. When voters swept Ronald Reagan into the White House, the New York Times could no longer define conservatives as outside the mainstream.

Electoral victories have other cultural consequences. Harvard Law School recently established an Antonin Scalia chair. Has Harvard suddenly been persuaded that Scalia’s ideas are sound? Probably not. Harvard publicly acknowledges the intellectual legitimacy of Scalia’s textualist and originalist approach to constitutional interpretation only because, thanks to politics, the Federalist Society has a great deal of influence on Republican nominations to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court.

The give-and-take of politics also tells Americans what views their fellow citizens hold and care about. In November 2016, many liberals were shocked to discover that their preoccupations were not shared by many voters in swing states. Politicians who want to win elections respond to this information and adjust to win the votes they need to gain office. That’s why Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. He was tired of watching Democrats lose elections because they were outside the mainstream of middle America. As a consequence, religious liberty became a bipartisan commitment for at least a decade.

This is not to say that culture does not influence politics. The left can use media power to intimidate Republicans, encouraging them to fall silent about particular issues. But this is almost always matched by political spending for issues and candidates, which reinforces cultural messages. Fairly quickly, this combination leads to cultural change. When only one side is willing to speak enthusiastically about a prominent issue, people begin to believe there really is only one side. The polls shift quickly as the hearts and minds of the mushy middle move toward the only visible position. If only one team is on the field, it wins by default.

The push for gay marriage provides a case study. In the years leading up to the Obergefell decision, Republicans stopped talking about the substance of the issue. Instead of vigorously defending marriage, they increasingly sidestepped, briefly acknowledging their support of traditional marriage or reverting to federalism (“leave the matter to the states”). This approach communicated clearly to voters that defending marriage was not an issue of central concern. Meanwhile, Democratic candidates trumpeted “marriage equality” and “love is love.” Not surprisingly, opinion polls shifted toward approval of gay marriage.

For this reason, “truce strategies” damage the causes religious and social conservatives support. When our positions are not articulated in politics, opponents can easily caricature and dismiss them. Truce strategies also forgo opportunities to effect substantive change. As political scientists Edward G. Carmines and James A. Stimson have pointed out, issues that change partisan alignments and re-orient the electorate’s views have three characteristics:

“Issue preferences must be deeply felt.” A passionate minority can move mountains in elections. Indeed, the notion of activating a moral majority has been one of the weak points in Christian conservatives’ political model. Consider the polling on the proposal to ban “assault-style weapons.” Eighty percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic favor such a ban, and so do 54 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican. Yet the NRA can block such a ban because they are able to rally a minority of voters who feel very strongly—and are politically organized.

The Christian conservative movement has taken a different approach, encouraging a “mass uprising,” a moral majority that feels strongly that it can win elections without political organization or targeted action. This never worked very well, leading to threats that voters would stay home if the GOP didn’t implement our priorities—mass defection as a model of political influence. Neither idea amounts to a plan, certainly not a plan for our times. Meanwhile, the broader culture disintegrates on sexual matters and the LGBT community tightens its hold on culture-shaping institutions that channel and intensify hatred against traditional believers.

“Parties and candidates must take up visibly different positions on the issue.” Carmines and Stimson point out that the cultural and political consequences are most dramatic when the two parties take clearly articulated, opposing stands. But cultural consequences also follow when “one of the parties chooses to ignore the issue while the other party takes a strong stand.” Either way, “the degree of objective party differentiation on major issues” is “very critical in the shaping of public opinion.”

To keep our moral principles in the mainstream, we need high-profile political commitments that command the loyalty of significant chunks of the electorate. The sanctity of life provides the most obvious example. The left would like to brand the pro-life position as outside the mainstream, but cannot. The reason why rests in the political salience of our position, not the left’s “fair-mindedness.” The unwillingness of Republican politicians to sustain a clear commitment to traditional marriage illustrates what happens when our views are not put forward as clear political commitments. The position that until almost yesterday was nearly universal now has been branded as bigotry. If we do not change our strategy, religious liberty will soon be in the same position. Legal strategies without a political strategy will not be enough.

“The issue must be long on the political agenda.” To sustain the cultural impact of political involvement, Christian conservatives must keep their commitments on the political agenda over time. The pro-life community learned to move from the Human Life Amendment to smaller legislative issues such as late-term abortions and taxpayer funding, winning important victories and keeping the pro-life cause in politics for decades. This is one of the reasons the pro-life movement has gained ground culturally. The scandal of abortion remains before the public, working against the pro-abortion forces that would like to hide the reality of the killing of the unborn.

Political scientists in the seventies predicted that public opposition to abortion would collapse as older generations died off. Abortion polling looked about as dismal at that time as gay marriage polling does now. In 1972, 66 percent of those under age thirty felt there should be no restriction on abortion at all. But predictions about the direction of history turned out to be wrong. The cause of life has been able to win a large share of succeeding generations in part by keeping abortion alive as a political issue.

Today, just a few short years after Mitch Daniels, then-governor of Indiana, tried to persuade the GOP to adopt a truce strategy on abortion and other social issues, Democrats are acknowledging their abortion extremism is costing them votes. Both Bernie Sanders and DNC Chair Tom Perez publicly supported a self-described pro-life Democrat, Heath Mello, for mayor of Omaha. Perez admitted that abortion extremism is hurting the Democrats politically: “In order to execute a 50-state strategy, we need to understand what’s going on in all 50 states, and attract candidates who are consistent with their messages but perhaps not on 100 percent of the issues.” Attacks by pro-abortion groups caused Perez to walk back his support, and Mello promised to vote for only pro-choice legislation. But a few months later, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, announced that a pro-abortion position would no longer be required for its support: “There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates.”

All of this suggests that culture is in some sense also downstream of politics, not just the other way around. Data from other countries reinforce this conclusion. Americans are nearly twice as likely as Canadians to say abortion should not be permitted at all. We are three times more likely than the British to say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In Great Britain, according to another poll, support for a ban on abortion actually fell between 2005 and 2013 from 12 percent to 7 percent. Religious people in Great Britain were about as likely to support legal abortion as other citizens. These striking differences no doubt reflect some cultural differences, but surely the specifically political influence of a vigorous pro-life movement that can win elections in the United States is an important factor.

The left seems to have learned this lesson. They approached gay marriage in ways designed to shut it down as a political issue. Progressives invested heavily in innovative direct political action, which, combined with its media influence, helped them defeat major social conservative leaders who spoke out against gay marriage, most prominently Sen. Rick Santorum. It was a strategy described in the now-famous March 2007 Atlantic essay “They Won’t Know What Hit Them.”

Others have been targeted. As a Colorado Congresswoman, Marilyn Musgrave sponsored the federal Marriage Amendment in the House of Representatives, where she introduced it in 2003. The gay left’s campaign against her began in 2006 when the multimillionaire tech entrepreneur Tim Gill and his fellow pro–gay marriage donors poured $2 million into negative ads opposing her reelection. These ads never mentioned gay marriage. Instead, they criticized Rep. Musgrave for voting against a pay raise for Iraq War veterans.

She hung on with 51 percent of the vote in 2006, but with the template established, gay mega-donors returned in 2008 with a similar strategy. They worked to defeat her because of her opposition to gay marriage, but that remained invisible. The voting public saw only ads driving up her negatives on every conceivable issue. “Musgrave took over $183,000 from Big Oil and gave them billions in tax breaks,” one ad said. Another had a voiceover intone, “A citizen watchdog group named Musgrave one of the most corrupt members of Congress.” As Musgrave told one of us, “They even started fake pro-life organizations to claim I’m not pro-life enough.”

In the face of these sophisticated and well-financed attacks, pro-family Christian conservative organizations continue to do politics as usual, investing most of their resources in pastor organizing, voter guides, voter registration efforts, referendum efforts, and policy papers. This is all to the good, but it is not good enough, at least not in today’s political climate.

After Musgrave and others were punished politically, Republican elites concluded that opposing gay marriage would hurt them. They were able to wiggle away from a public stance on the issue because social conservatives did not appear to have political resources to help them fight back against the kind of tactics that defeated Musgrave. We talk with many intelligent Evangelicals who see candidate recruitment as the key to electing politicians who will not betray us. But electing faithful Christians like Marilyn Musgrave won’t help if we do not have the political resources to defend and protect them.

Pat McCrory, the North Carolina governor who was the lone Republican in 2016 to stand up against Obama’s transgender edict requiring public schools to let biological males in girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams, went down to defeat because of the same lack of astute tactical support from social conservatives. The left does not have to defeat everyone. They only need to demonstrate they can defeat one of our leaders. This sends other Republicans scurrying for political cover.

Republicans silenced themselves on marriage not after they lost the support of the American people but before. In 2009, Americans opposed gay marriage 54 percent to 37 percent according to a Pew poll. By 2010, when Mitch Daniels publicly announced that the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues,” Americans were still evenly divided. When the other side keeps fighting, “truce” is another word for surrender. Today, more than three-fifths of the American people support gay marriage, including 40 percent of Republicans.

The left has now moved on to redefining religious liberty as a license to discriminate, using the same successful tactics. There remains a substantial reservoir of support for religious liberty. As recently as July 2015, according to an AP poll, a third of Democrats and 59 percent of independents say religious liberty should trump gay rights where they conflict. But if we continue to respond to challenges with our failed tactics, religious liberty will lose too, not just politically but culturally as well.

The last decade has made one thing clear: Nonpolitical cultural strategies without a new, better, deeper, and more effective investment in direct politics will fail. At a minimum, to sustain religious liberty, we will need an effective political arm to win legislative battles for our schools, charities, and businesses. We cannot preserve our cultural consensus about the First Amendment without making it clear that those who wish to undermine religious liberty will pay a dear price at the polls.

Apolitical movement needs many things: messaging shops, coalition builders, policy reports, candidate recruitment, attractive spokesmen, and voter registration drives. But these exist to support, not replace, the central act of democratic politics, which is winning elections. This is precisely what social conservatives lack. We lack the capacity to elect our friends and defeat our opponents. Which means we need to build the organizational structures that can engage directly in politics: PACs, super PACs, and 501(c)(4) independent expenditures.

We need to propose specific legislation that forces politicians to defend our positions. If elected officials have to vote, they will need to explain and justify their votes in public. When they do so, the general public will hear someone defending our commitments as true and our policies as good. By contrast, when we organize around generic principles rather than specific legislation, it is easy for politicians to mislead or confuse voters. The rhetoric of “judicial restraint” and “federalism” are classic instances. They may be good principles, but in recent decades they have been ways for elected officials to suggest they are pro-life, pro-marriage, or pro–religious liberty without actually saying so in public.

The 2012 election demonstrated the need for change in the way we address politics and culture. Mitt Romney was nominally against gay marriage, but he ran no ads on the issue. Obama and the Democrats were all-in for gay marriage. What happened? Did any national social conservative organization go into Ohio or North Carolina and spend even $2 million to demonstrate the issue could deprive the Democrats of the White House? No. We accepted our role in the aging Reagan coalition, which has become that of a silent partner. We let the Republican operatives in D.C. dictate electoral strategy, which advised promoting economic issues and downplaying social issues.

We have a long way to go. Our research shows that between 2007 and 2014, conservative organizations dedicated to changing public policy on life, marriage, and religious liberty spent just under $75 million in direct political spending. By contrast, the leading gay-rights political organization, Human Rights Campaign, recently pledged to spend $26 million in 2018 on direct political action. Emily’s List, one of the largest pro-abortion PACs, spent $36 million in 2016 and is likely to spend as much or more in the upcoming electoral cycle. In other words, only two organizations on the left will spend in one year almost as much on direct political action as all socially conservative organizations combined spent between 2007 and 2014. Comprehensive data for 2015 and 2016 are not yet available. But the preliminary data suggest political spending by social conservatives is falling, not rising.

This must change. We need to invest resources in direct political spending that helps us focus the 2018 elections on the left’s threats to religious liberty and its transgender extremism. We need to show that the outspoken representatives of these views can be defeated in elections. Defeats of just a few hardcore culture warriors on the left will sober up other Democratic politicians. Persuading even 3 percent of those who usually vote Democratic to turn against the left in close purple-state elections will have a far greater impact, politically and culturally, than any “rally the base” strategy.

The Democratic party pushes deeply unpopular policies because rich donors who support LGBT and abortion extremism provide them with direct political money. They have come to rely on Republican silence on these issues. They cash the checks and are not held accountable at election time. We’ve lived through a counterproductive cycle of elections in which Republicans gave us green-eyeshade issues such as deficit reduction and tax cuts for those with higher incomes, while Democrats hammered away at us as “bigots” and “haters.”

It is past time to set aside the failed truce strategy of recent decades. We need a political strategy that will take our case to ambivalent Democrats and independents. This will make social conservatives more politically influential—and more culturally influential as well, for politics is part of culture.

EDITORS NOTE: Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow and Frank Cannon is president at the American Principles Project. The full report and data on which this article is based are available at CaseForPolitics.com.

Colonel Leland Bohannon Needs Your Help!

Dear Fellow American,

Leland Bohannon

Leland Bohannon is a decorated colonel who has devoted decades of his life to serving our Air Force, including flying missions in the B-2 stealth bomber. He’s been ranked first on his performance reports, has been bestowed numerous honors, and trusted with oversight of nuclear weapons. In other words, he’s the model Air Force officer.

Yet Colonel Bohannon’s life and service are about to be completely derailed because he could not in good conscience sign a “certificate of spouse appreciation” for a service member in a same-sex marriage. Despite the certificate obtaining a signature from an officer of even higher rank, when the service member saw that Colonel Bohannon had not personally signed it, he filed an Equal Opportunity complaint against him.

The Equal Opportunity investigator claimed that Colonel Bohannon violated Air Force regulations by supposedly discriminating against the service member based on sexual orientation. The investigator acknowledged that Colonel Bohannon had asked for a religious accommodation, but claimed—unbelievably—that even had the accommodation been granted, Colonel Bohannon would nonetheless be guilty of unlawful discrimination.

As a result, his superior suspended Colonel Bohannon, withheld his decoration, and submitted a poor performance appraisal to the Air Force Brigadier General promotion board—the rank for which Colonel Bohannon is eligible—recommending that he not be promoted.

Not only is all of this a big waste of time for everyone involved, it is clearly unlawful and unconstitutional. The Equal Opportunity investigator completely failed to understand the nature of how religious accommodations work. Moreover, religious freedom law and military policy demand that he be granted an accommodation in an instance like this—where the objective is easily fulfilled with another signature on the certificate.

At best, this entire matter is a distraction for Colonel Bohannon. At worst, it could end his career.

Please sign the petition below. Colonel Bohannon needs your help!

God bless,

Image

 

 

Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin
Executive Vice President
Family Research Council

VIDEO: What Happens When Google Disagrees With You?

Is Google open to a diverse array of viewpoints? Or is it an ideological echo chamber? Just ask former Google software engineer James Damore. He was fired for disagreeing with Google’s (left-wing) orthodoxy. In this video, James shares his story.

Remembering the Horrors of Kristallnacht – Lest we as human beings ever forget

This week marks a cruel yet hopeful anniversary. On November 9-10, 1938, a two-day period now known as Kristallnacht, Nazis plundered Jewish homes, schools and businesses across Germany. My grandfather, only 14 at the time, recalled seeing Jewish stores looted, books burned, and signs saying “kill the Jews.” Two days later, he received a letter from his family saying that his father, my great-grandfather, had been taken to Dachau, which we now know was the equivalent of a death sentence.

It has never been easy to come to grips with my family history. My aunt recently completed a family tree going back centuries; many of its branches end abruptly in the late 1930s and early 1940s. These names, no more than entries on a piece of paper to me, represent my heritage, my family—much of it lost in the hollow corridors of concentration camps. I can only imagine how my life would have been different had my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins never experienced the merciless brutality of the Holocaust.

My grandparents shared bits and pieces of their experiences with me as I grew up, careful to say only as much as they thought I could handle. One day, while riding around on my grandfather’s lap in his electric wheelchair, I asked him, “What is that number on your arm?” Transforming a physical characteristic designed to make him less human into a source of feigned pride, he told me it was a number that made him unique because he was the only person in the world who had it. Only later, as I approached my teenage years, did my grandfather tell me that a fellow prisoner tattooed the number—117022—on his left forearm when he arrived at Auschwitz.

Four years ago, on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, I spoke publicly about my grandparents’ experience for the first time. Standing in the rotunda of the Minnesota Capitol, I read my grandfather’s account of being transported on a freight car to Auschwitz, stripped of civilian clothes upon arrival, and forced to run naked through a cold April rain.

My grandfather had the uncommon gift of being able to see the light of human generosity in the midst of near-total darkness. He recounted his experience at the camp hospital, sick and malnourished: German nurses reported to their superiors that they had discharged my grandfather when they in fact transferred him to another room until he was able to recover. Their kindness, he said—which they undertook at great risk to their own lives—saved him from the gas chamber.

My grandfather again saw the best and worst in humanity after he agreed to participate in an escape plot. The guards captured three co-conspirators, who were hanged in the middle of the camp as a prisoner orchestra played German songs to accompany the spectacle. The men took the secret of my grandfather’s involvement to their graves.

Only after years researching their stories and reflecting on their lives do I understand the message my grandparents had tried to impart—one of hope and gratitude, not bitterness or pity. As my grandfather said in a memorial service speech in 1979, we remember those who “lost their lives while fighting for their freedom, the freedom of us and the freedom of mankind.” He emphasized that “we, the survivors, have to let the world know that we will never again allow another Holocaust” and told the audience that “you, and you alone, have the responsibility to speak up for our fallen relatives and friends.”

My grandparents always said they were the lucky ones, and that they were left on earth to speak for those who had perished. Their guidepost was humanity, not indulgence in their own sorrow and suffering.

They spoke for their friends and family members who were not “lucky” enough to make it, and to ensure that the stories of those who perished did not become footnotes in a dusty history book in the library. Theirs was a message of optimism, intended to ensure that their children and grandchildren were able to lead a life free from the atrocities that they had witnessed. I get it now, grandma and grandpa, and I hope the world gets it now too.

Justice Stras serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is a nominee for the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

‘What is that number on your arm?’ I asked my grandfather one day, too young to have heard of Auschwitz.

Government Owned Land: How much do we need?

Conservation or Control?

Both the United States and the State of Florida were founded on the recognition, and consistent defense of, the concept of private property rights. It was no theoretical warning given by Founding Father Arthur Lee of Virginia when he said,

The right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive a people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.

The ideas of self-determination, individualism, and self-reliance fostered and demanded by this principle have shaped the settlement and prosperity of our country and state.  From such beginnings until today, these values remain an integral part of our culture and way of life.

However, across the country, government continues to pursue policies that erode this fundamental right. Among the most serious of these encroachments is the aggressive and continued acquisition and regulatory control of land.

A Policy of Failure in the West

Government land acquisition is most noticeable in states west of the Mississippi River, where approximately 50 percent of all land is owned by the federal government.  In states such as Utah, Idaho, Arkansas and, Nevada, federal ownership exceeds 70 percent.[1] For decades, western states have seen firsthand how this disproportionate amount of federal land ownership deprives them and their citizens of economic opportunities. This challenge is only growing worse as environmental interests and centralized government work to lock up the land and its resources.

A consequence of such a federal policy is many local governments in Western states have significantly less private property available to tax than their eastern counterparts.  Every acre taken over by the federal government is an acre off the tax rolls. Less tax revenue means budget constraints on vital services like police protection, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, firefighting, search and rescue operations and public education. Rather than return property to local ownership and control, the federal government has chosen to offset the loss of property taxes by establishing the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program.[2] States in the West must increasingly rely on those states in the East to fund land management and government services through subsidies.

In the West, excessive federal ownership and control of land prevents state and private interests from best-use and management of property. As a result, trillions of dollars of potential revenue that could go towards strengthening economies, funding land management, and meeting needs of citizens is left untapped.

A Lesson for Florida   

In Florida, policymakers should be vigilant to avoid the plight of states west of the Mississippi.  While federal ownership is not as acutely felt in Florida as in the West (although Florida helps pay for subsidies to the west), state government ownership and control is growing and potentially could have a significant impact.

According to a February 2017 summary published by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida contains 34.7 million non-submerged acres.  Of that total, more than 10.2 million acres (nearly 30 percent) are held in conservation.  Breaking down further, state government owns and manages 14.1 percent; the federal government owns and manages 11.6 percent; and, local governments account for 1.4 percent. This does not begin to consider the acreage used for state and local government office buildings, agency operations, maintenance, etc.  It also does not include acreage used to house state educational facilities.

The most aggressive government acquisition of property has come in the area of conservation.  The Florida Legislature passed several laws to expand conservation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, it was during the years 1999 to 2015 when the acquisition of conservation land intensified.  During this period, two programs were passed by the Florida Legislature that increased the amount of state-owned conservation lands by 30 percent[4].

Acquisition is Costly

From 1999 to 2005, the Preservation 2000 program acquired land for conservation. Since 2001, the Florida Forever program has acquired conservation lands and continues in effect today. As of June 30, 2015, via these two programs, the state has purchased approximately 2.5 million acres at a direct cost of $6.2 million to Florida’s taxpayers.[5] This direct cost does not account for the revenues lost from the property being removed from the tax rolls.

During the years of the Great Recession, conservation land purchases by the state were diminished due to decreased state revenues. However, as the economy has stabilized and rising revenue projections have returned, calls for land purchases and conservation easements (privately-owned lands dedicated in perpetuity for conservation in exchange for tax breaks) are increasing in volume.

In 2014, Florida voters passed the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. This state constitutional amendment designates one-third of real estate documentary stamp revenues toward conservation land acquisition, maintenance of government owned property, renovation of historical sites, and restoration of the environment, especially the Everglades, etc. To some, this presented an opportunity to balance the aggressive acquisition of land with funding enabling the state to better steward its government-owned land and water. But to others, it was seen and promoted as an open checkbook for aggressive (and unnecessary) land acquisition.

Maintenance is Costly (and Recurring)

Easily overlooked by those advocating for more land purchases is the cost of property maintenance. Maintenance is critical to clear brush for preventing wildfires, fighting off invasive species and plants, and protecting the overall land aesthetic.  Unlike the one-time cost of property purchases, maintenance is an on-going, recurring expenditure. It requires employees (salaries, insurance and pensions), facilities, equipment, fuel, and other expenses.

The 2016 Annual Report of the Land Management Uniform Accounting Council [6] states that in FY 2015-2016, state agencies in Florida spent more than $173 million to manage 3.4 million acres of conservation lands.  Accounting for tourist revenues of approximately $79 million, the net cost to taxpayers for maintenance of conservation lands was $94.6 million or $28.23 per acre [7]. Such maintenance expenditures are sure to increase and, again, will be incurred every year.

Based on the 2016 Annual Report and assuming an acquisition cost of $2,500 per acre (the average price per acre in both the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs [8]), the acquisition of 20,000 acres for conservation would incur a one-time cost of $50 million.  In addition to this, an annual maintenance cost of approximately $565,000 would need to be added to an already stretched state budget.

Debt Service is Costly (and Recurring)

Another often overlooked stress on the state budget is the cost of debt service.  A 2017 report from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research reveals, “To date, the state has issued approximately $2.0 billion of Florida Forever bonds. The most recent year that new bonds were authorized was Fiscal Year 2008-09. As of September 2016, the aggregate principal amount of outstanding bonds is $1.0 billion, with debt service of approximately $145.2 million due in Fiscal Year 2016-2017. If no new bonds are sold, the estimated debt service is expected to decline each year through Fiscal Year 2028-29, at which time the Florida Forever bonds would be retired.”

Local Loss is Costly

In addition to the state budget, financial stress is also felt at the local level.  County and municipal budgets are funded primarily from property taxes. Property owners’ taxes fund local education, road maintenance, law enforcement, social workers, growth management, environmental protection, and flood control, just to name a few spending categories.

As government purchases take property off the tax rolls, less revenue is available to provide necessary services. This puts local governments in the difficult position to either reduce services or raise taxes on the remaining taxable private properties.  Increasing government land ownership inevitably creates a negative ripple effect impacting all levels of the public sector.

The inherent tension is a result of an economic concept called “opportunity cost.” State revenues are fixed by tax structure. Every dollar we spend on one service is a dollar not being used to support another service. We elect policymakers to make informed decisions on our behalf. Often, around election cycles, special interest groups will assert themselves for greater levels of taxpayer support. Government’s property acquisitions, maintenance, and debt service also compete for these funds.

Today, the impact of government land ownership is felt most acutely in the western states massive federal land ownership and its financial strains like states and their citizens in the west. Florida policymakers should take heed and work to curb the never-satisfied desire to control more and more land. Floridians already help pay for the subsidies western states receive due to massive government ownership and the costs incurred.

Florida’s policymakers should consider how much government owned conservation land we truly need and how we plan to afford to keep it.

Author

Dan Peterson Headshot - The James Madison Institute
DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR PROPERTY RIGHTS

  1. http://propertyrightsresearch.org/2004/articles6/state_by_state_government_land_o.htm
  2. https://www.doi.gov/pilt/
  3. http://fnai.org/PDF/Maacres_201702_FCL_plus_LTF.pdf
  4. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Statistical Abstract, Land Conservation
  5. Ibid
  6. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/ARC/2016_LMUAC_Annual.pdf
  7. Ibid
  8. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Statistical Abstract, Land Conservation
  9. http://edr.state.fl.us/Content/special-research-projects/natural%20resources/LandandWaterAnnual%20Assessment_2017Edition.pdf

In Beijing, Trump Meets a Man Who Just Quietly Achieves

By NSS staff

Imagine being lost somewhere and not even knowing what country you are in. Pretty scary, wouldn’t you say?

And yet that is precisely where most of us Westerners are in our world with regard to where we stand, to the unseen powers holding sway over us and to the powers in the East that oppose the Western elites. Most imagine that Washington (or Brussels) is the centre of the power that protects us and that the US dollar (or euro) pays for this protection and always will. As for the world of ideas, we imagine that there is this thing called “Western values” and it is the centre of our intellectual and moral universe, the collection of all those things we hold dear and are prepared to defend against their enemies – as long as no blood is shed.

We generally believe that there is this thing called freedom of speech, and yet if a Western pastor dared to say from the sanctuary of his pulpit that marriage is designed by God solely as a union between a man and a woman, he would soon be challenged, gingerly at first perhaps but shortly a group of defenders of Western values would likely descend on him and his family demanding that he cease and desist from preaching this obsolete truth and would make it clear in no uncertain terms that they are not kidding. There is no longer debate, just “settled truths.” But the people are not the ones doing the settling.

Thus, paradoxically, while “Western values” includes the concept of free speech, this only applies to speech confined to the narrowing realm of “Western values,” which, under a law that is unwritten but strictly enforced by radical members of the populace, some speech is in fact unavailable to ordinary people.

And this is because the entire West is locked into an ideology, which New Silk Strategies has, in a reference paper, posted in the following 3 parts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

To recap, the West dances to the tune of the radical school of the Enlightenment, which in the real world of past centuries turned out to be anything but enlightened. It led in fact to the bloody French Revolution and indirectly to Bonaparte’s bloody romp across Europe and Russia. It is an ideology that could be aptly called Benighted Enlightenment or to coin a neologism, Benightenment.

The ideas represented in this benighted enlightenment deny common sense, traditions – Christianity and traditional family in particular – traditional manufacturing-based economics, morality, decency and human kindness and sentiment, and promote a foreign policy that is devoid of any palpable diplomacy, being designed to punish countries that resist “Western values” and to avenge the West of any who dare defy its sacrosanct systems, particularly the banking system, or sully any of numerous economic, political or military interests of the US.
The problem for the “Belightened” Ones is that, while in their tiny make-believe world, all traditions must go, there still persist in their ambiance nuisance countries that nurture traditions, including the most offensive, ie, Christian faith and a traditional definition of marriage and family. Not because traditional methods fail to solve problems – because in fact, they work – but because they see these as hangovers of a Christian world that must be destroyed at all costs because Christianity was peopled by people and not saints, proving that God had failed them. It was a baby to be discarded with the bath water because the bath water is dirty, so the baby must be not clean but defective.

Unlike traditional governments, the US defends its economy not so much through economic development and growth but more by attempting to impoverish others in a zero-sum game based on the belief that wealth is finite, so that there can only be winners and losers and no such thing as a win-win situation. Thus for the US, competition from other countries is more of a declaration of war than a challenge to be met with improvements and growth in the US economy. There’s only room for one of us in this town.

The biggest offenders at this time are Russia and China, who reject this aggressive US ethnocentrism and treat competitors, even those like the US that seek conflict, with respect, calling them partners.

It was in this context that Donald Trump’s former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon told the Economist in an interview shortly after his dismissal (or resignation, depending on whose version you believe): “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.” (Bannon apparently did not know that the latest designation was Belt and Road Initiative, BRI). Briefly, the BRI is a massive Chinese infrastructure project designed in part to lift both China and Africa, for example, out of poverty.

Bannon’s statement can be understood and interpreted only in the context briefly described above. It was not just a reflection of his personal ideology but in fact is perfectly in line with the West’s irrational benighted “enlightenment” ideology.

This is the Western world where you are now, a world where hate holds sway over love and profound ignorance over knowledge and wisdom.

But there is a new sheriff and deputy in town.

In the context of Trump’s upcoming visit to China, CNN posted an article on Chinese President Xi Jinping which declared that almost nothing is known about the man. Of course they said that not only because they are ignorant of the East, but also because if they had told the truth about Xi it would present an embarrassing contrast between an Easterner, a truly enlightened man who is challenging the zero-sum US economics with a deeply held belief in a win-win for everyone, and a West that seems not to comprehend this. This simple idea is explained in Xi’s book “Up and Out of Poverty,” which no one in the West seems to have read and no one has meaningfully reviewed. Which is perhaps why CNN thought nothing was known about Xi. The book, written in 1992 and later translated into English and French, tells of Xi’s experience as a social worker in Ningde in Shaanxi Province where he was sent as a youth by the government in a program along the lines of a domestic Peace Corps.

Xi, the son of a Chinese functionary from a relatively well-off city, was shocked at the grinding poverty he found in this town but immediately set about to change this situation. In short, thanks to his efforts, that town, which once had an annual average income of 198 USD, wound up with an average income of 8000 USD last year – virtually unheard of for rural China. Xi thinks he has reason to believe this miracle can be duplicated elsewhere.

Xi has stated in public that the poor concern him more than anything else. But unlike Western politicians, he was not just flapping his jaws.

A Chinese site reported:

“A total of 55.64 million Chinese rural residents were lifted out of poverty from 2013 to 2016 and at least another 10 million will shake off poverty this year, which means the number of rural Chinese lifted out of poverty in five years will exceed 65 million – roughly the population of a major European country such as Britain, France or Italy.”

While CNN admits it knows nothing about this, Xi’s dream is a nightmare to the West, where a Steve Bannon can get away with saying they want to screw up Xi’s dream to raise Africa out of poverty through his Belt and Road Initiative. Bannon was in fact saying to hell with the African poor, probably without even realizing it (the Western narrative is that the BRI is just a way of allowing China to rule the world like a despot, the way the US does now). Even worse, Bannon admitted he wants to destroy Xi’s chances of helping them. These thoughtless statements stick around in the history books. Let them eat cake?

But if the West ignores, wittingly or not, that Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at raising Africa and other nations out of poverty, Africa is keenly aware of this and anxiously awaits its culmination.

In June of 2017, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi gave a keynote address to a meeting at the opening ceremony of the High-Level Dialogue on Poverty Reduction and Development held at the African Union Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, and said that China’s goal is to simultaneously lift the poor in both China and Africa out of poverty. Wang also delivered an inspiring talk about Xi’s book on his experiences working with the poor in Ningde. So unlike US media, the Africans are aware that much is known about President Xi and that Xi is a veteran in battling poverty, with success. Can you name an American president who has successfully lifted anyone out of poverty in the last half-century? Lyndon Johnson birthed welfare, but the ghettos grew in proportion to the money paid out because no attempt was made to allow the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. Xi, however, says that is what he did in Ningde and what he intends to do in the future. He also uses the expression “win-win” often in his speeches, as if to rebuke the West for its zero-sum nonsense.

The US is the leader of the World Bank and the IMF, organizations that have been involved in Africa for decades, issuing loans but not making a dent in African poverty. The reason for their failure is perhaps best summed up in the book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins, the CEO for a CIA front company working for the World Bank whose trainer at the beginning of his career bluntly told him the goal of his company was to bankrupt Third World nations, making them dependent on these banks for more and more loans. Thus the West’s policy was self-defeating because — as Xi knows — banks make more money off of rich customers than poor ones. And this is the secret behind China’s policy: I make you rich, you make me richer.

A brief explanation of how the IMF and World Bank keep Africans poor is found here. This is consistent with our report on Iraq: Part 1 and  Part 2.

By contrast, Xi’s China has lifted millions out of poverty from 2013 to 2016. The English-language Chinese site CGTN reports:

“A total of 55.64 million Chinese rural residents were lifted out of poverty from 2013 to 2016 and at least another 10 million will shake off poverty this year, which means the number of rural Chinese lifted out of poverty in five years will exceed 65 million – roughly the population of a major European country such as Britain, France or Italy.”

So when Trump goes to Beijing, a man who boasted about making America great again will meet a man who, without a word of boasting, simply made China a better place to live – and hopes to replicate that experience elsewhere.

East vs West: Who are the Enlightened Ones?

By Vince Dhimos

Thus the old radical school of the Enlightenment had not died out. It not only survived, it acquired more force than ever, despite the removal of the abuses that had prompted the movement in the first place. This was one of the many examples of movements that outlived their raison d’être but continued to exist on sheer inertia and stubbornness.

In 1917 and thereafter, the movement to establish a Soviet Union instead of a renewed and dynamic Russia was led by the Bolsheviks, who were imbued with the ideals of the more radical Enlightenment. As such, once in power, they immediately set about eliminating all older Russian ideas, and history came to see a variation on the theme of the French revolution. Most of these leaders secretly hated Russia, as described here, and wanted a modern European system to replace all old institutions and popular beliefs and behaviors. Thus, at variance with accepted anti-Russian propaganda, the Soviet Union was in no way a product of Russianness. In fact it was due to all things Russian being suppressed.

The Chinese under Mao took this radical Enlightenment idea still further and, again, while focusing on punishing transgressors rather than solving problems, it aimed to destroy the Chinese culture. The Cultural Revolution was in fact a movement to eliminate all of Chinese culture and thought, even smashing precious antiques, and extirpating the wisdom of ancient philosophers like Confucius from the Chinese psyche. As a result they lost a generation that could have been dedicated to education, science and research. Though imbued with Enlightenment ideals, Mao knew nothing about science, which is why his method of collecting metal for industry, by melting down pots and utensils, including antique ones, failed colossally. He discovered late what ancient Chinese metallurgists had always known, namely, that many different kinds of metals when melted together form a useless malleable or brittle material with virtually no strength. The result of his grand experiment wound up on the slag heap.

However, besides a lack of scientific knowledge, what the leaders were missing in their dealings with the people was the old Confucian ideal of harmony. The favorite tactic for keeping people in line was to stir up people with a hysteria against “capitalist running dogs” and former landlords or wealthy people. People were dehumanized, induced to manufacture all kinds of false charges and rat out their friends, neighbors and family members to deflect suspicions from themselves. It was a rein of terror akin to the black-white hysteria that sometimes causes American streets to boil. The accused were generally taken out with a sign around their neck indicating their supposed crime and then beaten by a disorderly crowed, even killed at times. (Further reading here on the Cultural Revolution). But after Mao’s death, the next generation of leaders realized that they had thrown out the baby with the bath and they dusted off the old banned books about Confucius, studying them diligently but without publicising this or admitting that the party policies had changed (they did not intend to sully Mao’s memory).

You may have read about Xi’s response to Trump as they sat over cake at Mar-a-Lago and Trump informed Xi that he had just fired 59 Tomahawks at Khan Sheikhoun. Now Assad is a close ally of China, which has had ties to Syria for decades. In fact, China has plans to rebuild Syria (as shown in our translation of an unusually candid report here). Thus Trump’s obtuse words must have hurt Xi to the quick. But far from confrontational, Xi’s response to Trump was Confucian and harmonious.

According to Trump in a media interview. Xi said:

‘Anybody that uses gases’ —you could almost say or anything else — but ‘anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that to young children and babies, it’s okay.’ He was okay with it.”

I suspect even Confucius would have choked at this insincere response. (It reminded me of Will Smith as Hancock, who was advised by a psychologist to compliment his coworkers by saying “good work” after they carried out an assignment, and then proceeded to say this even when it was he who had done the job). Xi’s government later expressed bitter criticism of the Tomahawk attack in its state-owned media.

President Donald J. Trump and President Xi of China | November 8, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Both China and Russia seek harmonious relations even with the most difficult partners. This is the wave of the future and it is the result of the East learning from their earlier mistakes and the mistakes of the West, notably the total rejection of all past thought and behavior. China has turned back to Confucius and Russia has turned back to Christ. The result is the same.

Nietzsche, an old school radical philosopher who, while he criticized the Enlightenment, was focused on shocking people with an across the board rejection of the past, including past wisdom. He made no attempt to be conciliatory. As he wrote, he was a suffering soul confined to his bed, with advanced syphilis, which eventually killed him. Being hopelessly ideology bound, he had apparently rejected the notion that promiscuous sex can be harmful, thinking this taboo to be an outmoded Christian idea rather than the universal truth that it was. Despite years of agony that would have caused others to regret their dissipated past, he had learned nothing from his own mistakes, and many of his readers – worshippers really — are attempting to duplicate his failed experiment.

The West today is imbued with that malignant spirit. Thus, we find swaths of American society, for example, where anyone advocating for traditional marriage can be ostracized or worse, verbally – or even physically — assaulted, or even lose their job (as reported here); a person entering certain parts of their downtown can be beaten for belonging to the wrong race, as described here; and criminals or gang members of a certain national origin will never be arrested because they are assigned to a victim group. The old notion of law and order, decency and politeness has collapsed. The West is now closer to the ideals of perpetual revolution than even Mao’s China and unlike China, where the insanity finally ended with Mao’s death, there is no promise of a respite because the movement is led not by one person but by a faceless mob.

In stark contrast to the ideology-bound West, the East has moved beyond and is now easily winning the war of ideas by focusing on common sense and doing the will of the people. It turns out that the wisdom of the past is still as valid today as it was then. But these countries are also completely focused on science, as both Enlightenment schools were.

Ironically, the one world power that unabashedly lays claim to a Christian foundation for its public policies is, in terms of science, head and shoulders above the US, which abhors Christianity and still clings to the absurd notion that Christianity is incompatible with science. Emblematic of this situation is the fact that the radically secular US is obliged to purchase rocket engines from the openly Christian Russia.

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City’s Illegal Alien Defense Fund Gives $17,500 to Terrorist Front Group

Ohio’s capital city has launched a defense fund for illegal immigrants facing deportation and thousands of taxpayer dollars will go to the local chapter of a terrorist front group that promotes itself as a Muslim civil rights organization. The pot of cash is known as Columbus Families Together Fund and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national organization that serves as the U.S. front for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, will be among the recipients.

CAIR was founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists (Omar Ahmad, Nihad Awad, and Rafeeq Jaber) who ran the American propaganda wing of Hamas, known then as the Islamic Association for Palestine. In 2008 CAIR was a co-conspirator in a federal terror-finance case involving the Hamas front group Holy Land Foundation. Read more in a Judicial Watch special report that focuses on Muslim charities. Top FBI counter terrorism chiefs have described CAIR as an entity that not only promotes terrorism, but also finances it. One group has dedicated itself to documenting CAIR’s extensive terrorist ties which include a top official sentenced to 20 years in prison for participating in a network of militant jihadists, another convicted of bank fraud for financing a major terrorist group, a board member who was a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a fundraiser identified by the U.S. Treasury Department for financing Al Qaeda.

Allocating public funds to assist illegal aliens with their legal problems is bad enough, but giving some of the cash to a group like CAIR is like pouring salt on the wound. The effort started when Donald Trump got elected president. Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown vowed to help illegal immigrants fight deportation and posted this on her social media account on January 30: “In Columbus, we stand with immigrants! This morning I announced Council’s commitment to a legal defense fund to support our refugees and immigrants as they face an onslaught of new hurdles to keep their families together. I’m excited to get to work. Who wants to help?”

Last week the Columbus City Council made it official, establishing the new legal defense fund with a $185,000 infusion to help provide legal services to the area’s illegal aliens and their families. The money will go to various nonprofits that will also “educate detained immigrants on their rights under immigration law,” according to a local newspaper report. A nonprofit called Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. will get the largest chunk of city money, the article reveals, but other groups will also benefit. Priority will go to Columbus-area illegal aliens facing deportation in Cleveland Immigration Court and preference will be given to cases involving children. CAIR will receive $17,500 to provide “legal services that help keep families together in the central Ohio immigrant and refugee communities.” This includes “know your rights” education sessions in Columbus that will cover encounters with federal immigration agents. Brown, the councilwoman behind the effort said “we’re sending a signal here tonight. We value our immigrants. We welcome you. We know that the demonization of immigrants throws them into the shadows and makes a class of silent victims. We won’t allow it.”

City leaders feel an obligation to protect immigrant and refugee families in Central Ohio from the financial and emotional devastation that results from aggressive immigration enforcement, according to a document describing the Columbus Families Together Fund. “The wellbeing of our immigrant communities is intertwined with the city’s overall wellbeing,” the document states. “Ultimately, Columbus is a safer, more just, and more economically vibrant city for everyone when we address the needs of all our residents.” It also says that, because an intact family is one determining factor in economic self-sufficiency and long-term child success, the city will also pay for additional services that help keep immigrant and refugee families together.

Columbus is not alone in allocating public funds to help those in the country illegally after the Trump administration announced a harder line on immigration enforcement. Last year two major U.S. cities that have long offered illegal aliens sanctuary allocated millions of dollars to help them avoid deportation. A few days after the Chicago City Council approved a $1.3 million legal defense fund to assist illegal aliens facing deportation, official in Los Angeles unveiled a similar program with a $10 million infusion.

EDITORS NOTE: Readers may donate to Judicial Watch by clicking here.

Responding to Jihad: Going about our Business or Getting Down to Business?

Friends: Thanks to all of you who responded – and so generously – yesterday to the first day of our end-of-year fund drive. We heard from readers in almost every state, and in countries from New Zealand to the Slovak Republic. But we’ve still got a long way to go – and I need a lot more of you to help us in our work. I mean it when I say that, without you, The Catholic Thing simply will not continue to exist. All of us these days feel that someone, somewhere has to step up and do something about the many and growing threats to Catholic faith and morals – and to the human future. And to lay out the truth, goodness, and beauty of our tradition. We’re here every day, without fail, working at those tasks. If you’re a TCT reader, you already understand the importance of what we’re about. Many of you have heard me say this before: we publish 30 articles a month, 30,000 words, the size of a substantial magazine. Most magazines would ask subscribers for $35 a year – and if all our readers could give that much, we could get to our goal quickly. But many cannot, which is why we have to ask those of you with greater means to give, not only for yourself. Can you donate $70, $105, or some other multiple of the minimum on behalf of your fellow readers – and to make sure that TCT is fighting the good fight for a long time to come? – Robert Royal


In the wake of the jihad truck attack on a New York City bike path, politicians and the press responded with the usual reassurances that follow – like night follows day.

NYC Mayor de Blasio said, “The last thing we should do is start casting dispersions [sic] on whole races of people or whole religions.” NY State’s Governor Cuomo said, “We’re not going to let them win. We’ll go about our business. . . .Live your life. Don’t let them change us.”

We’ve heard all this before, and after every terror attack we’ve also heard that “this has nothing to do with Islam.” Even figures in the Church – from the Vatican on down – have taken up this mantra.

The latest variation on that theme was NYC Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller’s assurance: “This isn’t about Islam, this isn’t about the mosque he attends.” Meanwhile, members of the press robotically recited from their own playbook. NBC News ran with the now familiar headline, “Muslim American’s Again Brace for Backlash.”

All of which seems to be a rather anemic way to respond to what is essentially a guerilla attack in a world-wide war. “We’ll go about our business.” That’s all? Most people intuit that “going about our business” is not going to solve the problem. “Don’t let them change us.” Seriously? They already have changed us. New York City now deploys thousands of police for public events; in Paris, soldiers patrol the streets. And still the attacks go on.

Most people realize that there are more streets than soldiers and police can possibly guard. Moreover, they understand that the origin of the trouble is not to be found on West Side bike paths or in boulevards in Nice. If you’re going to deploy more police, why not deploy them to the places where the attacks are planned?

That would mean sending more police into predominantly Muslim neighborhoods – not necessarily to patrol the streets, but to gather information, cultivate informants, and to pay visits to mosques and Islamic centers.

That, however, is exactly what the “Muslims-brace-for-backlash” headlines are intended to prevent. It’s what CAIR’s “Islamophobia” campaign is designed to forestall. And it’s why officials like Mayor de Blasio keep harping on the theme that the worst thing we can do is to cast aspersions on “whole races” or “whole religions.”

In fact, the NYPD did have a very effective program for monitoring the Muslim community until de Blasio shut it down in order to appease various Islamic pressure groups. That program included surveillance of the mosque in New Jersey that the attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, attended.

This is the mosque the Deputy Police Commissioner referred to when he said, “this isn’t about the mosque he attends.” But according to Bill McGroarty, a NYPD detective who worked on the investigation, more than twenty men at Saipov’s mosque have been radicalized.

To ordinary people, the NYPD’s canceled monitoring program makes perfect sense: if you want to catch terrorists before they strike, you go to the places where terrorists and potential terrorists live, and you start asking questions.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino pointed out that this is how the authorities broke up the Mafia. Police and FBI cultivated informants in the – gasp! – Italian-American community. They managed to infiltrate Mafia organizations and were not reluctant to shake some trees.

Bongino? Isn’t that an Italian name? Shouldn’t he have been incensed at this attempt to smear a whole nationality? Shouldn’t he have joined the “anti-Italiphobia” campaign instead?

Fortunately, Italian-Americans didn’t look at it that way. Most of them didn’t take the surveillance of the mob as a sign that America was anti-Italian. Most were happy to get out from under the thumb of the Mafia.

Bongino recommends a similar approach for flushing out the extremists in Muslim communities. Of course, we already know how some will respond. Those who fear being thought “Islamophobic” more than they fear Islamic terror will recoil at the thought. And they will claim that increased monitoring will offend moderate Muslims and maybe even drive them into the radical camp.

But if the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, as is so often claimed, won’t they be glad to cooperate with the police in exposing the handful of extremists who give the community a bad name? If Muslim-Americans are as patriotic as Italian-Americans, won’t they be happy to do their part in clearing the good name of Islam?

And if some are not quite sure of their loyalties, shouldn’t the police and the district attorneys apply some pressure – as police and attorneys undoubtedly had to do on occasion in the Italian-American community?

It’s not as though members of the Muslim communities aren’t already under pressure. Many are under pressure from imams and other religious leaders to put loyalty to the ummahfirst. Many are under similar pressure from their own families. Groups such as CAIR, ISNA, and the Muslim American Society also exert pressure to put Islam above every other loyalty. Some CAIR chapters have even advised Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI.

If the pressures and incentives only come from one side, the result is predictable. If no counter pressure is applied, the moderate influence will weaken, and Muslim communities will fall deeper and deeper under the influence of the more radical sort of Muslim. Eventually, their communities will end up like some areas in France and Belgium – places where the police fear to go, and where the Islamic version of the code of omertà keeps everyone in line.

Truly moderate Muslims will want to avoid that fate. They deserve all the help they can get in resisting it – even if that means putting some of their self-appointed representatives under closer scrutiny.

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The U.S. Betrayal of Kurdistan Should be a Warning Sign for Israel

The Kurdish people have an inalienable right to their own national homeland just as other nations do. The Kurds are the largest ethnic entity in the world, numbering some 30 million people, which does not have a state of its own. Over three years ago, I declared – here on Arutz Sheva – that the world is obligated to see to it that historic justice is granted the Kurds by supporting their dream of being a free nation in their own land.

A referendum was held last month among the Iraqi Kurds over whether or not they should declare independence, while in the background threats emanating from Turkey, Iran, the Iraqi government and even Bashar Assad could be discerned. Joining them were other countries, including the USA and Europe, all of them warning the Kurds – and especially their leader, Masoud Barzani – not to attempt a one-sided declaration of independence. The neighboring countries fear a snowball effect on other minorities in their own countries, including their resident Kurds. More distant countries fear another war in the oil-rich regions such as northern Iraq, which could lead to a much wider conflict.

The referendum showed that a vast majority, over 90% of those voting, support independence. This resulted in Masoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish region, acquiring the ability to wield powerful leverage against the Iraqi government, which was naturally unnerved by the results and tried its best to convince Barazani not to declare independence.

The two main issues in the dialogue between Barzani and the Iraqi regime are:

  1. Delineating the borders of the Kurdish region and whether the oil fields and the nearby city of Kirkuk are within those borders and
  2. What happens to the oil that flows under the ground in the Kurdish region – are the profits Iraqi or do they belong to the Kurds?

Except that Barzani is not the only Kurdish actor on the stage. Jilal Talabani, his rival, did not support the hopes for Kurdish independence espoused by Barzani, and was of the opinion that the Kurds must remain within the national framework of Iraqi sovereignty. He was once the Iraqi president – mainly a ceremonial post – from 2005 to 2014, and died in Germany two weeks ago, on October 3, 2017. A pragmatist, he based his opinion on the realistic understanding that a declaration of independence would have a severely negative effect on the Kurds, because all the surrounding countries would do their utmost to ensure its failure, not balking at the idea of starving the Kurds to death by putting their region under siege.

The differences between Barzani and Talabani are nothing new. In fact, the two famiiies have been at odds for decades, and in the second half of the twentieth century there were actual battles between the two, involving weapons and resulting in dead and wounded. The Iraqi regime knew this well and took advantage of it by forming a coalition of one side against the other. The factionalism of the Kurds prevented them from forming a united stand and the neighboring states – Turkey, Iran and Syria – knew how to make use of this factionalism for their own ends.

This week, the dispute led to facts on the ground: The Iraqi army, supported by Shiite militias, moved towards Kirkuk and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighting force left the city without doing battle. Within two days the Iraqis took over the city and its adjacent oil field without resorting to violence, neutralizing an important part of the leverage Masoud Barzani was hoping th wield during negotiations with the Iraqi government. It seems that the Pershmega are not united and reflect the ongoing internal dispute among the Kurds. Some listen to Barzani’s orders and others act under the influence of Talabani. The forces guarding Kirkuk were under the sway of Talabani and gave up in the struggle against the Iraqi army’s takeover, to Barzani’s dismay. The internal strife among the Kurds distances them from their dream of independence, a dream that will only move farther away for as long as they cannot agree on its parameters.

The tragedy that has befallen the Kurds is even greater because their fighters, part of the coalition led by the US, were the most important force fighting ISIS. They were given arms, weapons, funding and training by their coalition partners, but it is they and not the coalition’s fighters, who shed their blood in street to street, house to house, room to room fighting against ISIS. Hundreds of Peshmerga fighters were killed and wounded in the long, exhausting battle to liberate Mosul from the Jihadists of the Islamic State.

The Kurds expected the world, headed by the US, to stand behind them once ISIS was defeated, remembering their large contribution to that defeat and supporting their demand for independence. These hopes were dashed very quicly when the official American stand turned out to be that “we have no intention of interfering in internal Iraqi affairs” – that is, the US will not support the Kurdish demand for independence led by Masoud Barzani, this despite the referendum and their historic rights. Those Kurds who longed for independence are disappointed and feel betrayed by the nation with whom, for whom and in whose name they fought for a lengthy and bloody period, one filled with battles and Kurdish victims sacrificed in the war against ISIS.

It is possible that the American stand is based on Talabani’s approach, one which saw no need –certainly not an immediate one – for declaring independence and preferred that the Kurds integrate into the Iraqi state for good. Naturally, Talabani’s loyalty to the Iraqi regime is explained by rumors of bribery, jobs and other favors he and his men received from Iraq and Iran. On the other hand, rumors say that Barzani received his own favors from the Saudis, who are interested in preventing a Shiite axis led by Iran. The Mideast news sources are full of these hard to prove stories (Anyone who thinks that Trump invented the concept of “fake news” is unfamiliar with the media and political discourse of the Middle East…)

Conclusions Israel must draw from the Kurdish saga

For the last several years, and particularly since the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, there has been a discernable warming of relations between Israel and the Arab nations who feel threatened by Iran. Those include Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan. As a result there are Israeli pundits, army officers and politicians who view the current regional situation as a golden opportunity that Israel must take advantage of by accepting the Arab peace proposals, establishing a Palestinian state and embarking on a new era of cooperation with the “moderate Sunni axis” in order to bring peace and security to Israel and the entire area. Why? Because all these countries fear Iran as much as, and possibly more, than Israel does.

But let us suppose that the Iranian threat disappears because Israel succeeds in an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. As a result, war breaks out between Israel and Iran (including Hezbollah), Israel sacrifices hundreds of soldiers and civilians – and the Iranian problem ceases to exist. Will the Arab and Western worlds be grateful to Israel and act to protect Israel’s interests?

The answer is simple: What happened to the Kurds will happen to Israel. The Kurds fought ISIS, sacrificed their soldiers and people, and were thrown to the wolves once they were not needed. That is exactly what the world’s nations will do to Israel once it extricates them from the Iranian problem. Why not? The immediate interests of each and every country and not the moral rights of the Kurds and the Israelis are what makes the world go round.

Israel will indeed be the darling of the “moderate Sunni axis” – that is, for as long as there is an Iranian threat. Once that is gone, the fracturing of Iran into ethnic components (on the lines of the former USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia) will obviate the need for relations with Israel. For this reason, Israel would do well not to give up its lands for a piece of paper with the word “peace” stamped on it, because that paper can easily fly away in the desert wind while the worlds on it fade in the blazing Middle Eastern sun.

There are two unassailable proofs for this phenomenon: The first is the peace with Egypt. This peace was a result of Sadat’s need for economic assistance from Europe and Europe’s insistence that peace with Israel precede the granting of that aid so that its money is not squandered on wars. That peace treaty did not stand in Mubarak’s way when he allowed Hamas and its supporters to smuggle arms from Sinai to Gaza, because it was in Mubarak’s interests to bring about a war between Israel and Hamas, allowing Israel to do the dirty work with the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. As soon as the Sinai became Jihadistan and began fighting Egypt, the weapons smuggling from Sinai to Gaza ceased abruptly. In sum, the peace between Israel and Egypt exists for as long as it suits Egyprian interests.

The second proof is the peace with Jordan, based on Yitzchak Rabin and King Hussein’s shared interest in preventing a Palestinian state from being established. This common interest created wide-ranging cooperation between the two countries. Hussein’s son, Abdullah II, changed his father’s policies and is a strong backer of the idea of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria whose capital is East Jerusalem . That is why he acts against Israel in every international forum, as if he were one of Israel’s greatest enemies. He relates to the peace treaty as an agreement to refrain from war and no more, while enjoying the economic benefits he gained from it.

The clear conclusion from the Kurdish, Egyptian and Jordanian situations is that Israel must not jeopardize its existence, security and interests by placing them in bankrupt Arab insurance companies. Israel absolutely must strengthen its position in the Land of Israel, create local governing emirates for the powerful Arab families in urban Judea and Samaria while battening down Israeli control of the rural areas. No peace treaty can give Israel a lasting insurance policy, and the faster Israel and the world internalize this truth the better.

RELATED ARTICLE: U.S. breaks ground for new permanent base in Israel

EDITORS NOTE: Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Consulting and Op-ed Editor, Arutz Sheva English site.