Saturday, December 31, 2016

Democrats Have a Religion Problem

By Emma Green

A conversation with Michael Wear, a former Obama White House staffer, about the party’s illiteracy on and hostility toward white evangelicals.

Barack Obama attends Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., in 2010. Yuri Gripas / Reuters

There aren’t many people like Michael Wear in today’s Democratic Party. The former director of Barack Obama’s 2012 faith-outreach efforts is a theologically conservative evangelical Christian. He is opposed to both abortion and same-sex marriage, although he would argue that those are primarily theological positions, and other issues, including poverty and immigration, are also important to his faith. 

During his time working for Obama, Wear was often alone in many of his views, he writes in his new book, Reclaiming Hope. He helped with faith-outreach strategies for Obama’s 2008 campaign, but was surprised when some state-level officials decided not to pursue this kind of engagement: “Sometimes—as I came to understand the more I worked in politics—a person’s reaction to religious ideas is not ideological at all, but personal,” he writes. 

Several years later, he watched battles over abortion funding and contraception requirements in the Affordable Care Act with chagrin: The administration was unnecessarily antagonistic toward religious conservatives in both of those fights, Wear argues, and it eventually lost, anyway. When Louie Giglio, an evangelical pastor, was pressured to withdraw from giving the 2012 inaugural benediction because of his teachings on homosexuality, Wear almost quit. 

Some of his colleagues also didn’t understand his work, he writes. He once drafted a faith-outreach fact sheet describing Obama’s views on poverty, titling it “Economic Fairness and the Least of These,” a reference to a famous teaching from Jesus in the Bible. Another staffer repeatedly deleted “the least of these,” commenting, “Is this a typo? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Who/what are ‘these’?”

I spoke with Wear about how the Democratic Party is and isn’t reaching people of faith—and what that will mean for its future. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

FBI, DHS Release Report Linking Russia To DNC Hacks

By Matt Vespa

Christine wrote about the Obama administration delivering punitive sanctions against Russia for their role in trying to interfere with the 2016 election. As a result, Russia is mulling retaliatory measures as well. Today, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a 13-page report showing how Russia hacked Democratic Party organizations. That is not the same as hacking the election, which some outlets have claimed (via The Hill):
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday released a joint report detailing how federal investigators linked the Russian government to hacks of Democratic Party organizations.
The report, known as a “Joint Analysis Report” or JAR, refers to the Russian hacking campaign as “Grizzly Steppe.”
It comes as part of a slate of retaliatory measures against Russia issued Thursday by the Obama administration in response to the hacks, and expands on a joint statement issued by the two agencies in October, formally attributing the attacks to Russia.
In the October statement, officials described the hacks and subsequent publication of stolen emails on WikiLeaks as an attempt to “interfere” with the U.S. election that is “consistent with the Russian-directed efforts,” but provided no evidence to support their assessment.
The FSB is thought to be behind the hacking group known as APT29. A more traditional, long-range intelligence agency, the FSB lurked on the DNC systems for over a year.
The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, is thought to be behind the second group that infiltrated the DNC, known as APT28. APT28 is also believed to have breached Podesta’s emails.
APT28 is thought to be the group responsible for “doxxing” the DNC and Podesta by allegedly providing the stolen missives to WikiLeaks to publish.
Wikileaks’ Julian Assange had said that their source is not Russian, though he could say with the same certainty regarding documents leaked by hacker Guccifer 2.0. Regardless, we’re talking about the DNC hack, not the election. The Obama administration said that the election results reflected the will of the people, while DHS noted that there was no spike in suspicious cyber activity that would have suggested an attack on election night.
So, the election was not hacked, or at least not in the way that some liberal are hoping for to discredit the legitimacy of President-elect Donald Trump’s win. Trump won. Period.
At the same time, I’m not against Congress looking into Russian cyber activity within the U.S. After all, hacking occurs all the time in the U.S. and it’s not solely from Russia. It’s just another every day aspect of the 21st century geopolitical world. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and guard against it.
UPDATE: In the wake of the report’s release and the sanctions, President-elect Trump said he would meet with the intelligence community to get “updated on the facts.”
“It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” he said in a statement. “Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”
Trump’s statement follows the White House’s announcement of sanctions against Russia, which included the closure of two Russian compounds and the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence operatives.
Trump’s transition team had signaled that the president-elect would support a congressional probe into Russia’s alleged cyberattacks if the intelligence community provided clear evidence that the Kremlin meddled in the presidential election.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some New Year’s Resolutions for Our Progressive Pals

By Kurt Schlichter

The year 2016 was a great one for our progressive friends – except for that whole utter repudiation unpleasantness of last November.
Now, as a concerned conservative friend eager to help, let me offer you some New Year's resolutions that will keep you on the path to success. The bottom line: stay the course!
Keep Reaffirming the Racism/Sexism/Homophobia and Other Moral Failings of Everyone Who Doesn't Obey the Rigid Yet Constantly Mutating Laws of Political Correctness: It's vital that you continue, at every turn, to label normal Americans "racists," “sexists” and all the other “-ists” and “-phobes” in your Big Book O’ Liberal Slurs.
Remember, concerns about crime are secret dog whistles to the tens of millions of wannabe KKK members lurking out there. Americans actually love being robbed!
You know why we pretend we don't like dismembering babies and selling their parts? Because we hate strong women. You caught us! And having people smash airplanes into buildings and open fire at random citizens are just a few of our favorite things. We only blame these acts on the radical Muslims who are actually doing them because of our unreasoning hatred of Muslims. There's no fooling you! If we weren’t such Islamophobes, we’d focus on the bloody death toll from those radical Baptists.

So keep it up, and never, ever, pass up an opportunity to tell normal Americans how they fail to meet your exacting standards. With enough abuse, those Trump voters you lost last time will definitely come around and start supporting Democrats again!
Slam Israel: Who needs Jewish voters in your coalition anymore? You’ve got urban hipsters and illegal aliens, frigid divorcees and welfare cheats, plus a declining number of blacks and more urban hipsters, so those embarrassing friends of the Zionist Entity are totally expendable. Let them go join the GOP, with its unflinching support for evil Israel against the uncorrupt democracies surrounding it. When your delegates booed Israel (and God) at your convention, it was a great way to start this super-helpful conversation. Keep it up. Remember, every time you stab Israel in the back, several CAIR members will escort their wives out to go vote for Democrats.
Leverage Hollywood Star Power: As you know, all normal Americans believe Hollywood stars are powerful role models who we should emulate in our personal and political lives. Want to energize new voters? Well, those tatt-ridden, gangsta rap stars supporting Hillary sure made me want to bust a move – right into the voting booth to elect some Dems! And don’t forget to have Lena Dunham go out there to lecture us about her personal insights on politics and childcare. She’s America’s preeminent feminist icon – I know that pic of her lolling on a beach dressed as a manatee made me reconsider my standards of female beauty. After that, I’ll never again deploy my male gaze!
Jesusplain More: Christians definitely appreciate it when they get instructed on the tenets of their faith by someone whose most recent religious observance was driving past a Church's Fried Chicken. We believers somehow missed how the RNC was calling Trump “Jesus,” but it didn’t get by you theologians! Good catch! Clearly, people you hold in contempt for being dedicated to Christ are going to commit blasphemy by labeling Trump “Jesus” because…reasons. Way to untangle that cunning plot to do…something.
Anyway, thanks to you, I now also know that Jesus was a free n' easy hippie whose teachings just happen to correspond exactly to the tenets of the Democratic Party – except for some of that awkward stuff that requires actual belief in Jesus. Under your tutelage, I finally get that thou shall not demand that deadbeats worketh, nor shalt thy resisteth 7th Century savages. Also, apparently He demandeth that grown men dressed like women shall exposeth themselves aroundeth our young daughters. Who knew? You guys should keep this up. You're building a lasting impression among religious Americans – you know, the key segment of the American population that isn’t barren.
Remember, You Know Best for Us. You should do as much as you can to compel us to comply with your enlightened views. Force innocent bakers to bake cakes just because you can. People love that – especially when you simultaneously discover the moral necessity of allowing employees on a chorus line to opt out of entertaining those you deem unacceptable.
Also, try to disarm us even as crime rates have entered a dizzying climb thanks to your cavorting with quasi-terrorist mobs and trashing the police – remember, it’s not the fear of being raped or murdered that inspired us to exercise that musty old Second Amendment, it’s racism! Oh, and perhaps concern about the future should you retake power. Just ensure that you keep reacting to any criticism with scathing personal attacks upon those who defy you. Normal Americans love that.
Heat-Up the Climate Change Frenzy: It must be frustrating when stupid #Science-hating normals refuse to accept that global warming is a crisis requiring we immediately give you liberals more power and money.
This isn’t the first time these dummies have refused to listen to the settled #Science – they didn’t listen in the 70s when you demanded more money and power to stop the imminent ice age, or in the 80s when you demanded more money and power to stop the ozone hole apocalypse, or in the 90s when you demanded more money and power to stop the acid rain Armageddon. Keep it up! Who knows, maybe it will actually get hotter and you’ll have some evidence – it totally could happen this time! 
Don't Hide Your Feelings On Social Media. Social media allows you the opportunity to freely express what you really think to a vast audience – use it! Once, you could only say what you really think in little groups at Manhattan cocktail parties or cafés in Los Angeles, or publish it in obscure magazines no normals ever read. Well, now you can tweet your innermost thoughts and have those views go viral! It used to be a secret that you thought we are idiots for having religious beliefs, but not anymore! Your desire to confiscate guns had to be hidden with weasel words in public, but now you are no longer restrained. In fact, you can loudly and publicly wish us harm – we love being told you can’t wait for us to die off so you can take total control of the country (except, being breeders, we have kids, but that’s another story). This open exchange of ideas is wonderful, and we urge you to continue it.
 Keep Nominating Ancient Leftists Whose Massive Criminal Endeavors Appall All Decent Folk. Let me say it – Hillary Clinton was a terrific candidate for the Democrats, at least from my perspective as a Republican. Honest, warm, self-less, able to connect with regular people – these qualities are totally overrated in a nominee. Okay, she had some baggage, but the problem with Hillary wasn’t her corruption – it was that the darn FBI and those darn Russians kept telling people about her corruption. Work harder with the mainstream media to ensure that we are no longer exposed to the kind of “fake news” that reveals what your candidates are actually doing. Most journalists will be eager to help!
Be the Sorest of Sore Losers: Or should I say, sore winners, since Hillary obviously crushed Trump in the popular vote election we didn’t have. Keep being angry! Talk nonstop about how Trump is illegitimate – we’ve already totally forgotten that whole thing about how not promising to recognize the validity of the election results is un-American. And oppose everything Trump does – everything! After all, people don’t want change. The last eight years have been terrific for everyone who matters – just ask Obama!
Look, you hit a few unexpected bumps in the road in 2016 – I mean, who could have foreseen that nominating someone under FBI investigation might turn out badly? But there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing – the problem isn’t you. It’s everyone else, especially those stupid, racist, gun nut Jesus people who aren’t bright enough to understand that you are entitled to rule over them. So don’t ever change. Stay the course. Oh gosh, please, please, please, by all means, stay the course. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Our Responsibility to Criticize Islam

By William Kilpatrick

A commonplace has emerged among media and political elites that criticism of Islam or even of radical Islam will only serve to drive moderate Muslims into the radical camp.
That argument should be questioned because it can just as easily be that lack of criticism has led to the rebirth of militant Islam. Far from being critical of Islam, Western governments, media, academia, and even churches have bent over backward to claim that all the atrocities committed in the name of Islam have nothing to do with Islam. Indeed, the Western media have adopted a rigid system of self-censorship that keeps them from admitting that these atrocities are in fact committed in the name of Islam.
The latest example is the reporting on the assassination of a Russian ambassador by a Turkish policeman. Almost the first words out of the assassin’s mouth after the shooting were: “We are those who have given a pledge of allegiance to Muhammad that we will carry on jihad.” If you don’t remember him saying that, it’s because that part of the statement was omitted from almost all news and television reports. Apparently, our betters in the media were afraid that if we were aware of the man’s devotion to Muhammad, we might say something provocative that would turn untold numbers of peaceful Muslims into bomb-throwing jihadists.
Perhaps the prime example of the wages of silence is the current crisis in Europe. Islamic terrorists have declared war on Europe and the result has been a series of deadly attacks – at airports, subways, cafés, concert halls, and, most recently, Christmas markets. All this mayhem is the indirect result of ignorance about Islam – an ignorance that, in turn, is the result of an almost complete blackout of news unfavorable to Islam.
Anyone with a thorough understanding of Islamic culture and religion could have predicted that, even without the 2015-16 flood of Muslim migrants, the steady flow of Muslim immigrants over the years would create a combustible situation. The amazing thing is that the consequences of this massive migration were never discussed – except in glowing terms. Just about the only thing allowed to be said about the migrants was that they would solve labor shortages, refill welfare coffers, and bring cultural enrichment to Europe.
That was the official line. Anyone who deviated from it could expect censure, possible job loss, or even a criminal trial. Say something negative about Muslim immigration on your Facebook page and you would be visited by police. Say it in public and you would receive a court summons. It didn’t matter if you were a famous writer (Oriana Fallaci), the President of the Danish Free Press Society (Lars Hedegaard), or a popular member of the Dutch Parliament (Geert Wilders). If you couldn’t say something nice about Islam, then you shouldn’t say anything at all.
In the European case, the idea that criticizing Islam will create an army of radicals doesn’t hold up. Criticism of Islam is essentially a crime in many parts of Europe and has been for a long time. In Europe, few dared criticize Islam, but the radicals came anyway. More than anything else, it was silence that allowed Islamization and radicalization to spread through France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Practically no one spoke up about no-go-zones, sharia courts, polygamy, and forced marriages, refusal to integrate, crime waves, and the rape epidemic. Now that many are finally beginning to speak out, it may be too late to avoid capitulation (Sweden’s likely fate) or bloody conflict (more likely in France).
The very argument that criticism of Islam will drive moderates into the radical camp suggests that criticism is needed. If Islam is such a hair-trigger religion that the slightest offense might radicalize adherents, there is something radically wrong with the religion itself.
The Flight into Egypt by Vittore Carpaccio, c. 1515 [National Gallery, Washington, DC]
We don’t worry that criticizing Catholicism is going to produce angry Catholic mobs rampaging through the streets. We don’t fear that one wrong word is going to cause a young Southern Baptist to strap on a suicide belt.
Islam invites criticism. Given its bloody past and present, it would be highly irresponsible not to subject it to a searching analysis and critique. Such a critique would not aim at alienating Muslims (although some will inevitably be alienated), but at alerting likely victims of jihad.
One of the basics that non-Muslims need to know is that Islam divides the world in two – the House of Islam, and the House of War (all non-Islamic societies). And every Muslim is expected to do his part to make the House of War submit to the House of Islam. Europeans are now experiencing a “don’t-know-what-hit-me” sense of bewilderment because they never learned this basic fact about Islam.
One reason for our reluctance to analyze and criticize Islam (an idea) is that such criticism seems tantamount to criticizing Muslims (a people). Unfortunately, even if that is not the intention, it is often the result. A person can’t separate himself entirely from his beliefs, and, consequently, we take criticism of our religion personally. That’s a good reason for presenting the critique as tactfully as possible. But it’s not a good reason for offering no critique at all.
If you can’t criticize a belief system because it would hurt the feelings of people who subscribe to that system, then we were wrong to criticize Nazism, Communism, and Japanese imperialism. Ordinarily, we refrain from criticizing other religions. Such a live-and-let-live approach is generally sensible, but when the other religion takes the attitude that you must either convert, submit, or die, then live-and-let-live is no longer an option. That is the position that we are in with regard to Islam. And it is suicidal to pretend that things are otherwise.

William Kilpatrick is the author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West, and a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, The Turning Point Project

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

With Friends Like Obama, Israel Won't Need Enemies

By Clarence V. McKee

Barack Obama speaks at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, in 2012. At the time, he was focused on ratcheting up the Jewish vote. (Lynn Sladky/AP)

President Barack Obama couldn’t resist sticking it to Israel just one more time!
Other than blacks, Jews have been among the most loyal supporters of Democrats and Obama. While blacks gave Obama over 90 plus percent of their votes in 2008 and 2012, Jews provided him with 78 and 68 percent respectively.
In November, Clinton garnered 68 percent of the Jewish vote.
Although it's common knowledge that blacks got virtually nothing from Obama but platitudes and pandering, at least Jews thought they could count on him to be a loyal friend to Israel.
It turns out that in the last days of his administration, Obama is showing his true colors — with friends like him, Israel does not need enemies.
As if giving away gains and sacrifices of U.S. troops in Iraq allowing the rise of ISIS and being a bystander to a Syrian holocaust in Aleppo was not enough of a sad legacy, Obama added a final chapter of betrayal by plunging a dagger deep into the back of Israel and much of the world’s Jewish community by failing to veto a U.N. Security Council Resolution that criticized Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
Jewish leaders, unlike most black leaders who remained silent for eight years of Obama inaction and silence on the urban killing fields, did not take what they considered to be an Obama betrayal lightly.
There was rightful universal and bi-partisan condemnation of the resolution which said that Israel settlements in Palestinian territory, occupied since 1967, had no legal validity and were a violation of international law.
So why should the Palestinians negotiate with Israel when the U.N. — thanks to Obama — has now sided with the Palestinians? They don’t have to!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out against those supporting the Resolution saying that the "Obama administration . . . failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N."
One of the strongest condemnations came from former democratic National Committee Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., who said, "I condemn in the strongest of terms the United Nations Security Council's passage of this one-sided, anti-Israel resolution, as well as the United States' reckless abstention."
She went on to call the abstention "baffling" and an "irresponsible action," moving the U.S. "further away from peace and hastens the likelihood that we lose the trust of our allies around the world."
Writing in The Weekly Standard, former Reagan Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams said that Obama "could not resist the opportunity to take one more swipe at Israel — and to do real harm . . . will leave with his record on Israel in ruins, and he will leave Democrats even worse off."
From the political standpoint, Abrams believes that Obama’s U.N. action will damage the Democratic Party by "driving some Jews if not toward the Republicans then at least away from the Democrats and toward neutrality."
One group that has remained strangely silent on this issue are those Jewish members of the New York and Hollywood entertainment industry who threw millions of dollars at Obama’s feet over eight years and fawned over Hillary’s candidacy all the while professing staunch loyalty and love for Israel.
You can bet your boots that if it were Donald Trump who stabbed Israel in the back they would be in full attack mode. In fact, they have not even had the courage to commend Trump for his support of Israel and opposition to the Obama, U.N. action.
So much for integrity.
It seems that everything Obama has touched in the Mideast has turned to dust.
The U.N. fiasco being just the latest example.
The main beneficiary of this and other Obama missteps will be Donald Trump whom the world certainly does not see as a weak and unreliable pushover. The country will once again be respected on the world stage as a trustworthy ally. One that can be counted on.

Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as in the Reagan presidential campaigns. He is a former co-owner of WTVT-TV in Tampa and former president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Diplomatic terrorism at the UN, courtesy President Obama

By Anne Bayefsky

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 

The vicious condemnation of Israel at the UN Security Council on December 23, 2016 is a watershed moment in U.S.-UN relations – albeit not as President Obama hoped. Following the vote of fourteen in favor and one American abstention, Palestinian representative Riyadh Mansour and American Ambassador Samantha Power exchanged a telling handshake. Evidently, President Obama believes that he has put one over on Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the incoming Trump administration. But here’s another possibility: treachery at the UN will not be cost free.
Let’s be absolutely clear about what has just happened. The Palestinians have completed the hijacking of every major UN institution. The 2016 General Assembly has adopted nineteen resolutions condemning Israel and nine critical of all other UN states combined. The 2016 Commission on the Status of Women adopted one resolution condemning Israel and zero on any other state. The 2016 UN Human Rights Council celebrated ten years of adopting more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than any other place on earth. And now – to the applause of the assembled – the Palestinians can add the UN Security Council to their list.
Resolution sponsors Malaysia and New Zealand explained UN-think to the Council this way: Israeli settlements are “the single biggest threat to peace” and the “primary threat to the viability of the two-state solution.” Not seven decades of unremitting Arab terror and violent rejection of Jewish self-determination in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
This is not just any lie. This is the big lie of modern antisemitism. This is the lie that drove a Palestinian teenager in June of this year to creep into the home of 13-year old Hallel Ariel and butcher her with a knife in the back as she slept in her bed.
The bed was located in the “settlement” of Kiryat Arba – on Arab-claimed territory whose ownership – by agreement – is subject to final status negotiations instead of back-stabbing UN resolutions. So to skip the UN-eze, today’s hate fest was diplomatic terrorism.
Obama’s failure to veto the resolution is at odds with long-standing American foreign policy that has insisted on peace through negotiations, and not UN-fiat, as the only way to ensure genuine and long-lasting recognition and cooperation. His excuse for throwing bipartisan wisdom overboard was delivered by Ambassador Power, in one of the most disingenuous statements in the history of American diplomacy.
Power began by likening Obama’s deed to Ronald Reagan’s treatment of Israel. She repeatedly claimed that the move was nothing new and “in line” with the past, though “historic” is how speaker-after-speaker and the President of the Council himself described it. She noted “Israel has been treated differently than other nations at the United Nations” and then doubled-down on more of the same. She complained that Council “members suddenly summon the will to act” when it comes to Israel, after the White House had actively pushed the frantic adoption of the resolution with less than 48 hours’ notice.
At its core, this UN move is a head-on assault on American democracy. President Obama knew full well he did not have Congressional support for the Iran deal, so he went straight to the Security Council first. Likewise, he knew that there would have been overwhelming Congressional opposition to this resolution, so he carefully planned his stealth attack.
He waited until Congress was not in session. Members of his administration made periodic suggestions that nothing had been decided. There were occasional head fakes that he was “leaning” against it. He produced smiling photo-ops from a Hawaiian golf course with no obvious major foreign policy moves minutes away. Holiday time-outs were in full-swing across the country. And then he pounced, giving Israel virtually no notice of his intent not to veto.
Profound betrayal of a true democratic friend of the United States is the only possible description.
Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon held up a Bible in that sanctuary of idolatry and spoke of the holiday of Chanukah, about to commence this calendar year on Christmas Eve. He reminded his listeners that over two thousand years ago another King had banished the Jewish people from the Temple in Jerusalem, and tried to sever Jews from their religion and their heritage.
And he continued: “But we prevailed. The Jewish people fought back. We regained our independence and relit the Menorah candles…We overcame those decrees during the time of the Maccabees and we will overcome this evil decree today.”
The Security Council and President Obama leave a trail of devastation across the planet, with evil empowered and good forsaken. But their record does not have to be our future. Today’s vote reminds us of what it takes for evil to triumph.
Doing nothing is not an option for our new President and our incoming Congress. The time has come to undertake an urgent and full review of America’s relationship to the United Nations, and to suspend financial support until that review can identify how best to use American dollars in the interests of peace, security and human dignity. The perfidy of Barack Obama will not be the last word.

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas from Communism to Capitalism

By William Haupt III

“No matter where you are Christmas is not just about celebrating. Rich or poor, religious or not, Christmas isn’t just a season. Christmas is in your heart. It’s in your feelings.” (Ellen Elder)
World War II altered the social structure of the world forever. Before the ink had dried on the Paris Peace Treaty, a group of despots emerged from the embryo of the war’s ashes to terrorize Europe. From 1945 through the 60s, there was a gutting of local institutions, tactical maneuvering, lacerate campaigns and politically charged murders that subjugated Eastern Europe for four decades.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR, was derived from Communism, Marxism and Socialism. Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky were the architects of this demonic hell on earth. Eastern Europe was a war zone that crushed human rights, religious freedom, righteous dignity and liberty.
“The seeds of Communism are planted by a marauder who starts an unnecessary revolution.” (Leo Millzopre)
Since this exigent rule repressed all worshiping, religious traditions were controlled by the party. Church services not approved by the commies were condemned. Although Christmas remained sacred in the hearts of all faiths, they celebrated secretly in the shadows of their meager flats. This was “re-branded Christmas Communist style.”
Eastern Europe now lived under an atheistic Stalinist regime that intimidated even those wishing someone “Merry Christmas.” These anti-Christian tyrants ordered people to celebrate December 21st, and call it “A Celebration of Stalin’s birthday.” Those caught building a cardboard manger for a stick built baby Jesus were jailed or beaten.
“According to the Reds the only wise men were the party leaders behind The Iron Curtain.” (Andrze Greyziel)
Since the Jews remained the subject of desecration, they were petrified of celebrating Hanukkah, a holy Jewish holiday. Since the dates of Hanukkah coincided with those of Christmas they would go to Christian homes and light candles to praise God with their Christian brothers.
 Shutterstock Image
Their candles were no longer simply a Jewish menorah but a flame burning for religious liberation for men to worship freely. They exchanged beggarly gifts along with Christians; treasures like fruit, soap, toilet tissue, candy, and even a fresh fish or slice of meat if they were lucky. Communist rule did not destroy religiosity, but brought people closer together.

“To the party Communism was their religion.” (Lillian Zobosky)
During the most cloistered years Christians never lost hope someday they would again celebrate the birth of Christ openly. Many families received packages from the UN Relief Fund, supported by donations from Americans. Over 10 million tons of military food rations, including candy, kept their hopes alive. The elders would hide them to give as gifts.
Radio Free Europe, funded by the CIA and private donations, brought hope into the lives of all those imprisoned behind these tenacious gates of hell. Each Christmas they would turn up their broadcast towers, trumpeting holiday music and retell the story of how Mary and Joseph followed the shining star to Bethlehem and gave birth to the world’s Savior. Radio Free Europe assured them they would never be abandoned.
“It is not what you can do for your country, but what you can do for all of mankind that matters.” (M. Norton)
To obtain basic foods and household items, people would stand in enduring lines especially during Christmas. The average European spent 94 minutes a day to obtain the mere essentials to prepare a tawdry Christmas dinner. It was not uncommon to wait over five hours in sub-zero weather to get one holiday carp.
When they heard ships from other communist countries were arriving soon with oranges, almonds and bananas, they waited at docs for hours, to unload them instead of the army. Their reward was a few kilograms of fruit that made perfect gifts for loved ones.
“Communism is the fatal logic of protectionism. It is the dehumanization of every man on earth.” (Bishop Fulton Sheen)
During the Cold War, U.S. church membership increased by 30 percent. President Eisenhower petitioned Congress to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and later they adopted “In God We Trust” as the American motto.
Eisenhower said, “Religion is the foundation for democracy.” He dedicated his first White House prayer service to those behind the Eastern Block. Radio Free Europe played it all day. His prayers were answered. Stalin’s death ushered in Khrushchev who told Eisenhower, “It is time for “peaceful coexistence.” By the end of his 2nd term in 1961, celebrating Christmas in the USSR had become a reality rather than a breach of security. “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa!”
“The spirit of a man is more important than his mere physical strength.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
This epic event opened the door for Christians and brought Christmas back to the Eastern Block! As their spiritual lives prospered, so did their courage. They rebelled each day they learned more about life in America and envied their religious freedom.
 Photo: Reagan Presidential Library
In just a few years when Ronald Reagan told the Russians to dismantle the Berlin Wall, this earthquake shattered the USSR. Country after country forlorned them. This act of defiance was the fatal blow that restored the moral and spiritual strength they needed to reclaim their liberty. And Christmas regained its sanctimonious holy status throughout Europe.

“The only trouble with Communism is Communism.” (Bishop Fulton Sheen)
As life began to normalize retail shelves remained sparsely stocked, especially at Christmas. The basic necessities such as underwear, socks, flannel shirts, ball point pens and boxes of sweets were sought-after Christmas gifts. Children would decorate cutting boards and door mats for their mothers.
As economies improved, Western products appeared in retail stores. Each Christmas was better than the last. And families praised America for helping them survive the Machiavellian days of Communism. Churches resumed celebrations of our Savior’s birth, and it was this spiritual guidance that introduced them to the blessings and benefits of free market capitalism!
“Man is by nature a curious animal. You can hide the truth from him temporarily, but not forever.” (T. Flonta)
Once they discovered capitalism, there was no turning back! They knew “damned well” this was a better way. They bought, sold and traded freely on the open market. Everyday was like a festival.
No more chains to shackle them, no more rationing to share the misery, and no more isolationism.
“Capitalism on its worst day is better than any alternative I have ever heard of.” (Winston Churchill)
For those who lived under these onerous regimes that abolished their rights to worship, appreciate religious freedom more than any of us ever will. Although their gifts were exiguous it was their faith that kept the spirit of Christmas alive during the darkest days of Communism.
Christmas was more than a celebration. It was a feeling that nurtured their spirits. There are many abuses people will live with in order to survive, but when you take away their freedom to worship you take away their lives.
“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” (Buddha)
“On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting, and merriment. But, most of all we experience it in our hearts. For, more than just a day Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man. The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls: Merry Christmas!” (Ronald Reagan) 

This article was written by a contributor from Franklin Center’s independent network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists, William Haupt III, a retired professional journalist, citizen legislator in California for 40 plus years, and author. He got his start working to approve prop 13.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trump’s Team: Who’s who in the president-elect’s Cabinet, White House

RIGHT-HAND WOMAN: Conway picked for Trump counselor post
President-elect Donald Trump announced that Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, will serve as Counselor to the President to 'effectively message and execute the Administration's legislative priorities and actions.'

Trump has also quickly announced his picks for key Cabinet and White House positions since the November election. The following are his selections so far – Cabinet nominees are subject to Senate confirmation.

Cabinet-level positions

Individuals Trump intends to nominate:
Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State

CEO, ExxonMobil


Rick Perry
Secretary of Energy

Former Texas governor; former Texas agriculture commissioner, two-time presidential candidate

Ryan Zinke

Secretary of Interior

U.S. representative, Montana; member of House Natural Resources Committee; former Navy SEAL

James Mattis 

Secretary of Defense

Retired Marine general; former commander of U.S. Central Command


 Steven Mnuchin 
Secretary of Treasury

Trump campaign finance chairman; former Goldman Sachs partner; Hollywood producer

Jeff Sessions
Attorney General

U.S. senator, Alabama

Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital; 2016 candidate for president


Wilbur Ross 
Secretary of Commerce

Investor; former banker


Tom Price

Secretary of Health and Human Services

U.S. representative, Georgia; chairman of House Budget Committee; orthopedic surgeon

Betsy DeVos
Secretary of Education
Charter school advocate, Philanthropist


Elaine Chao

Secretary of Transportation

Former Labor secretary


Nikki Haley 

U.S. Ambassador to United Nations

Governor of South Carolina


Andrew Puzder

Secretary of Labor

CEO, CKE Restaurants Inc.


John Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security

Retired Marine general; former commander of U.S. Southern Command


Scott Pruitt
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Oklahoma attorney general; former state senator


Mick Mulvaney
Director of Office of Management and Budget

U.S. representative, South Carolina; former South Carolina state senator and representative


Linda McMahon
Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment


White House

Individuals Trump has appointed:

Reince Priebus
Chief of Staff

Chairman of Republican National Committee


Michael Flynn
National Security Adviser
Former director of Defense Intelligence Agency; retired Army lieutenant general 

Stephen K. Bannon 
Chief Strategist

Executive chairman of Breitbart News


Donald McGahn
White House Counsel

Former member of the Federal Election Commission
Sean Spicer

White House Press Secretary

Former Republican National Committee spokesman