Of rats and Democrats 16

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is guilty of abuse of power and conspiracy to overthrow a duly elected president.

We quote from an article (well worth reading in full) by Michael Anton at the Claremont Review.

People capable of feeling shame would not have immediately followed up the Russiagate hoax fiasco with another transparently phony—and in “substance” nearly identical—attempt to remove President Trump from office, overturn the 2016 election, and shower deplorable-Americans with contempt and hatred. But our ruling elites have no shame. …

The Democrats, the corporate-Left media (CLM), the permanent bureaucracy or “administrative state”,and the “deep state” (which is not precisely the same thing), along with a few Republicans, have “publicly voiced” many causes for removing the president—a few specific but most maddeningly, yet safely, vague.

From the beginning—that is to say, from November 9, 2016—impeachment has been a cause in search of a trigger, an occasion. The president’s enemies hoped they’d finally hit pay dirt when an anonymous “whistleblower” alleged that the president made, or attempted to make, foreign aid to Ukraine contingent on that country’s government investigating his likely 2020 challenger. Or, in other words, that Trump attempted to “collude” with a foreign power to influence an American election. …

If we are to take the current “publicly voiced” cause at face value, then we may say that the entire Washington establishment, plus most of the country’s elites, are trying to remove the president from office on the basis of an anonymous individual’s private opinion of the content of one phone call he heard about second or possibly even thirdhand. A phone call, let’s remember, of which we have extensive notes that almost, but not quite, constitute a transcript—in other words, whose content everyone in the country can examine for himself.

That the “telcon” (national security geekspeak for what people are calling the “transcript”) does not support the “publicly voiced” cause is made plain by two facts. First, you can read it yourself and see that it doesn’t say what it is alleged to say. Second, if it did say what the president’s enemies want it to say, they could just quote it verbatim, which they never do, instead of deliberately mischaracterizing it, which they always do.

Only two substantive points make the phone call at all interesting. First, President Trump very plainly wants to get to the bottom of the entire, still-obscure “election-meddling” story of 2016. That includes not just “deep state” attempts to prevent his election and to set him up for removal should the first effort fail, but also allegations of Russian hacking against American targets, including the Democratic National Committee. It appears—and the Justice Department apparently agrees—that some actors within Ukraine may have had something to do with some of this, possibly colluding … with a shady, Democrat-linked tech firm called CrowdStrike, though we as yet know nothing like the full story. Trump wants to know and asked the Ukrainian president for his help in finding out. …

The second question President Trump asked the Ukrainian president is another “publicly voiced” cause to seek his removal. That question regarded a specific instance of a well-known Washington-insider phenomenon. It is a measure of how insouciantly our elites accept and even welcome the immense corruption of our government that they raise not a single eyebrow at the phenomenon that underlay the president’s question: exactly how is it that well-connected Americans with no particular or relevant skill sets can “earn” enormous sums of money for doing, essentially, nothing?

The “specific instance” was to do with Hunter Biden being paid an enormous sum for doing nothing but getting his dad, Obama’s Vice-President Joe Biden, to threaten to withhold funds in aid to Ukraine if its government didn’t stop investigating corruption in the firm that was … well, to put it bluntly, bribing Hunter. Joe Biden did as he was asked. President Trump wanted to have the matter investigated and said so in the phone call to a new Ukrainian leader.

Understand this plainly: Trump may well be impeached, ostensibly, for asking about this corrupt arrangement. But no one is ever impeached for engaging in it. Nor can our elites, who almost all benefit from this system one way or another, muster the integrity to do, or even say, anything against it.

Though currently central to the “publicly voiced” case, this charge is not the only one levelled [against President Trump in connection with the phone call]. It is also insinuated that the administration somehow acted improperly by not making the telcon available within the government to a wide enough range of bureaucrats. But that’s preposterous.

Such documents are inherently products of the executive branch. They may be shown to, or withheld from, absolutely anyone the president and his senior staff want. To argue anything else is to presuppose that bureaucrats whom the president doesn’t know and likely will never see somehow are entitled—have a “right”—to review anything and everything they wish. Does this sound reasonable to anyone not out to get Trump? Would you run your business this way? Or would you try to limit information—especially sensitive information—on a “need-to-know” basis? Formally, the U.S. government insists that it operates according to the latter principle, but in reality, everyone in Washington believes himself so important that he becomes indignant when not allowed to see what he believes by right he ought to see.

Then ask yourself: assuming the president and his team did try to limit access to this or other documents, why would they do that? Perhaps to prevent illegal and damaging leaks? What could possibly give rise to that concern? I dunno—maybe because this has been, and continues to be, the most leaked-against White House and administration in the history of the United States government?

When one thinks for a second about the impact this particular document has already had—the president may well be impeached over it, on the say-so of precisely such a bureaucrat from whom his team allegedly tried, but evidently failed, to withhold it—can one blame Trump or his team for trying to limit the dissemination of internal documents? A saner response is to wish they had restricted the circle even more. The detail, alleged in the press, that the “whistleblower” (more on him below) heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, etc., does not, to say the least, suggest any kind of cover-up. …

[But] “cover-up” is the latest “publicly voiced” charge. A member of the National Security Council staff  [Lt.-Col. Vindman] alleges that he attempted to include language in the telcon that others insisted on excluding. This is held to be a very serious charge.

Here’s what they’re not telling you. The document, as noted, is not a transcript; there’s no stenographer on the line and such calls are not recorded. Several people, however, will be listening and taking notes for the express purpose of creating the telcon. These will include duty officers in the White House Situation Room, who are not necessarily—and are not expected to be—experts on the country being called; rather, they are covering the call simply because it takes place during their shifts. These duty officers, with the aid of impressive but not infallible voice recognition software, prepare a first draft of the telcon. Since neither the voice recognition software nor human notetakers can catch every word perfectly, sometimes “Inaudible” appears in brackets. But ellipses—about which much is currently being made—represent not omissions but natural pauses in the conversation. This is before we even get into the thorny issues raised by sequential translation, which is necessary for most foreign leader calls.

After the first draft of the telcon is prepared, the duty officer hands it over to the National Security Council’s (NSC’s) executive secretary (ExecSec), the office responsible for all NSC paper flow and records management (among other things). ExecSec then routes the telcon to specific individuals, whom the national security advisor has personally authorized to review it, for their “chop” or edits. The person responsible for shepherding the document through this phase of the process is the “country director”, the NSC staffer who coordinates policy and handles documents with respect to a given country or countries. The country director will, in almost all cases, have been listening to the call. He will check the draft telcon against his notes and make corrections, even as others cross-check against their own notes. These will include the relevant senior director (the country director’s boss) and others, up to and including the national security advisor.

The key takeaway here is that the country director is the not highest or final authority on the content of the call. He’s one person who heard it; others may have heard it or parts of it differently. And the country director does not have the final say over what the telcon says. He works in a chain of command and has superiors. His senior director—who presumably was also on the call—can overrule him. If other “equities” such as classification or legal issues are affected, the senior director for intelligence programs and the legal advisor can as well. Ultimately the final say falls to the national security advisor—who, in almost all cases, would also have been listening to the call.

The person alleging a cover-up, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Vindman, was, at the time, the country director for Ukraine. But the way he’s being presented—and has presented himself—is meant to convey a much grander impression. No less than the “whistleblower”, he is being sold as a patriotic, dedicated, impartial, non-partisan, career officer simply standing up for what’s right. …

But he is also, unquestionably, a mid-level officer in the U.S. Army working a mid-level staff job at the National Security Council, i.e., someone who as such has no standing even to serve as the final arbiter of a telcon, much less make policy or remove a president.

We actually don’t know what language the country director was prevented from including in the telcon, but we do know … that “the phrases do not fundamentally change lawmakers’ understanding of the call”. …

At least the country director [Vindman] was actually in the NSC chain of command and so had some standing to weigh in on the issue. This cannot be said of the so-called “whistleblower”, who of course is nothing of the sort—not as defined by law nor in any commonsense understanding. As to the former, the statute is clear: officials qualify for legal protection if they blow the whistle on activities within their own organizations and relevant to those organizations’ official duties. There is no possible way to interpret this particular “whistle” as consistent with that standard. By definition, the president’s phone call was not conducted under the auspices of the “whistleblower’s” “home agency” (reportedly the CIA) nor did it have anything to do with intelligence matters. …

The “whistleblower” reportedly wasn’t on the call and never saw the telcon. Given that several—probably at least a dozen—others were and did, why didn’t one of them lodge a complaint? One—our country director—did complain to the NSC’s top lawyer, who could find no wrongdoing. The others? Nothing. Is it possible most of them also saw no wrongdoing? …

But then the question arises: complain to whom? Neither the NSC nor its parent organization, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), have a formal whistleblower process. If one wishes to make a complaint, one has five options: complain within your chain of command, complain to the lawyers, complain to the White House chief of staff, complain to Congress, or complain to the press. Even our country director declined four of these five avenues, and all the others apparently declined them all. Why? Perhaps someone calculated that the optics would be better—more “disinterested,” less nakedly political—if the complaint came from somewhere else, a “patriotic career civil servant just doing his job”. …

The “whistleblower” was just a tool, witting or not (I’m betting on the former) to get something new going after the ignominious collapse of Russiagate. His usefulness over—indeed, his presence in the drama now counterproductive—we are instructed to forget he ever existed. …

It was a dirty plot. How did it begin? Who leaked (inaccurate) information about the phone call to “a friend” who leaked it to “a friend” who leaked it to his friend the “whistleblower”. Or was that not really how the “whistleblower” came to know about it?

Vindman, the “country director”, is the obvious suspect for the original leak: “One [who was on the call] —our country director—did complain to the NSC’s top lawyer, who could find no wrongdoing.”

Did Vindman then report the call to Adam Schiff? (Had Schiff asked him to report anything he could use against the President? Very possibly.)

If so, Schiff would need to account for the leak reaching him, and Vindman would certainly not let himself be named as the leaker. A stooge had to be found to take on the role of the leaker  a “whistleblower”.  Someone who would be “good for the optics”.

Did Schiff consult with Biden, and did Biden suggest Eric Ciaramella – who has been named on social media as the “whistleblower” – be employed in that role? Or did Vindman suggest him?

Who is Eric Ciaramella?

The Washington Examiner reports:

[Eric] Ciaramella is a career CIA analyst and was the Ukraine director on the NSC from 2016 until the summer of 2017. In October 2016, he was [Joe] Biden’s guest at a State Department banquet. …

Ciaramella could be told to say that he had heard about the call “from a friend who had heard about it from a friend” and had been shocked and appalled by what he heard.

But there would be no obvious reason why he would take his complaint to Adam Schiff. A plausible explanation for Schiff finding out about it had to be invented. 

Well, what if there happened to be someone on Schiff’s staff who knew Eric Ciaramella? 

There wasn’t, but that was a lack easily remedied.

The alleged whistleblower filed an Aug. 12 complaint with the Intelligence Community inspector general about the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky …

 … which he “had heard about from a friend who had heard about it from a friend” …

after meeting with a House Intelligence Committee aide on Schiff’s staff about the call

Hey presto! Suddenly there was someone on Schiff’s staff to whom Ciaramella might reasonably confide his outrage. Who was this “aide on Schiff’s staff”?

Sean Misko, who [had] worked with alleged Ukraine whistleblower Eric Ciaramella at the NSC during the Obama and Trump administrations”, was hired by Schiff [on July 26] the day after the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Both Ciaramella and Misko started their tenures during the Obama administration and left during the first year of the Trump administration. The Washington Examiner was told by a former senior White House official that both had a close, “bro-like” relationship while working at the NSC together.

Smell a rat? There’s a whole stinking nest of them.

Michael Anton again:

The worst charge thus far alleged against President Trump is that he attempted to make $400 million in aid to Ukraine contingent on that country’s government investigating possible corruption by the Bidens. This is the much hoped for “smoking gun,” the “quid pro quo”—as if the foreign policy of any country in history has ever been borne aloft on the gentle vapors of pure altruism. …

I don’t see it. Especially since a) no aid was actually withheld; b) no investigation was actually launched; c) the American people don’t care about Ukraine and would probably prefer to get their $400 million back; and d) they would inevitably ask: so were, in fact, Joe Biden and his son on the take from a foreign government? And if it looks like they might have been, why, exactly, was it improper for the president to ask about it?

Trump’s enemies’ answer to the last question is: because the president was asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent for purely personal gain. Really? Is potential corruption by a former vice president—and potential future president—and his family a purely private matter, of no conceivable import or interest to the public affairs of the United States? That’s what you have to insist on to maintain that the request was improper. That’s the line we can expect the Democrat-CLM axis to flog, shamelessly and aggressively. But will a majority of Americans buy it? Especially since career officials at the Department of Justice already determined, and anti-Trump witnesses appearing before Representative Adam Schiff’s secret star chamber reluctantly conceded, that nothing Trump did or is alleged to have done was technically, you know, illegal.

And besides all that, aren’t all relations between nation-states conducted on the perpetual understanding of quid pro quo? Isn’t quid pro quo what all diplomacy is about: the exchange of envoys; the setting up of embassies and consulates; treaties? Isn’t even the giving of aid done in wistful hope for some reward (such as a supportive vote in the UN)? What is trade between countries – or, come to that, what is all trade – but a system of quid quo pro?

A system of honest, open, mutually beneficial quid pro quo is what international trade needs to be. And President Trump is working to make it so. Part of that effort may involve asking the more trustworthy leaders of foreign governments to investigate corruption, even if an American Democratic leader and his son get caught in the sweep.

The pursuit of happiness 57

Gentlefolk in the 18th. century thought that to try to live happily was a reasonable aim, to judge by the statement of the great authors of the US Declaration of Independence. To them it appeared “self-evident” that every person had a “right” (“endowed by their Creator”, or, in other words, a natural right) to his life and his choice how to live it, which surely meant that he would live it as nearly to his heart’s desire as he could.

Horny handed sons of toil, even if as free under the law, were not expected, either by themselves or their betters, to achieve the same forms of happiness. Enough for them if they could earn their daily bread. For that they lived and strove. Their life was the striving. It occupied their hours, their days, their years, their bodies and their thoughts. Success was survival. Survival was for most of them the only reasonable attainable happiness. If some strove for more – excess, property, leisure – and attained it, then happiness abounded. (Happiness, that is to say, as contentment. Other forms of gratification – thrills, excitement, delights of the senses, scoring triumphs – are not our subject. They are experienced episodically and enjoyed to the degree the individual is capable of.)

The welfare state relieved the workers of the need to strive for survival. Now all could be philosophers. The joy of exploring the limitless sphere of the mind was open to all. Universal happiness would reign.

But doesn’t.

The reasons why people commit suicide are many and various, but what they all have in common is that they find life unbearable. So suicide rates might be taken as a gauge of happiness and the lack of it in a population.

The figures for those rates from the last few years (according to Wikipedia – and perhaps not entirely trustworthy) provide some surprises. (Worth noticing in passing – far more males kill themselves than do females everywhere.)

Highest suicide rate in the world: Greenland. Average 82.8 per 100,000 per annum. It is a welfare state.

Google reveals:

As part of Denmark, Greenlanders have access to one of the most extensive social welfare systems in Europe, including universal, nationalized medical care and free state education, including college.

(President Trump has asked Denmark if it would sell Greenland to the USA. Rhetorical question: Would life in Greenland be better, more bearable, happier if it became the 51st. state of the USA, which provides much less welfare? USA suicide average per 100,000 per annum, 14.5.)

Big drop to the next highest. Guyana 30.2, Lithuania 28.27, South Korea 26.6

The average for most European countries is between 12.57 (Germany) and 17 (Belgium).

Britain? Only 7.23!

China? 9.8

Iran 4.8   The state does most of the killing there.

Venezuela 3.2  Nature does it there, because the people are starving and have no medicines. Venezuela is – way beyond a welfare state – a socialist state.

Syria 0.1  Constant civil war rages there.

Pakistan 1.1   People are happy in Pakistan?

Haiti  – a truly miserable place of hunger and disease. Average suicide?  0.0

But back to the pursuit of happiness in the civilized West.

What went wrong? Is it possible that the strivers enjoyed the striving and its meager rewards?

Or did philosophizing bring the newly leisured to ask, “What is it all for anyway?“. And find no answer?

There are thousands of counselors – even millions, we would guess – telling unhappy people how to be happy. There are hundreds of thousands of books giving readers rules for living –  from obedience to which, happiness might be expected.

And there is religion. Religion is supposed to “give meaning to life”.

Does it answer the question “what is it all for anyway?”

Let’s look at an individual case of unhappiness. In America.

At the American Conservative, we found this letter, reproduced by Rod Dreher, to whom it was sent as if to an agony aunt:

Mr. Dreher,

The things you have been writing lately about alienated young men and mass shootings prompt me to reach out to you. I am not a young man anymore, but I am dealing with things that I did not imagine I would be when I was young and newly married. Back then, everything made sense. I feel like I need to tell my story.

My background is that I am a successful businessman (a kind of consultant) living in a well-to-do suburb of a Southern city. My wife and I married relatively early, and had two kids. The boys are in good colleges in other states. They are getting ready to head back to school next week. It has been a real pleasure having them here this summer. Our house becomes a tomb when they are not around.

Four years ago, my wife told me that she didn’t want to be married to me anymore. After almost 30 years, she had had enough. I did not see that coming. We almost never fought. We used to go to dinner together, take family vacations, do things together, etc etc. She just said that she thought she had hitched herself to a man too young, and now that the boys were older and out of the house, she was reconsidering her life. I asked her if there was another man. She said no, and eventually I believed her. I asked her if she wanted a divorce. She said probably so, but she wanted to wait until the boys got out of school. She is a reasonable person with a finance background, and knows that a divorce would cost us a lot at a time when we are supporting two kids in college.

She has a job she loves. I work from a home office. I was so glad when my company gave me the chance to do this. I miss the friendships in the office, but when you talk on your blog about wokeness in the workplace, I always find myself nodding along. A few years back, my company started getting engaged with “diversity and inclusivity” in the workplace. I noticed that every time they would run us all through one of those seminars, we would all come out of it more suspicious of each other. It was crazy. It was as if our bosses were trying to poison the office environment. I got to the point where as a white male, I saw my co-workers as potentially the people who would try to get me fired if I said one wrong thing by mistake. They might have seen me that way too. It was crazy. The more management pushed “diversity and inclusivity”, the more anxious things felt in the office. When the company was restructuring and offered people in my division the chance to work at home, I jumped at it, just to get out of that tense environment.

It was a blessing at first, but nowadays I wonder if that was the right thing to do. The idea of working from home seems great, until you realize that you don’t see people at all. I have a nice home office where I put in my 9 to 5, which is really more like 8 to 7, but everybody does that. If I’m being truthful, I stay in my office longer than I have to on most days, because there is nothing for me outside of it. My wife used to be my best friend. Now we just share a house and a bed. She has friends from her office, and goes out with them a lot. When all this started, I honestly thought she was seeing some guy. I’m not going into the details, but I’m truly convinced that she’s not. She’s just hanging out with other middle-aged women who are sick of their husbands too.

I used to think only men behaved like that. Mother and Daddy have both passed away, but they had a good marriage. Some of their friends got divorced when I was a kid, and it was always the man leaving his wife for a younger woman. They were very judgmental of them, but in a way I still think was right. They were Southern people (I think you know what I mean, Mr. Dreher), and that meant that they thought it was dishonorable for a man to do his wife like that. I internalized that honor code, and have always lived by it, and my Catholic faith. If my wife demands a divorce, I will give it to her, but I won’t marry again. How could I go through an annulment? I can’t say truthfully that this was not really a marriage. I meant it when I said my vows, and I believe my wife did too. I am not going to make bastards of my sons because my wife abandoned me and I want to be married again. Besides, there would be no marrying again for me anyway. I look at myself in the mirror — mid to late 50s, half-bald, pot belly, etc etc. What woman would want me even if I was free to marry her?

I was an only child, so I have no close family to speak of. We are Catholics. My faith is just about the only thing that keeps me going through all this, but it’s thin. My wife refuses to see a marriage counselor. I made the first steps to getting an appointment to talk to our priest, but I gave up because that was hopeless. I feel bad for our priest. He’s managing a big suburban parish all on his own. It would have taken forever to get an appointment, and there was no way he was going to be able to give us the time it would take to save our marriage, especially given that my wife doesn’t want to save it. Besides, there is nothing I’ve ever heard our priest say that tells me he is a man who could help us. He talks like one of those life coaches our company used to bring in for team building exercises, a guy who gets all his ideas from Hallmark cards.

She still goes to mass with me, but just out of habit. When I stand there listening to Fr give his cheerful but empty homilies, I think about what’s keeping me from going home and blowing my brains out. I’m not going to do this because I’m scared of pain and I’m scared of going to Hell. Also, I don’t want to hurt the boys, and make them feel like they did something to cause it or give them something to be ashamed of. However, I think a lot about how little I have to live for anymore. I am not even sure that the boys think of me much, except as “Good Old Dad”…

Nobody can see it. I stand there in church, wearing my coat and tie, and people probably think I have it all together. We drive nice cars, we live in a nice house in a good neighborhood, etc, etc. I am grateful to have a good job that has allowed me to provide for my family. By all the world’s standards, I’m doing well. I have “white privilege”. 

What a joke. When I first started working in my home office, I would dress up in a coat, no tie, and dress pants to go to “work.” It felt right to hang on to that habit. Since my marriage fell apart, I notice that some days I don’t even get out of my pajamas. I sit there at my nice desk doing all my work on my laptop, and go right back to bed at the end of the day without even taking a shower. I know this is pathetic, and if the boys were still at home, I would know to keep up appearances. This is my life.

When the boys graduate and don’t have to depend on us, I guess that will mean Decision Time. I will probably move out, though to all rights we ought to sell the house. I remember the day we bought it, and talking with my wife about that big dining room, and how we looked forward to the kids coming home with their wives and children for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, we sure had big plans for that dining room. We bought a house with a fireplace because we dreamed about sitting around it with the grandchildren. All that is over now, and not because I wanted it to be. I feel so powerless. Maybe I would stay here if either one of the boys moved back, but given the fields they have chosen, I don’t look for that to happen, and even if it did, we would just be keeping up appearances for their sake. Southern people are real good at that, as you know.

What prompted me to write to you is your writings about the loneliness crisis. I am not some white trash 22 y.o. living in a trailer somewhere, playing video games, and living off his Mama, but I am completely isolated in my life. My “video game” is Excel spreadsheets. The friends I had back in the happier days were all “couples friends” through my wife. When she said she didn’t want to be married to me, we stopped having people over, and stopped accepting invitations to other people’s houses. After a few years, those invitations stopped coming. I tried to keep up these friendships with the husbands, but it was awkward. I told a couple of the guys I was closest to about the mess in my marriage, and they seemed sympathetic, but there wasn’t a lot they could do. They all had kids, and their couples friends. Two or three times I went to their dinner parties by myself, but you talk about awkward! I was embarrassed by it all, and just quit going. I miss those guys, and I even miss their wives. We used to be happy all together.

If this is “white privilege”, screw it. I stopped by the shoe repair shop a couple of weeks ago, and there were some black guys my age sitting around talking and laughing with each other. I envied them. I probably make 10 or 15 times more than them, but they are probably rich in ways that I used to be before I went “bankrupt”. I would trade all this so-called “white privilege” for a happy marriage, a strong family, and good friends. Mother and Daddy didn’t have a lot of money, but at least they had that. They also had a small-town church where they felt at home. How can anybody feel at home in a big parish like mine? I was taught to be charitable, especially to the clergy, and I do feel bad for our priest, who is carrying a heavy load. But this ain’t church. I’ve gotten to the point where I sit there during mass and I wonder how many of those men in the pews are just like me: barely holding it together, wondering what the hell we’re living for, ignored by our wives, and starving for friendship. God feels so far away. I have never doubted His existence, but these days, He feels like the Pope — a nice man who lives far away and who doesn’t see us.

I know I sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I guess I am. But damn it, I didn’t think things were going to work out like this. I did everything I was supposed to do, and it all fell to pieces anyway. I’m racking my brains trying to figure out how I can fix this, but my wife doesn’t want it to be fixed. She just wants out. I recognize that I am privileged economically and socially, but I’m here to tell you that if you were a working man who drove by my house, and saw me out front mowing our big lawn, you would think I had it made. In fact, you would be looking at a dead man, at a man who secretly hopes he falls over from a heart attack so he doesn’t have to keep carrying this weight of loneliness. At this point, my only purpose in life is to do what I have to do so my sons can have a good life or think they have a good life, until they get to my age and it falls to shit, and they end up doing just what their Good Old Dad is doing.

The thought just occurred to me as I’m writing this that the only real reason we will have to keep our household together after our sons graduate is if one of them can’t find a job, and has to live with us. That’s a sorry state to be in, knowing that the only thing that would keep you and your wife together is an unemployed grown-up child.

I appreciate the opportunity to get this off of my chest. I like reading your blog because even though it’s depressing sometimes, I feel like you talk about the real world, which is more than I get from my priest. I would just ask your readers to keep in mind that when they see people at church, in the store, and at other places, that those people might be suffering in ways that are not obvious. You think folks have it made, but they don’t. You see me getting out of my [luxury car brand] at church, with my wife, and we’re all dressed up and smiling, but from my very jaded perspective, we’re dead people who have no future. At least my wife has the girls from the office.

I’ve thought about asking my manager if I can come back to the office, but I know that’s not a solution. I’m the Great White Male, the source of all evil in the world. Given my run of luck, it would be about right for somebody to falsely accuse me of something, and end up taking away the last I have left from what started out as an American dream. I’d end up jobless and poor, and then the gun to the head might not seem so scary after all.

Sorry. Thanks for listening.

One thing we find particularly interesting about this “confession” is how little the man’s faith does for him. Fear of hell keeps him from suicide. That’s about all.

If he were not a believing Catholic, he might have developed some curiosity about the world he lives in. It has not occurred to him to go exploring in the infinite realm of the mind.

He was happier when his children lived with him. If he had grandchildren living near by he might be happy again. For a while, anyway. Until they grew up. But young men are not quick to marry now and raise a family.

Readers, your comments are needed.

President George H. W. Bush 2

From our Facebook page we quote this summary of an interesting article, with which we almost entirely agree, by Ashley Hamilton at American Greatness, with our introductory comment:

It is not nice to speak ill of the dead. But it is necessary to tell the truth about dead presidents:

When the Berlin Wall came down and all Europe was freed, President George Herbert Walker Bush refused to go to Berlin, because he chose “evenhandedness over elation”. The end of the Cold War was not his finest hour. Were the people of East Germany, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia not owed a speech by the leader of the free world? Not worthy of an address? Were the survivors of both Hitler and Stalin not a big enough audience to attract the president’s attention? Apparently not. President Bush went to Kiev instead, where he told Ukrainians to be . . . Russians! He came to a city that had been starved of freedom. He came to a country that had been destroyed by famine. He came to praise stability by preaching against “suicidal nationalism”! He came at a great turning point in history. But he was not a great American president.

Ashley Hamilton’s full last line is:

He was a great man who was not a good president.

But all that matters about him to America, to the world, to present and future generations, is his presidency.

*

Michelle Malkin issued a reminder that …

…the Bush regime and the Bush dynasty [stand for] something that impoverishes the American worker. It grows the deep state at the expense of small businesses and liberty. The elitism of the Bush wing of the Republican party is what Trump defeated, and I think he has to remember that’s why he’s in the office — because of the adamant rejection of that attitude and those policies.

Posted under communism, Eastern Europe, Soviet Union, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 3, 2018

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November 11, 1918 and 2018 9

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 100 years ago TODAY, the First World War came to an end.

But Europe did not recover from it.

The death of Europe – its slow suicide which is now well underway – began with the outbreak of that unnecessary war.

An entirely unnecessary war it was. It wasted a generation of young men. Ten million of them died and millions more bore life-altering injuries.

The suffering of the doomed young men – many if not most in their teens – was intense. Variously, they were shot; they felt the cold steel of bayonets piercing into their bodies; their lungs, throats and skins were blistered by mustard gas; they were blinded; they lost limbs; they lived and died in mud.

For what? For the vanity of rulers, most of them monarchs. That was all. Nothing more profound or complicated than that.

But the First World War and the Armistice itself necessitated the Second World War.

And the Western powers, Britain and America, deemed it necessary to fight it in alliance with Stalin, an ally as tyrannically oppressive and cruel as the axis powers they defeated.

Because of Stalin’s alliance, Eastern Europe was saved from one tyranny only to fall under another. The iron heel of Nazi Germany was lifted from that half of the continent, and the iron heel of Communist Russia came down upon it.

American generosity helped the economic recovery of the Western European nations. But their future is short.

The Western European peoples are letting themselves die out. They have few children. And they are giving their lands away to mostly poor, alien, uneducated settlers, whose customs and laws derive from the dark ages. 

These Third World migrants pour in at the invitation of the governments, and have many children. It is a form of conquest by the will of the conquered.

Before long the foreign colonists will be numerous enough to use the European system of democracy to gain power, and then, if they so choose, they can abolish democracy and replace it with their own systems of oppressive tyranny.  

For this the soil of Europe was soaked with the blood of its peoples in the wars of the last century.

For those who survived, for their dwindling descendants, is that eleven o’clock the bells are striking?

“A Czech Donald Trump” and the salvation of Europe 7

In our recent post A new idea that could save Europe? (October 3, 2017), we quote an article by Soeren Kern about the Austrian Foreign  Minister Sebastian Kurz, expected to be the next Chancellor, taking measures to preserve Austrian national identity and culture by forcing the hordes of Muslims that have poured into his country to become Austrian. No more multiculturalism. Immigrants must speak German and obey Austrian law. He is the first European leader to make such a demand on Muslim immigrants.

An even better solution to the threat and likelihood of European countries being swamped by Muslims and before much longer dominated by them, is not to let them in at all. It is the preferred solution of  the Hungarian and Polish governments, and now also of a leader of the Czech Republic.

Here again is Soeren Kern, writing at Gatestone:

A “politically incorrect” billionaire businessman opposed to further EU integration is on track to become the next prime minister of the Czech Republic.

Andrej Babis, a Slovak-born former finance minister who has been sharply critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy, is leading the polls ahead of general elections, set for October 20.

Babis, one of the country’s wealthiest people, presents himself as a non-ideological results-oriented reformer. He has pledged to run the Czech Republic like a business after years of what he calls corrupt and inept management. He is demanding a return of sovereignty from the European Union and rejects the euro; he argues that it would “be another issue that Brussels would be meddling with”. He has also said he plans to cut government spending, stop people from “being parasites” in the social welfare system, and fight for Czech interests abroad. Babis is often referred to as “the Czech Donald Trump”. 

Babis’s anti-establishment party ANO (which stands for “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” and is also the Czech word for “yes”) is centrist, technocratic and pro-business. ANO, which rejects political labels, has attracted voters from both left and right, pulling support away from the established parties. Babis has said that ANO aims to replace left and right with “common sense.”

A recent poll shows that support for ANO has grown to 30.9%, while the support for the Czech Social Democrats has dropped to 13.1%. The pro-Russian Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has 11.1%; the nationalist Civic Democratic Party 9.1%. TOP 09, the only openly pro-EU party, will not pass the 5% barrier of entry into Parliament; it is supported by only 4.4% of Czech voters.

Babis’s approach to the EU is pragmatic: “They give us money, so our membership is advantageous for us.” He does not want the Czech Republic to leave the EU, but he is opposed to the country joining the eurozone:

No euro. I don’t want the euro. We don’t want the euro here. Everybody knows it’s bankrupt. It’s about our sovereignty. I want the Czech koruna, and an independent central bank. I don’t want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with.

Babis has expressed opposition to mass migration: “I have stopped believing in successful integration and multiculturalism.” He has called on Merkel “to give up her political correctness and to begin to act” on securing European borders:

In return for billions of euros, she should make sure that Greece and Turkey completely stop the arrival of refugees in Europe. Otherwise, it will be her fault what happens to the European population. Unfortunately, Mrs. Merkel refuses to see how serious the situation is in Germany and in other EU nations. Her attitude is really tragic.

Babis blamed Merkel for the December 2016 jihadist attack on a Berlin Christmas market:

Unfortunately, the migration policy is responsible for this dreadful act. It was she who let migrants enter Germany and the whole of Europe in uncontrolled waves, without papers, therefore without knowing who they really are. Germany is paying a high price for this policy. The solution is peace in Syria and the return of migrants to their homes. There is no place for them in Europe.

Babis has rejected pressure from the European Commission, which has launched infringement procedures against the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles for refusing to comply with an EU plan to redistribute migrants. In August 2016, he tweeted:

I will not accept refugee quotas for the Czech Republic. The situation has changed. We see how migrants react in Europe. There is a dictator in Turkey. We must react to the needs and fears of the citizens of our country. We must guarantee the security of Czech citizens. Even if we are punished by sanctions.

In June 2017, Babis reiterated that the Czech Republic would not be taking orders from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels:

We have to fight for what our ancestors built here. If there will be more Muslims than Belgians in Brussels, that’s their problem. I don’t want that here. They won’t be telling us who should live here.

Babis has called on the EU to establish a system to sort economic migrants from legitimate asylum seekers:

The EU must say: You cannot come to us to be unemployed and immediately take social benefits.

In an interview with the Czech daily Pravo, Babis said:

We are not duty-bound to accept anyone and we are not even now able to do so. Our primary responsibility is to make sure that our own citizens are safe. The Czech Republic has enough of its own problems, people living on the breadline, single mothers. The West European politicians keep repeating that it is our duty to comply with what the immigrants want because of their human rights. But what about the human rights of the Germans or the Hungarians? Why should the British accept that the wealth which has been created by many generations of their ancestors, should be consumed by people without any relationship to that country and its culture? People who are a security risk and whose desire it is not to integrate but to destroy European culture?

The public service media in some countries have been brainwashing people. They have been avoiding problems with the immigrants. Politicians have also been lying to their citizens. This has only increased tension between the indigenous population and the immigrants. It is not acceptable that Europeans should have fewer rights than immigrants.

It is unthinkable that the indigenous European population should adapt themselves to the refugees. We must do away with such nonsensical political correctness. The refugees should behave like guests, that is they should be polite, and they certainly do not have the right to choose what they want to eat.

Europe and Germany in particular are undergoing an identity crisis. There is a deep chasm between what people think and what the media tell them.

Many of the Middle Eastern refugees are unusable in industry. Many of them are also basically illiterate …

With the rise of AfD in Germany which is frankly an anti-Islamization party*; a growing grassroots movement of protest against the Islamization of Britain; the refusal of Eastern European countries to accept Muslim immigrants at all; and a world leader, US President Donald Trump, who has set an example by taking the common sense step of banning immigrants from certain Islamic countries, is there reason at last to hope that Western civilization will survive?

The demographic facts are against it. Most of the countries of the European Union, and Britain, will have Muslim majorities in this century. If most of the Muslims became Europeanized on the Austrian model, the demographic statistics would not be a determining factor. But will the Austrian solution succeed? Will other EU member countries follow it?

Will Islam itself change to conform to Western values, law, customs, secularism?

In other words, will the looming darkness be dispelled?

 

*Also see here.

President Trump asks the great question of our time 1

Yesterday (July 6, 2017) President Trump said in the speech he gave in Poland:

The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? 

Our citizens did not win freedom together, did not survive horrors together, did not face down evil together only to lose our freedom to a lack of pride and confidence in our values. We did not and we will not. We will never back down. 

Giulio Meotti writes at Gatestone:

In a historic speech to an enthusiastic Polish crowd before the meeting of the G20 Summit leaders, US President Donald Trump described the West’s battle against “radical Islamic terrorism” as the way to protect “our civilization and our way of life”.  ,,,

After an Islamist suicide-bomber murdered 22 concert-goers in Manchester, including two Poles, Poland’s prime minister, Beata Szydło, said that Poland would not be “blackmailed” into accepting thousands of refugees under the European Union’s quota system. She urged Polish lawmakers to safeguard the country and Europe from the scourges of Islamist terrorism and cultural suicide:

Where are you headed, Europe? Rise from your knees and from your lethargy, or you will be crying over your children every day.

A few days later, the European Union announced that it would begin proceedings to punish Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for their refusal to accept [Muslim] migrants …

These Central- and Eastern European countries know that Western Europe’s multiculturalism has been a recipe for terror attacks, for a start.

As Ed West of The Spectator noted:

Central Europe, chiefly Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, remain largely safe from the terror threat … It is precisely because the reasons for this are so obvious that they cannot be mentioned. Poland is 0.1 percent Muslim, most of whom are from a long-settled Tartar community, Britain is 5 percent, France 9 percent and Brussels 25 percent, and those numbers are growing.

What is presumably “obvious” here is that Poland and Hungary are not hit by Islamic terror attacks because they have very few Muslims, while Belgium and UK it is the reverse. Europe would probably [no, certainly – ed] have been safer if it had followed Eastern Europe’s example.

Eastern Europe not only shows a greater understanding of Western culture than Western Europe does; these Eastern countries have also been far more generous to NATO, the bulwark of their independence and security. Culture and security go hand-in-hand: if you take your own culture and civilization seriously, you will be ready to defend them.

A brief look at the NATO’s members’ military spending as a percentage of GDP shows that Poland meets the 2% target, unlike all the Western European countries. Only five of NATO’s 28 members – the U.S., Greece, Poland, Estonia and the U.K. – meet the 2% target. Where is France? And Belgium? And Germany? And The Netherlands? …

Poland – unlike Belgium, Italy and other European countries – is not a “free rider” but a trustworthy partner to its US ally. Poland showed loyal support to the United States both in Afghanistan and Iraq, where its troops fought the Taliban and helped to topple Saddam Hussein.

Which is why –

… President Trump selected Poland, a country that fought both Nazism and Communism, to call on the West to show a little willingness in its existential fight against the new totalitarianism: radical Islam.

The international Left is not against totalitarianism. It never has been. The Democratic Party is now a party of the far left.

The existential fight for our civilization, the defense of it “at any cost” that President Trump has called for, is a fight not only against “radical Islam”, but against the Left.

In America, the fight for our civilization is a fight against the Democratic Party.

Make war not love 3

Last week Bashar al-Assad attacked his own people and killed many of them with poison gas. President Trump ordered that two US ships patrolling the eastern Mediterranean fire cruise missiles to destroy the Syrian airfield from where the gas was carried and the aircraft that carried it.

We were delighted that he did. We cheered. The mass-murdering  tyrant Assad and his allies and supporters, Russia and Iran, were being shown that the United States was no longer going to stand by while they committed such atrocities. We also applauded Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s announcement that Assad must go.

We invited our readers, both here on The Atheist Conservative website and on our Facebook page, to tell us what they thought about President Trump’s action.

Few agreed with us. Most said that Assad should be left in place because who knew what would follow his deposition. We argue that whatever followed, Syria could hardly experience worse than it has under Assad’s rule.

They argued that there was no firm evidence that Assad was responsible for the gassing. Some wanted him to be blamed and punished fairly, justly, as in an American court of law; not taking his past record into account; looking only at this particular atrocity and whether the evidence was strong enough for him to be found guilty of it.

Some declared that they had until now been Trump supporters, but his stroke against Assad had changed their view of him.

How many, we wonder, of those who voted Donald Trump into power now think he has done something so wrong that they regret their choice?

We cannot know. We do not trust the polls, and there is not going to be another presidential election in the near future to give the answer.

We can only point out that if we lose Trump, we lose the war. He is all we’ve got between us and the end of our civilization.

What war? How will it be the end of our civilization if we lose it?

Let’s look round the world and see what’s happening.

This is from an article at Gatestone by Guy Millière, titled Geert Wilders and the Suicide of Europe:

For years, the Dutch mainstream media have spread hatred and defamation against [Geert] Wilders for trying to warn the Dutch people – and Europe – about what their future will be if they continue their current immigration policies; in exchange, last December, a panel of three judges found him guilty of “inciting discrimination”. Newspapers and politicians all over Europe unceasingly describe him as a dangerous man and a rightist firebrand. Sometimes they call him a “fascist”.

What did Geert Wilders ever do to deserve that? None of his remarks ever incriminated any person or group because of their race or ethnicity. To charge him, the Dutch justice system had excessively and abusively to interpret words he used during a rally in which he asked if the Dutch wanted “fewer Moroccans”. None of Wilders’s speeches incites violence against anyone; the violence that surrounds him is directed only at him. He defends human rights and democratic principles and he is a resolute enemy of all forms of anti-Semitism.

His only “crime” is to denounce the danger represented by the Islamization of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe and to claim that Islam represents a mortal threat to freedom.  …

What is happening in the Netherlands is similar to what is happening in most European countries. In the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden, the number of no-go zones is rapidly growing. Islamic riots occur more and more often. Ethnic gangs are growing more violent. Ethnic cleansing is transforming neighborhoods. Jews are leaving for Israel or North America.The Muslim population is sharply increasing. Radical mosques are proliferating. Islamic organizations are everywhere.

Politicians who dare to speak the way Geert Wilders does are treated the way Geert Wilders is treated : scorned, marginalized, put on trial.

The vision of the world in Western Europe is now “hegemonic”. It is based on the idea that the Western world is guilty; that all cultures are equal, and that Islamic culture is “more equal” than Western culture because Islam was supposedly so long oppressed by the West. What adherents of this view, that the West is guilty, “forget” is that Islam long oppressed the West: Muslim armies conquered Persia, the Christian Byzantine Empire, North Africa and the Middle East, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and the Balkans, and virtually all of Eastern Europe. The Muslim armies were a constant threat until the marauding Ottoman troops were finally turned away at the Gates of Vienna in 1683.

This European vision also includes the idea that all conflicts can be peacefully settled, that appeasement is almost always a solution, and that Europe has no enemies.

It also stands on the idea that an enlightened elite must have the power, because if Adolf Hitler came to power through democratic means eighty years ago, letting people freely decide their fate might lead to ill.

The dream seems to be of a utopian future where poverty will be overcome by welfare systems, and violence will be defeated by openness and love.

Repeat: Islamic terrorism “will be defeated by openness and love”.

It is this vision of the world that may have prompted Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to open the doors to more than a million unvetted Muslim migrants, despite a migrant crime wave and an increasing number of rapes and sexual assaults. The only candidate likely to beat Angela Merkel in this year’s German elections is a socialist, Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament president.

In France, Marine Le Pen, the only candidate who speaks of Islam and immigration, will almost certainly be defeated by Emmanuel Macron, a former minister in the government of François Hollande — a man who see no evil anywhere.

It is this vision of the world that also seems to have led British Prime Minister Theresa May to say that the Islamic attack on March 22 in Westminster was “not an act of Islamic terrorism”.

This romanticized, utopian vision of the world also explains why in Europe, people such as Geert Wilders are seen as the incarnation of evil, but radical Islam is considered a marginal nuisance bearing no relation to the “religion of peace”. Meanwhile, Wilders is condemned to live under protection as if he were in jail, while those who want to slaughter him — and who threaten millions of people in Europe — walk around free.

Of all the countries in Europe where the indigenous Europeans have capitulated to Islam, the one most eager to submit to that supremacist totalitarian conqueror is Sweden. Recently a jihadi drove a truck into a crowd of Swedes, killing four.

What will the Swedes – what remains of them – do to save themselves from Islamic terrorism?

They will ban the use of vehicles in Swedish cities:

Virginia Hale reports at Breitbart:

Cars and other vehicles “have turned into deadly weapons”, and should be banished from cities to stop attacks like the one in Stockholm from happening in future, according to Aftonbladet editorialist Eva Franchell.

Crackdowns on immigration or extremist ideology are not the way forward when it comes to terror prevention, according to the veteran journalist, writing after Friday’s terror attack in Stockholm left four people dead.

Instead, it is cars — which she calls “effective murder machines” — that Franchell says “[which] must simply be removed from city centres and places where people gather, if people are to be protected in future”.

Vehicles are “easy to steal, and so nothing has been able to stop their advance”, writes Ms. Franchell.

It just isn’t reasonable that a big truck can be driven right into one of Stockholm’s busiest streets on a Friday afternoon right before Easter.”

Noting how it is a popular destination for tourists, Franchell says the city centre must be a “safe environment” for visitors to enjoy. She described it as “remarkable” that it is possible to drive around the Swedish capital’s medieval old town.

Outlining her vision for a car-free Stockholm, she argues: “Most problems with regards to mobility and public transport can be solved, and deliveries to shops and restaurants could take place at times when people aren’t out on the streets.”

“Vehicles have been allowed to dominate our cities for decades and it’s the people who need space. It’s vital now that cars be regulated,” the piece concludes.

The idea of reducing the number of cars in Swedish cities was backed last month by Sweden’s environment minister, who argued that driving is a gender equality issue as well as a matter of shrinking the nation’s carbon emissions.

“Cars are driven largely by men so by giving a lot of space to cars; we’re giving a lot of space to men — at the expense of women,” Karolina Skog explained.

Cars are evil, and the need to get rid of them is a feminist issue. Two big important fights to be engaged there, with cars and sex inequality.

So are we and President Trump in a very small minority of Westerners who think that we should use all our strength to defeat Islam and its helpers and allies?

We don’t know. But there are voices raised on our side.

This is from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, by Yaakov Lappin:

The conflict in Syria has long ceased being a civil war, becoming instead a clash between coalitions and blocs that divide the entire Middle East.

The Iranian-led axis is the most dangerous and highly armed bloc fighting in Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is not an independent actor, but rather, a component of this wider axis. In many respects, Assad is a junior member of the Iranian coalition set up to fight for him.

Russia joined the Iranian axis in 2015, acting for its own reasons as the pro-Assad coalition’s air force, helping to preserve the Syrian regime.

This coalition enabled the Assad regime to conduct mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Syria, while also using unconventional weapons against civilians in an effort to terrorize rebel organizations into submission.

Feeling confident by its growing control of Syria, Iran also uses its regional coalition to arm, finance, and deploy Shi’ite jihadist agents all over the Middle East, and to attack those who stand in the way of Iranian domination.

The Iranian-led axis has been able to spread violence, terrorism, and Islamic militancy without facing repercussions.

Until recently, the United States focused its attention exclusively on Sunni jihadist threats – ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups. While these terrorists certainly need to be attacked, turning a blind eye to the activities of the more powerful radical Shi’ite coalition did nothing to stop the region’s destabilization. In this context, Assad’s numerous crimes against humanity went unanswered.

This helped embolden Assad to use chemical weapons. It also gave the Iranians confidence to magnify their meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, and to target many other states. The end result is Iran’s enhanced ability to export its Khomeiniest Islamic fundamentalist doctrine.

That sent a troubling message to America’s regional allies, who, in the face of these threats, formed a de facto coalition of pragmatic Sunni states – a coalition that includes Israel.

On April 6, the U.S. sent a signal that something may have changed. A cruise missile attack on an Assad regime air base, in response to a savage chemical weapons massacre in Idlib, Syria, was, first and foremost, a moral response to an intolerable act of evil.

But the strike also carries a wider prospective message about Washington’s new willingness to enforce red lines against Assad and his Shi’ite allies.

Potentially, it is an indication that the U.S. is willing to use its military prowess beyond the objective of targeting ISIS, and that it recognizes that Sunni jihadists are not the only global security threat that warrants the use of military force.

Statements by senior Trump administration officials indicate that a shift has occurred. “What you have in Syria is a very destructive cycle of violence perpetuated by ISIS, obviously, but also by this regime and their Iranian and Russian sponsors,” National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster told Fox News Sunday.

Russia must choose between its alignment with Assad, Iran, and Hizballah, and working with the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday. The firm comment was made hours before he touched down in Moscow for talks.

According to U.S. officials, the April 6 missile attack destroyed 20 percent of Assad’s fighter jets. It represents the first time that Washington has taken military action against a member of the Iranian-led coalition.

The strike could evolve into a “dialogue of deterrence” that the U.S. initiates against dangerous actors. These radical actors all have “return addresses”, and are likely to prove responsive to cost-benefit considerations, despite their extreme ideology. They may think twice before considering further development and usage of unconventional weapons.

Washington is now able to exercise muscular diplomacy – the only kind that is effective in the Middle East – and inform all members of the Iran’s pro-Assad coalition that the deployment of unconventional weapons will not be tolerated. It can also begin to rally and strengthen the pro-American coalition of states in the Middle East, who seek to keep a lid on both ISIS and Iran.

With American officials indicating that they are “ready to do more” in Syria if necessary, signs suggest that the strike represents the start of a policy of deterrence, and leaving open future options for drawing additional red lines.

In theory, should Washington decide that Iran’s transfer of weapons and extremist Shi’ite military forces to other lands has reached unacceptable levels, or that Iran’s missile development program has gone far enough, it could call on Tehran to cease these activities. This call would carry substantially more weight following last week’s missile attack on the Syrian airbase.

The U.S. is in a better position to inform Assad and his allies that there is a limit to how far they can go in pursuing their murderous ambitions.

While the objective of creating a renewed American deterrent posture is vital, it should not be confused with plans for wider military intervention in the seemingly endless Syrian conflict.

There is little reason to believe that conventional weapons use against Syrian civilians is going to stop any time soon, or that the enormous tragedy suffered by the Syrian people is about to end.

And there is certainly no indication that the U.S. is planning to initiate large-scale military involvement in this failed state.

Hence, the missile strike should be seen for what it is: an attempt to boost American deterrence, which can then be leveraged to restrain radical actors that have, until now, been operating completely unchecked.

That is a message that will likely be heard loud and clear not only in Damascus, but also in Tehran, which has not given up its long-term ambition of building nuclear weapons.

North Korea, which helped build Syria’s plutonium nuclear plant (destroyed in 2007 in a reported Israeli air strike), and which maintains close links with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, can be expected to take note as well.

If a policy of strategic deterrence follows the strike, it could have an impact on a coalition that is not just keeping Assad’s regime alive, but spreading its radical influence in many other areas.

In Syria, the Iranian Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) oversees ground operations across many battlefields to prop up Bashar al-Assad. Iran has gathered and armed tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members from across the region into Syria, and manages a local force composed of 100,000 members. They fight alongside the Syrian Arab Army against Sunni rebel organizations, thereby increasing and entrenching Iranian influence.

The IRGC and its elite Quds Force are also helping to fill Hizballah’s weapons depots in Lebanon, with a vast array of surface-to-surface projectiles that are all pointed at Israel, often using Syria as an arms trafficking transit zone. Syria acts as a bridge that grants Iran access to Lebanon, and allows it to threaten both Israel and Jordan.

Jordan, an important U.S. ally, is deeply concerned by Iran’s actions in Syria, as evidenced by recent comments made by King Abdullah, who told the Washington Post that “there is an attempt to forge a geographic link between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah/Lebanon.” IRGC forces are stationed within a mere 45 miles from Jordan’s border, he warned, adding that any hostile forces approaching the Hashemite Kingdom “are not going to be tolerated”.

Hizballah, a Lebanese-based Iranian Shi’ite proxy, evolved into a powerful army by sending 7,000 to 9,000 of its own highly trained members into Syria’s ground war. It helped rescue the Assad regime from collapse, and took part in battles stretching from Aleppo to the Qalamoun Mountains northeast of Damascus.

Last year, the Arab League and the Sunni countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council all declared Hizballah to be a terrorist entity.

Just as Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have poured into Syria, the same has happened in Iraq, where 100,000 fighters supported by Tehran fight alongside the Iraqi government forces against ISIS. The IRGC’s network extends to Yemen’s Houthi Ansar Allah forces, who receive Iranian assistance. Ansar Allah, a heavily armed Shi’ite military force, fires ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia on a regular basis.

The IRGC and Hizballah have been linked to a recent large-scale terrorist plot in Bahrain.

If the message addressed in the cruise missile strike is followed up with a strategy of deterrence, addressed to Ayatollah Khamenei as much as it was addressed to Assad, the U.S. could begin projecting to the world that it recognizes the threat posed by Shi’ite jihadists as much as it takes seriously the threat from their fundamentalist Sunni equivalents.

Washington’s campaign to pressure Russia to distance itself from its Middle Eastern allies could play an important part of this message.

It will take more than pressure. It will take war. If we want to save ourselves, we need all the cruise missiles we can make, and probably all the nukes too.

But if the West has no stomach for war, then it will perish in a state of “openness and love”, congratulating itself on its virtue: its fairness, its peacefulness, its generosity, its tolerance, its refusal to be racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, or sexist. A great moral victory. And then – no more fairness, peacefulness, generosity, tolerance. No women driving cars. Just Islam.

Soros the earthly satan and his pet news agency 2

George Soros is an evil man. Go here, to Discover the Networks, to read about the evil he does, the many subversive and insurrectionist movements he funds.

From the days of his early youth spent helping the Nazis implement the Holocaust, to his sponsoring now in his old age the Muslim-organized marches of (pathetically stupid) women to protest the election of President Trump in America, he has unwaveringly pursued his satanic aim – the wrecking of Western civilization.

But the news agency Reuters likes him and his works.

We emphasize examples of their bias in the story they tell of how the Hungarian government’s effort to ward off the flood of Muslim immigrants* –  now overwhelming western Europe – is being impeded by George Soros.

Reuters reports and opines:

When his government lost a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights last week over its detention and expulsion of two migrants from Bangladesh, Hungary’s rightwing prime minister blamed the usual suspect: a billionaire in New York.

“The usual suspect”  is of course a reference to the famous line of dialogue in the film Casablanca, in which the French police chief gives orders to his men to  “round up the usual suspects” in order to deceive the Nazi occupiers of the French territory that he is serving them when he isn’t. The “usual suspects” are innocent of the crime they are being rounded up to answer for. The use of the phrase by Reuters conveys their belief in George Soros’s innocence.

“It is a collusion of human traffickers, Brussels bureaucrats and the organizations that work in Hungary financed by foreign money,” Viktor Orban told public radio on Friday.

“Let’s call a spade a spade: George Soros finances them.”

Yes, it is such a collusion, and Soros is financing it.

Across former Communist states of east and central Europe, leaders with a hardline bent have turned their wrath in recent months against Soros, a Hungarian-American financier who funds liberal charities and non-governmental organizations worldwide through his Open Society Foundations (OSF).

A more Orwellian use of the phrase “open society” could not be devised by the author of 1984 himself.

The campaign against Soros in countries formerly dominated by Moscow appears to follow a template set by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose own crackdown on foreign-funded charities drove Soros’s foundation out of Russia two years ago.

Reuters would have us weep for poor Soros and his foundation. And, they imply, if he’s a victim of Putin, he must be a good guy.

And now, with President Donald Trump in the White House, anti-Soros campaigners in Eastern Europe say they have also drawn inspiration from the United States, particularly from rightwing U.S. media like the website Breitbart, which has long vilified Soros as a liberal hate figure.

A nice, good, liberal person, just “vilified” out of sheer spite and reasonless hate – in the opinion of Reuters.

Breitbart’s former chairman Steve Bannon now serves as a senior White House adviser to Trump.

“Our inspiration comes from the United States, from the American conservative organizations, media and congressmen with the same views, especially the new administration of President Trump,” said Cvetlin Cilimanov, the editor of the main state news agency in Macedonia, who co-founded a group called Operation Stop Soros in January.

Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic north of Greece, has been embroiled in a political crisis that began two years ago with street demonstrations and forced nationalist prime minister Nikola Gruevski to resign last year after a decade in power. Gruevski, who still controls the biggest bloc in parliament and is expected to return to power, blames Soros for his downfall.

So now, despite the acid tones and slanted reporting of Reuters, we begin to get a glimpse of what Soros has actually been up to:

“Soros turns Macedonian NGOs into a modern army,” he [Gruevski] told local magazine Republika in January. “They crush you. They make you a criminal, a thief, traitor, idiot, a monster, whatever they want. Then you have to go to elections.”

“He doesn’t only do that in Macedonia but in a great number of countries.”

In Romania, ruling Social Democrat party leader Liviu Dragnea told a TV interviewer in January that Soros and “the foundations and structures that he has funded since 1990 have financed evil in Romania”.

Soros has also been attacked by members of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party and politicians elsewhere in the region.

And according to Reuters they are all wrong; they speak purely out of malice; they are lying.

… Hundreds of groups worldwide have accepted [OSF]  money over the years, allowing conspiracy theorists and other foes to paint Soros as the center of a vast web.

He is the center of a vast web.

 In countries like Hungary, so many human rights groups have sought OSF grants at some point that politicians can use the association with Soros to attack whole swathes of civil society.

The “whole swathes” are Soros funded organizations out to destroy the nation-state of “countries like Hungary”:

“Fake NGOs of the Soros empire are sustained to suppress national governments in favor of global capital and the world of political correctness,” Szilard Nemeth, a deputy leader of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, said in January.

“These organizations must be repressed by all means and I think they must be culled altogether. I think there is an international opportunity to do that now.” …

Opposition to immigration has been the core of  Orban’s political message since 2015, when more than a million migrants and refugees entered the EU through the Balkans. Hungary was initially their main entry point into the bloc’s border-free zone, although nearly all proceeded on to Germany and other countries further north. Orban built a fence to keep them out.

Meanwhile, Soros prioritized support for charities that help migrants and asylum seekers. At the height of the flow in 2015, his OSF put out a statement saying: “The Hungarian crisis demonstrates the dangers radical populist regimes pose not only to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, but also to the values of Europe and to the humanity of the local populations.”

“Values of Europe”. “Humanity”. With these words the great liar prettifies his agenda, which in plain terms is the domination of Europe by Islam. And Reuters compliantly quotes him.

But Orban’s message still hammers home the need to keep out migrants, and he portrays rights groups as part of a plot to abolish nation states and flood Europe with foreigners.

Which is, of course, exactly what the “rights groups”, created and funded by George Soros, are bent on doing.

Hungary’s Helsinki Committee, a rights group founded in 1989 that has accepted Soros funding, helped defeat the government in court in Strasbourg. It argued that two Bangladeshi migrants had been unlawfully detained at a makeshift transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border and expelled with no regard to their future safety, in violation of their rights.

Orban has proposed new rules governing asylum due to take effect in coming days that his opponents say ignore the principles of the Strasbourg ruling.

Helsinki co-Chair Marta Pardavi says she expects to file many more cases on behalf of migrants who are in similar positions, which could generate a systemic intervention by Strasbourg and a tooth-and-nail fight with the government.

“Our position, which Orban has called ‘pretty human rights nonsense’ has just won in Strasbourg,” she said. “If I were the Hungarian government I would be considering the necessary legislative amendments now.”

Fortunately, they are.

Pardavi said her organization, made up mainly of lawyers, would not be intimidated by a government crackdown, but other groups were likely to be less resilient, and the crackdown could deter activism in the country more broadly.

Such “activism” urgently needs to be deterred. May Hungary yet succeed in curing itself of the lethal Soros disease.

We long for Soros himself to be indicted for subversion in the US, fined billions of dollars, and locked up.

Then Reuters could frame the print news in black, and soak its pages with tears.

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*Yesterday, in our post (immediately below) Western feminists are for the subjugation of women, we approved the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s opposition to the Islamic jihad, in particular in Nigeria. It seems that the two organizations – Reuters the news agency and the Thomson Reuters Foundation – do not have consistently matching principles and policies.

The desirable dissolution of Europe’s unnecessary union 3

Why was the corrupt and undemocratic European Union (EU) brought into existence?

The Germans wanted to dissolve their guilt  – for starting two world wars and perpetrating the Holocaust – in the sea of a European superstate. Which they knew they could dominate through their economic strength.

The French wanted to be part of an entity that was more populous, more prosperous, and more powerful than the United States of America, even though it meant sharing power.

The ambitious politicians of Western Europe wanted a bigger stage to strut on. As well as a perpetual ride on a gravy train.

Eastern European nations had a more respectable motive for joining the EU after the collapse of the Soviet Union, under whose heel they had suffered for some 40 years: they saw the EU as a shelter from renewed Russian imperial ambition. Some of them – notably Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – are now defying dictatorship from Brussels, the EU capital, by refusing to admit unlimited numbers of Muslim “refugees”.

The annual budget of the EU is about 145 billion euros ($153 billion US dollars). By its own accounting, 4.7% of the budget is lost in fraud and corruption. That is some 6.97 billion Euros.*  

It employs 33,000 people.

There are 28 member states and 24 official languages. Every document has to be put out in all 24 languages.

The EU leaders see their supra-national, “post-nationalist” union as a model for world government.

The Council of the European Union governs by decree. The European Parliament consists of elected members but they do not have the power to legislate. They can approve or reject a legislative proposal, or propose amendments. In other words they give advice, but the Council is not legally obliged to take it. It is treated as mere opinion. For appearance sake, and as a result of case-law decisions by the EU Court of Justice, the Council must receive that opinion before it can act on its own decision. This is pure gesturism. The ritual salutes democracy without adopting it.

In sum, the EU is a political and economic monstrosity. It cannot and will not endure.

Elections this year in the Netherlands may well bring Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom into power. If so, there could be a referendum on whether the country should leave the EU (though legislation would be necessary to make this possible), and a majority vote in favor.

Nationalist movements in France and Italy may also bring those countries to leave the EU.

All of which threatens the continued existence of the rotten, superfluous, and positively harmful European Union.

From Gatestone, by Timon Dias:

At its core, what is the EU? And why, despite its vast resources, does it seem perpetually unable to make sense of the world and meet its objectives? …

First, there’s the EU’s primary internal contradiction: EU federalism is an ideology that propagates post-ideologism; a culturally amorphous post-ideological world. … It is acting as if the world has already arrived at this so badly coveted post-cultural/ideological end station.

This is why the EU’s foreign minister is convinced political Islam should be part of the solution for Europe’s bicultural malaise. It is why for almost a decade now, the EU is maintaining it is reasonable to expect a German fiscal discipline from Greece ― a country in which tax evasion has been a central pillar of its culture ever since it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire some 600 years ago. It is why the EU fails to grasp the fact it’s deepening the migration crisis by acting as a ferry service for human traffickers. It is why the EU refuses to acknowledge an inherently expansionist religion like Islam views Europe’s open borders as an invitation to conquest. And it is why it was caught off guard by the mass rapes in Cologne etc. …

In short, the EU is treating the world as if it’s already an earthly EUtopia in which everything can be solved through dialogue and the right subsidies. And that’s why it will keep on chasing facts until its imminent demise.

But there’s something even more fundamental obstructing the EU’s ability to solve crises.

The EU is artificial and unnecessary. 

What is the EU? The EU is a government looking for people to govern. It didn’t evolve organically from a community’s desire to be governed.

It was an elitist ideological hobby project ― one that European Commission first Vice-President Frans Timmermans a few weeks ago referred to as:

Arguably the most successful peace project in human history.

This, however, is a deception. A deception so pervasive, it has become the most pivotal element of the Eurocrats’ belief system. But the EU is no peace project. It neither caused nor consolidated peace.

True peace is being able to hurt one another, but simply not wanting to. In 1945, after centuries of conflict, European nation states finally reached this status. Subsequently, the European Economic Community (EEC) consolidated this peace in 1958 by entangling the French and German economies.

The EU came afterwards, without there ever being an actual need for it ― the continent was peaceful and that peace was consolidated. …

So, if the EU neither caused nor consolidated peace, what is the EU’s fundamental raison d’être? The simple answer is: it has none.

There is nothing fundamentally positive about Europe, that could not exist without the EU.

This is no trivial matter.

Because the EU is a highly artificial and non-organic governing body, one without a fundamental raison d’être, the EU’s priority objective, at all times, is self-preservation. Even when this means not solving problems at all.

The euro and migration crises serve as prime examples. The EU is not only not solving the euro crisis, it’s prolonging it by insisting fiscally dysfunctional member states remain member states, simply because their ejection from the EU would endanger and obscure the EU itself.

The same is true for the migration crisis. It’s not hard to solve. To simply stop being a ferry service for human traffickers and implement the very straight forward Australian model, is hardly rocket science. It’s no coincidence Australia’s migration architect claims Europe doesn’t even seem to be trying to solve this crisis.

In 2016, 490,547 migrants reached Europe. The total number of asylum applicants is almost 2.5 times higher at 1.205 million, which is a modest drop from 2015’s 1.323 million. During the first months of 2017, almost 13,000 arrived by sea.

So what is the EU’s priority during the migrant crisis?

Instead, the EU’s highest priority seems to be preventing nation states from bypassing the EU, by taking their own measures against the crisis.

For if that were to happen, the EU would lose its “greatest achievement”: the federal control of European national borders, without which, the EU is nothing.

The EU must go.

The nation-state with strongly defended borders must be resurrected as an ideal.

The British showed the way with Brexit – its majority vote last year to leave the EU.

President Trump lights the way for the European nations with his slogan, “Make America Great Again!”

 

*We quote an article on EU corruption by Richard Milton.

Have the EU’s accounts for the past 19 years been signed off by the auditors or not? The EU says they have been signed off, while critics in parliament and the media say they have not. So who is telling the truth about the accounts? What are the real facts?

First, a little background to the controversy. Since 1977, the EU’s budget has been audited annually by a body called the European Court of Auditors, based in Luxembourg. The Court is nominally independent, although it is funded by the EU.

In the 1980s, the EU’s budget became the subject of allegations of fraud, so in 1988 the EU formed UCLAF – the Unit for the Co-ordination of Fraud Protection.

A decade later, In 1997, the Court of Auditors investigated UCLAF and discovered that it was dealing with 40 cases of potential corruption, conflict of interests, favoritism or just bad management. Many of the cases had been brought to UCLAF by members of staff of the Commission reporting their suspicions about other officials.

In a report described as “devastating”, the Court revealed that no-one had been prosecuted for fraud and no-one was likely to be prosecuted, because UCLAF had no powers of investigation or arrest and there was no European prosecutor to take on such cases. It recommended that UCLAF be replaced by, in effect, an economic FBI with the staff and the powers to police the EU’s huge budget – a fully fledged operational fraud squad.

Later the same year, 1998, Paul van Buitenen, an assistant internal auditor in the European Commission’s Financial Control Directorate, turned whistleblower and wrote directly to the European Parliament expressing his  “discontent with the way the Commission services are dealing with irregularities and possible fraud”.

His whistleblowing led ultimately led to the resignation of the Commission presided over by Jacques Santer. His reward was to be suspended with his salary halved. He fought back and his exposures triggered the collapse of Santer’s Commission.

In the wake of the “Santergate” scandal UCLAF was replaced by a new organization, OLAF [Office européen de lutte anti-fraude]. This was said to be an improvement since OLAF had more staff, more money and clearer guidelines and was described as representing a move towards a more serious investigative prosecuting body. But it remained the case that only national member states could take legal action against suspected fraudsters – the same central weakness that had defeated UCLAF.

OLAF is notified of some 12,000 cases of possible fraud every year, and says that it adopts a “zero tolerance” policy towards corruption and fraud in EU institutions. In reality, OLAF must be somewhat more tolerant than “zero” as it investigates only some 200 cases per year – that is to say 98% of reported cases go uninvestigated.

This is the most likely explanation of the fact that, since 1999, OLAF has sent only 335 people to jail and recovered only 1.1 Billion Euros of EU money – less than one-thousandth of the amount unaccounted for.

One other obstacle to OLAF nailing anyone inside the EU is that EU law gives EU officials immunity from prosecution both while they work in the EU and then for the rest of their lives for any acts committed in the course of their duties. Even if OLAF managed to put together a case against an EU employee, he or she could not be prosecuted anyway.

This long history of corruption and fraud brings us to the case of Marta Andreason, who in 2002 was appointed the EU’s first Chief Accountant, the director responsible for budget execution and the EU’s accounting officer.

From the start, Andreasen was critical of the EU’s accounting system for being open to fraud, criticisms she raised with  her superior but to no effect. She voiced her doubts to Commissioner Michaele Schreyer and the Commission President Romano Prodi, and when she got no reply approached members of the EU Parliament’s Budget Control Committee.

Because of her doubts, she refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts and went public with her concerns. She suffered a similar fate to Paul van Buitenen before her, and was sacked for speaking out (“failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”.) In reality she was fired for refusing to sign the account and embarrassing the Commission by letting the cat out of the bag about the extent of fraud.

A series of other EU officials tried to blow the whistle on the fraud and corruption of their colleagues and all received similar treatment, Dorte Schmidt-Brown, Robert Dougal Watt and Robert McCoy. …

At this point, in 2002, EU officials realized that they could no longer conceal or ignore the extent of fraud and corruption in the EU budget and that they must act to try to restore public confidence in the EU’s financial affairs. So they did what most large bureaucratic organizations do in these circumstances. When you cannot change the facts, you change the way the facts are presented. So the EU turned to public relations to solve their problem.

From 2002 until the present, the Court of Auditors continued to audit the budget annually, but they no longer signed off the accounts as a whole. Instead, they have split the budget into two sections – the part to which they are willing to give a clean bill of health, and the part to which they are not willing to give a clean bill. The Auditors refer to this second part as its “opinion on the underlying payments which have been negative or adverse”.

To justify this change in established auditing procedure it came up with a number of arguments. The budget is too big and too complicated for us to expect them to account for every penny. Every large organization has amounts missing and unaccounted for. We can’t expect the EU Auditors to know every little thing that goes on inside member countries. The bit that’s not signed off is “only” a few per cent of the budget so it’s not worth making a fuss about. And, in any case, said the Auditors, although we do not know where the money went or who took it, we can say that it definitely wasn’t fraud or theft.

“Errors”, said the auditors,  “do not mean that EU money is lost, wasted or affected by fraud.” When asked to give an example of some money that had gone missing that wasn’t fraud, the EU said, “A farmer was granted a special premium for 150 sheep. The Court found that the beneficiary did not have any sheep. The corresponding payment was therefore irregular.” The missing money is accounted for by changing the word “fraud” to the word “irregular”. …

Remember, the question we are trying to answer here is … “Have the EU accounts been signed off for the past 19 years?” And the only honest answer to this second question is clearly, “No, they have not been signed off.”

What the EU has done is not to make extra efforts to get to the bottom of its accounts and sign them off, but to change the normal rules of accounts auditing so that they no longer apply to the EU, and to change the meaning of ordinary English words to try to persuade us that this procedure is acceptable. …

The amount not signed off by the Court of Auditors was “only” 4.7% of the budget.  The problem is that 4.7% of the budget is 6.97 billion Euros

Asylum for European refugees from Muslim conquest 1

West Europeans whose countries are being Islamized by mass Muslim immigration incited by their globalist governments, are offered asylum in an East European country that is refusing to admit Muslim immigrants.

From Breitbart, by Jack Montgomery:

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán says his country will open its arms to west Europeans fleeing mass immigration and “the lords of globalist politics”. 

“We shall let in true refugees”, Mr Orbán told a cheering audience: “Germans, Dutch, French and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands.

”We populist leader has served as the de facto leader of the central and eastern European countries which have resisted the open borders policies of the European Union (EU) and leading member-states in the west of the continent.

Globalist politicians, Mr Orbán contended, are seeking to “sweep away a democracy of debate and replace it with a democracy of [political] correctness”, where “true power, decisions and influence [are] not held by elected governments, but [by] unelected global networks, media gurus and international organizations”.

He cited Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election in the United States as episodes in a wider popular revolt against the “arrogance and condescension” of global elites by ordinary people whose “mouths had been gagged” for too long.

He claimed that history’s departure from “the course marked out for it” in 2016 “mocked the prophets of liberal politics”, who have responded as though “the people are a danger to democracy”. …

The Hungarian government sees the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election as the historic swerve away from “the course marked out for it” by “the world’s most bizarre coalition of people smugglers, human rights activists and elite European politicians”. 

Also from Breitbart, by Oliver JJ Lane:

Hungary’s foreign minister has praised President-Elect Donald J. Trump and called for … a brake on mass migration saying that illegal migration is a “danger” to Europe. …

Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian foreign minister and close ally to … Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, said his country was steadfast on immigration policy. …

The direction of foreign policy and migration policy of Donald Trump for Europe is much more favorable than those of the Democrats. In my opinion, the Trump administration will be better for the whole world.

And that is our opinion too.

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