Monthly Archives: November 2013

Do We Have An Attitude of Gratitude?

Much of what we read here is dedicated to analyzing, opining, and criticizing elements of the body politic and problems with the world, our nation, and our community. In spite of all that we find that needs fixing around us, one of the most woeful things we could do is to be ungrateful for all that we should be thankful for.

It’s often difficult to think in those terms. We are often overwhelmed at the daunting challenges and vicissitudes of life that we face on a daily basis. Problems with health, the loss of a loved one, financial woes, the loss of a job, problems with a marriage or with children, often consume us emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Yet somehow we find ways to deal with our personal crucibles, to surmount our challenges, and crest our Everests.

The human spirit, if not doused with hopelessness, can be indomitable. We find ways to deal with, overcome, and survive our ordeals. We find solutions to our woes and answers to life’s tough questions. Often such resolution comes from insights, counsel, and wisdom from a loved one. Other times they come from unseen founts of wisdom and loving arms of solace after earnest and heartfelt pleadings to our Maker.

But as arduous and challenging as life can be for all of us in one way or another, there is always much to be grateful for. And hopefully, the significance of Thanksgiving has not been lost to us.

gratitude5We may be of bad health, but hopefully some things are still working fine. We may be struggling financially, but we’re still together as a family. We may have a child struggling with his or her own inner demons, yet as long as there is love, there is hope. To everything there is a silver lining. It may be obscured by our preoccupation with our trials, but it’s there. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it.

I’m convinced that many of the social and cultural problems we face today are the result of a loss of a collective sense of gratitude. Rather than being grateful for what we have and the blessings that we enjoy, although sparse they may sometimes seem to us, we focus on what we don’t have, or what we think we deserve or we’re entitled to. This lack of gratitude is concomitant with narcissism and self-centeredness, and reveals a deep character flaw; absence of humility.

In my estimation, no one has captured this sentiment better than a former president of the LDS Church. Gordon B. Hinckley said some years ago, “Our society is afflicted by a spirit of thoughtless arrogance unbecoming those who have been so magnificently blessed. How grateful we should be for the bounties we enjoy. Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief….

“Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without appreciation, there is arrogance and evil. Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed to pride.”

In a rather simplistic fashion, we have the proverbial conundrum of whether the glass is half full, or half empty. In our individual lives, it all depends on how we choose to look at things, and whether we choose to focus on the deficiencies in our lives or on the bounties that we enjoy. And that’s all a matter of attitude.

The evangelical author and pastor, Chuck Swindoll, made a statement years ago that has profoundly shaped my perspective about life, and about gratitude itself. He said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

May we all choose an attitude of gratitude, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and the silver lining to the dark and ominous clouds in our lives. May we express our gratitude to one another, manifest by acts of courtesy and respect. And perhaps most importantly, may we express daily our immense dependence upon, and gratitude to God. Not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday of our lives.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Killing Kennedy-The Movie Review

I was 16 years old when Kennedy was shot so I have a good solid memory from then. I was on a class trip to Valley Forge, Pa. with my civics class. When we got there we were told that the president had been shot so we immediately turned back and were sent home. As I was walking home I was greeted by an excited friend of mine with his arms raging and flailing in the air saying, “They shot the president and governor. They’re trying to kill off the whole damn government,”

That week-end I was glued to the TV set and when Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby on Sunday it   became a lifelong obsession with me.  I still to this day have  the newspaper articles about it, I have the original Life magazine with Oswald on the cover holding his rifle and Marxist propaganda papers in his hand and the Saturday Evening Post with a Norman Rockwell like painting of Kennedy on the cover. I’ve read and still have the Mark Lane Book and LP record “Rush to  Judgment” and the Robert Sam Anson book  “They’ve Killed the President”.  I also must be  the only owner of a VHS video interview with a man named James Fields in prison who claims to have been the other shooter in the assassination called “Interview With an Assassin” He has  since passed away. So it was with great interest that I naturally view the movie” Killing Kennedy” on the National Geographic channel based on the book by Bill O’Reilly which I am also currently reading.

The movie was directed by Ridley Scott who is best known for films like “Blade Runner”, “Thelma and Louise” and many others. I was very much surprised that the film struck straight to the facts. No loosely based story or taking liberties like so many supposedly true movies do today. It was like you were actually viewing history as it happened.

Rob Lowe portrays Kennedy and they do a remarkable job of making him look exactly like Kennedy even sounding like him. The last time I saw Kennedy portrayed so exactly was William Devane in “The Guns of August” back in the 70’s about the Cuban missile crisis. Killing Kennedy is interspersed with actual film clips from then with Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley among others. New actress Ginnefer Goodwin plays Jackie and also looks and talks just like her. They have everything exact down to the slightest detail including her famous pink dress that later becomes blood splattered and matching pill box hat.

Another new actor Will Rothaar plays Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg (who I remember from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series) plays Marina Oswald. These two characters are hard to get look-alikes for, but the film does a remarkable job. They even have Oswald posing in the exact same position of holding his rifle and marxist propaganda papers in his hand and him shooting General Walker (who was an outspoken anti-communist speaker) through his window and missing.

The film doesn’t delve into any conspiracy theories and sticks straight to the facts which makes  it interesting and fast moving. In reading O’Reilly’s book he describes a scene with Jack Kennedy in the white house swimming pool with two lovely ladies when Jackie walks in on him just stares and walks away while a secret service agent tries to stop her. I was surprised to see this scene in there also done so exactly. O’Reilly’s book does delve into Kennedy’s sexual prowness and the secret service covering up for him with Jackie and the fact that Jackie knew but, never said anything.  I thought the movie was done perfectly and I remembered every incident portrayed so accurately in it. The only thing they didn’t show was Gov. Connolly turning to Jack in the car right before he was killed and saying that now famous quote, ”Well Mr. President you can’t say Dallas doesn‘t love you today.”

I’ve read most of the conspiracy theories over the years all of which are interesting, some more plausible than others and naturally the further away you get from such incidents it is easier to imagine more things happened than really did.  The only question I have is how does a guy like Oswald who was known for missing the targets  on the shooting range while in the marines and misses a general right outside his window  with a rifle with a scope on it suddenly pull off the crime of the century  with a moving target and a rifle not known for its’ accuracy and handling? We’ll probably never know and can only speculate.

Many reviewers are saying the movie lacks authenticity and lackluster.I guess these reviewers are so into seeing emotion and characterization in movies today or weren’t around when it happened to notice that this is not a so called docudrama, but an a actual,accurate depiction of real events. To those critics I say “Life is not always like the movies you know.” If you get a chance to see Killing Kennedy on cable or DVD then by all means do so. In the meantime check out the link below for some scenes from the movie. I also have a link lto Mark Lane’s film Rush to Judgement which shows actual interviews with Oswald and the Dallas police. I report you decide.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Rob Lowe recreate the moment JFK was …

Rush to Judgment (1967) – YouTube

Cooking A Turkey

Every family has different traditions, different ways of celebrating the Holidays. I was surprised to see how many different ways there were to cook a turkey. It seems that different parts of the country have different ways of doing things as well. There is a tradition in my family that I would like to share with you, it makes cooking the turkey taste better and it makes cooking the turkey more fun as well.  ENJOY.

Turkey

   HAPPY  THANKSGIVING

Stupid Senators Suckered By Obama On Nuke Deterrence

 

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URGENT PLEA: A number of Senators have introduced amendments to the NDAA that would bar Obama from cutting the nuclear deterrent unilaterally, scrapping any ICBM squadrons, or honoring arms reduction agreements that no one abides by. Dear Readers, please call your Senators (and other states’ Senators) and tell them to vote for ALL of these amendments.

Over three years ago, way back in 2010, well before the treasonous New START treaty had even been ratified by the Senate, I warned the Senators and the public to reject that dangerous treaty, as it would unilaterally reduce and undermine America’s nuclear deterrent while permitting an unrestrained Russian nuclear buildup.

Nonetheless, 13 Republican Senators voted for the treaty, because Obama promised that in exchange for the Senate’s consent to ratification, he would fully modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad, as well as the warheads and its supporting facilities, and implement all four Phases of his so-called “European Phased Adaptive Approach” to missile defense (EPAA).

I warned publicly that Obama’s promises were not to believed or trusted, that Obama was blatantly lying just to obtain Senate ratification and would never keep his promises, and that once New START would be ratified, the cuts to America’s deterrent would be deep and immediate, while the promised modernization of what’s left would not occur or be defunded and delayed ad infinitum.

Everything that has happened since then has proven me right.

Since New START’s ratification, Obama has delayed the construction of the vital Nuclear Metallurgy Research and Replacement Center by five years; delayed the ballistic missile submarine and bomber replacement programs; has unilaterally retired and scrapped all W80 warheads for Tomahawk cruise missiles; and has, to date, failed to initiate any replacement program for the USAF’s air-launched cruise missiles and silo-based ICBMs. He has also cancelled the fourth phase of his EPAA.

But Obama has decided to go even further. He has now decided to reduce America’s arsenal unilaterally further by retiring the powerful bunker-busting B83 bomb and by eliminating an entire ICBM squadron with 50 missiles.

It is not yet known which squadron at which base will be eliminated – whether in Wyoming (Francis E. Warren AFB), Montana (Malmstrom AFB), or North Dakota (Grand Forks AFB). What is certain is that not only will the missiles themselves be scrapped, but their siloes will be destroyed so that no future President could reuse them and deploy ICBMs in them if he needed to (which a future President WILL need to do, given the relentless growth of Russia’s and China’s nuclear arsenals).

And what is also certain is that this act of unilateral disarmament will significantly undermine America’s nuclear deterrent and thus the security of the US and all of its allies.

As a result, the US will have FIFTY fewer missiles with which to deliver nuclear warheads if retaliation against an aggressor is necessary, and a significantly smaller (and thus less survivable) nuclear deterrent.

Russia, by contrast, is GROWING the number of ICBMs (and bombers) it has. It currently wields 434 ICBMs (58 SS-18s, 136 SS-19s, 171 SS-25s, 78 SS-27s, 18 SS-29s) capable of delivering at least 1,684 warheads to the CONUS. On top of that, Russia’s bomber fleet can deliver over 1,700, and Russia’s ballistic missile submarine fleet another 1,400 warheads to the CONUS.

The smaller a nuclear arsenal is, the less survivable and less credible it is, and thus the less secure its owner nation is. Cutting America’s nuclear arsenal only makes the US (and all of its allies) LESS secure, not more.

Such deep cuts will also prod some of America’s allies to develop their own nuclear arsenals, because that of the US wll no longer be credible. 66.5% of South Koreans ALREADY want to do so, and Saudi Arabia has already ordered nuclear weapons in Pakistan, according to the BBC. Japan has recently opened a facility that could produce enough fissile material for 3,600 nuclear warheads in a matter of months if need be.

You see, Washington’s best-kept secret is that America’s nuclear arsenal, far from being a part of the proliferation problem, is actually America’s best tool for confronting and limiting it. It protects over 30 allies of the US, thus making it unnecessary for them to develop their own nukes, and deters all potential troublemakers, thus significantly limiting the proliferation problem.

Continually cutting the US nuclear deterrent will only AGGRAVATE that problem.

Indeed, since 1991, while the US has cut its arsenal by over 75%, China, India, and Israel have significantly increased theirs, Russia has begun rebuilding its own, and two new members have joined the nuclear club: Pakistan (1998) and North Korea (2006). Iran and Saudi Arabia are well on their way there – and they are racing to get there first.

So cutting the US nuclear arsenal deeply, by over 75% since the Cold War’s end, and signing a plethora of arms control treaties, has UTTERLY FAILED to solve or even slow down the problem of nuclear proliferation.

Indeed, all arms control treaties signed to date by the US have done nothing but dramatically REDUCE the security of the US and all of its allies while emboldening America’s enemies. Over twenty years of continually cutting and refusing to modernize the US nuclear arsenal have utterly failed to convince other states to give up their nukes, to stop them from modernizing their arsenals, or even to prevent the emergence of new nuclear powers.

Arms control treaties have resulted in ONLY the US (and for a while, Russia) significantly cutting its nuclear arsenal. They do nothing but gravely UNDERMINE US and allied security. This is especially true of the New START treaty, which obligates ONLY the US (not Russia) to cut its nuclear arsenal. God forbid that Obama have any opportunity to sign more treaties like that!

Arms control treaties serve NO purpose but to hog-tie and disarm the West unilaterally. As Ronald Reagan rightly said, “We honor our arms control treaty obligations. Those who wish to do us harm don’t.”

The Obama administration claims that it needs to dismantle those ICBMs in order to comply with New START.

This is utterly false: under New START, it doesn’t have to destroy any siloes, just warhead delivery systems like ICBMs. Even then, it doesn’t have to dismantle as many as 50, or instead of dismantling ICBMs it could simply disable some missile tubes on the Navy’s ballistic missile subs.

Most importantly, New START is a treasonous treaty which is only UNDERMINING America’s nuclear deterrent and national security. It should’ve never been signed, let alone ratified. The US should immediately WITHDRAW from that treaty.

In addition, Russia has, this year, flagrantly violated another arms control accord – the INF treaty – by testing intermediate range ballistic missiles, which is strictly prohibited by that treaty. Why should the US comply with arms control treaties when Russia never does?

But Obama isn’t merely content with disarming America unilaterally. He’s going even further and will make it much easier for Russian missiles to target the US.

The Obama State Department, led by John Kerry, has just approved Russia’s request to build a network of signalling stations for Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system (their version of GPS) in the United States. The Obama State Department approved this without even telling the DOD and the Intelligence Community – both of which are reportedly angry about it.

This is, of course, yet another part of a long list of unilateral Obama administration concessions to the Russians in the name of his utterly failed “reset” policy with Russia.

So not only is Obama unilaterally and deeply cutting America’s own nuclear deterrent – to make America unable to deter and if need be retaliate for a Russian nuclear first strike – he’s also allowing the Russians to build satellite navigation ground stations in the US to help make such a strike more likely and more accurate! What is this, if not treason?

Congress – and by that, I mean BOTH the House AND the Senate – must act IMMEDIATELY to protect America’s nuclear deterrent, and in particular, the ICBM fleet. This means they must:

  1. Pass a National Defense Authorization Act containing a firm PROHIBITION on the retirement of any ICBMs below the treshold of 420, the elimination of any ICBM siloes, or the construction of any Russian sat nav stations in the US.
  2. Fully fund, and direct the Obama administration to dramatically speed up, the modernization of America’s entire nuclear deterrent, in particular, the bomber and submarine replacement programs, the construction of the metallurgy center, and the development and deployment of a new ICBM and air-launched cruise missile. Set firm target dates.
  3. Prohibit the use of any funding for the implementation of New START or the dismantlement of any elements of the US nuclear triad, or for the retirement of the B83 bomb.

This must be done THIS YEAR, not a year from now when 1/3 of Senators will be busy running for reelection.

In addition, all Democrat Senators running for reelection next year – including Mary Landrieu (LA), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Begich (AK), and Mark Pryor (AR) – must be punished for voting for the treasonous New START treaty, which has enabled Obama to conduct this process of unilateral disarmament in the first place. They ABSOLUTELY must be voted out of office. This means supporting whichever Republican has the best chance of beating them in a general election. No ifs, no buts. In Lousiania, that Republican is Bill Cassidy; in Alaska, Mark Begich; in AR, Tom Cotton; in North Carolina, this is yet to be seen, though it currently appears to be Greg Brannon.

Landrieu, Hagan, Begich, and Pryor are not “moderate Democrats”; they are strident liberals, loyal footsoldiers of Obama and Reid. They must not be allowed to hide behind their utterly false mask of “moderate Democrats”; they must be exposed for whom they really are. They, in fact, loyally vote with Harry Reid over 90% of the time.

In 2010, they cast two fateful votes for leftist policies. The first was for Obamacare. The second was for New START. They must be voted out of office for both. 

UPDATE: A number of Republican Senators have introduced amendments which would effectively prevent Obama from scrapping any ICBM squadron, cutting America’s nuclear deterrent while treaty-noncompliant nations do not, or giving aid to any country developing ballistic missiles capable of hitting the US. See here.

The Implosion of America

Is there any hope for America? Are we past the point of no return? Is America facing an impending implosion?

Robert Jeffress is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the Living on Borrowed Time Conference Show on the television show Christ in Prophecy.

White House Responds To Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Lawsuit

From The White House:

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Statement by the Press Secretary Regarding Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

The health care law puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventive care, like cancer screenings and birth control, free of charge.  Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider a legal challenge to the health care law’s requirement that for-profit corporations include birth control coverage in insurance available to their employees.  We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women’s health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.

We do not comment on specifics of a case pending before the Court.  As a general matter, our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor.  The President believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women.  The Administration has already acted to ensure no church or similar religious institution will be forced to provide contraception coverage and has made a commonsense accommodation for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds.  These steps protect both women’s health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure that women and families–not their bosses or corporate CEOs–can make personal health decisions based on their needs and their budgets.

Obamacare Penalizes Married Couples

marriageCHARLOTTE, N.C., Nov. 26, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, punishes married couples by making it more difficult than unmarried couples to receive subsidies. Under the ACA, the less income earned, the more money is available to individuals from the government to pay for health insurance. In many low-income communities around the nation, marriage is now the exception rather than the rule and not getting married is the major tax shelter for low- and moderate-income households with children.

Couples living together who are not married could save up to $10,000 more than a married couple under Obamacare because the health care law requires married couples to combine income and prohibits them from filing as two individuals. On the other hand, an unmarried couple living together can file as two individuals. The disadvantage is for couples who choose marriage.

Heritage Foundation reports that in order to receive a government subsidy, a married couple must earn less than $62,040. Therefore, a married couple with each spouse making $35,000 annually for a combined income of $70,000 dollars would not qualify for a healthcare subsidy. In contrast, an unmarried couple with each partner making $40,000 for a combined income of $80,000 could qualify for thousands of dollars in subsidies. Whether this disparity was intentional or not, it is extremely damaging to the social fabric of our nation.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the SES, stated, “The fact that Obamacare penalizes married couples financially is about as counterproductive to stable families and a stable society as any government policy can be. The oldest axiom in public policy is: ‘That which you tax you’ll get less of. That which you subsidize you’ll get more of.’

“By financially penalizing marriage formation and conversely subsidizing non-married family units, government is acting in a way that the New Testament calls perverse. Romans 13 says that the civil magistrate is ordained to reward those who do that which is right and penalize those who do that which is wrong! Isn’t Obamacare doing exactly the opposite?”

Land goes on to say that Christians must be active participants in the culture war — standing firm against society-damaging issues such as the breakdown of family (penalizing marriage) and abortion — both of which are components within Obamacare.

SES has been ranked No. 1 for its General Christian Apologetics Graduate Program by TheBestSchools.org’s “Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics.” For more information, visitwww.ses.edu.

Less than 1 in 5 Americans Say Their Congressperson Deserves to be Re-Elected

NY06256LOGONEW YORK, Nov. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Another month and another round of headaches for the White House. They finally get through the government shutdown and now have to answer many questions about why the Affordable Care Act’s website was not ready for millions to sign up for health insurance. And, perhaps because of this, President Obama’s job ratings continue their downward movement. This month just one-third of Americans (32%) give the President positive ratings for the job he is doing, while 68% give him negative ratings. This is down from last month, when 35% gave the President positive marks and 65% gave him negative ones.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 byHarris Interactive. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

While it’s not surprising that just 4% of Republicans but 59% of Democrats give the President positive ratings on the overall job he is doing, what should have White House worried about legacies and Democrats worried about fallout for Congressional elections is that just 26% of Independents give President Obama positive ratings while three-quarters (74%) give him negative marks.

There are two things that could make the President a little happier. First, there is an uptick in perceived direction of the country as three in ten Americans (30%) believe it is going in the right direction, up from 20% last month; seven in ten (70%) believe things in the country have seriously gotten off on the wrong track.  The second is that when it comes to who deserves the most blame for shutting down the federal government, almost half (45%) of Americans blame Republicans in Congress compared to “just” one-third (32%) blaming President Obama; 7% blame Democrats in Congress, while 16% are not at all sure.

It’s one year until the Congressional elections

Congress still sees their approval in the single digits, with just 7% of Americans rating the job they are doing positively while 93% give them negative ratings. This is slightly better than last month when just 4% of Americans gave Congress positive ratings. But it’s not just the institution of Congress that is suffering. Just one in five Americans (19%) give their Member of the House of Representative positive ratings, while 71% give him or her negative ratings. And this is across political parties, as 70% of Republicans, 68% of Democrats and 75% of Independents give their Member negative marks for the overall job he or she is doing.

Even more ominous for sitting Members is that half of Americans (52%) say, when it comes to their Member of the House of Representatives, it’s time to give someone else a chance, compared to just 17% of Americans who believe their Congressperson deserves to be re-elected. What should give sitting Members some hope is that 31% are still not at all sure. Looking at this by party, 52% of Republicans, 47% of Democrats and 60% of Independents say it’s time to give someone else a chance.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox? Click here!

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between November 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,250 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Missouri Legislator & Wife Ask Court for Protection During Obamacare Lawsuit Appeal

Thomas More Society Seeks Preliminary Injunction for State Rep. Wieland and Family

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 25, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Today, Thomas More Society attorneys filed for preliminary injunctive relief on behalf of Missouri State Representative Paul Wieland and his wife Teresa in the couple’s lawsuit contesting Obamacare’s infringement on their First Amendment rights. The couple is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to exempt their family from the Health and Human Services mandate that would require them to participate in group insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and birth control for their teenage and adult daughters.

The Wielands are suing the federal government for violating their religious liberty, free speech, and parental rights by reason of Obamacare’s mandating a religiously objectionable health insurance plan provided by the State of Missouri. Beginning January 1, 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that the Wielands obtain for themselves, and provide for their dependent daughters, health care coverage that includes coverage for “contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

This coverage, which is abhorrent to the Wielands, given their Catholic faith, is mandated to continue until their dependent daughters are 24 years old. The Eighth Circuit court and other federal appellate courts have held that for-profit employers are likely to prevail on similar claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because their free exercise of religious faith is substantially burdened when the government forces them to provide such coverage for their employees. The Wielands claim that their religious freedom — Paul’s as an employee and both Wielands, as parents, is also protected under the act.

The Wielands had previously obtained a health insurance plan that did not include abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives. But because of the Health and Human Services mandate, that plan was eliminated and, without their permission, the Wielands were transferred to another plan that is contrary to their Catholic faith.

“We liked our health care plan. We should be able to keep it,” Mrs. Wieland said. “It protected our religious beliefs and our rights as parents.”

To date, forty for-profit employers have filed lawsuits over the controversial Obamacare mandate. Thirty-two of the plaintiffs have secured injunctive relief against the mandate. “There is every reason to expect that the Wielands will also prevail in their quest to secure their religious liberty,” said Timothy Belz, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, who is representing the Wielands.

According to veteran court watchers, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider whether to take up one or more of four cases on the mandate decided in the lower courts — including an appeal by the Obama Administration of the Hobby Lobby decision by the Tenth Circuit in June that upheld the right of the Christian craft store chain to exclude abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee’s health plans.

The lawsuit by the Wielands names the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and U.S. Department of Labor as defendants.

Read the request for injunctive relief for the Wielands here.

A copy of the original lawsuit is available here.

Obama Makes A Deal With Iran

From The White House:

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Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by President Barack Obama on First Step Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Today, the United States – together with our close allies and partners – took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
Since I took office, I have made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  As I have said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we have extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community.  So my Administration worked with Congress, the U.N. Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.
These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged.  I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall.  Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister.  And we have pursued intensive diplomacy – bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5+1 partners: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.
Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.  Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited.  Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor.  And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.  Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.
On our side, the United States and our friends and allies have agreed to provide Iran modest relief, while continuing to apply our toughest sanctions.  We will refrain from imposing new sanctions, and we will allow the Iranian government access to a portion of the revenue that they have been denied through sanctions.  But the broader architecture of sanctions will remain in place and we will continue to enforce them vigorously.  And if Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six month phase, we will turn off the relief, and ratchet up the pressure.
Over the next six months, we will work to negotiate a comprehensive solution. We approach these negotiations with a basic understanding: Iran, like any nation, should be able to access peaceful nuclear energy.  But because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon.
In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to. The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be for exclusively peaceful purposes. If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect. But if Iran refuses, it will face growing pressure and isolation.
Over the last few years, Congress has been a key partner in imposing sanctions on the Iranian government, and that bipartisan effort made possible the progress that was achieved today.  Going forward, we will continue to work closely with Congress.  However, now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions – doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies, and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.
That international unity is on display today.  The world is united in support of our determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  Iran must know that security and prosperity will never come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons – it must be reached through fully verifiable agreements that make Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons impossible.
As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.
Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program.  As President and Commander in Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict. Today, we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement, and I believe we must test it.
The first step that we have taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we have made with Iran since I took office. Now, we must use the months ahead to pursue a lasting and comprehensive settlement that would resolve an issue that has threatened our security – and the security of our allies – for decades.  It won’t be easy.  Huge challenges remain ahead.  But through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do our part on behalf of a world of greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.
Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on First Step Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Via Conference Call
11:34 P.M. EST, November 23
MS. HAYDEN:  Hi, everyone.  Thanks for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate your patience.  I know this is starting a little later than we had hoped, but hopefully everyone got a chance to see Secretary Kerry speaking in Geneva.  That’s what we were waiting on.
Tonight’s call is on background with senior officials.  So there’s no embargo on this call.  Again, the call is on background.  These are senior administration officials.  And with that, I’ll hand it over to senior administration official number one.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  And again, thanks again for waiting.  We were letting, of course, Secretary Kerry complete his remarks in Geneva.
I’ll just make a few opening comments here.  I know you have the fact sheet, but I think it’s still worth running through some of the key elements of the agreement.  And then my colleague will speak to the sanctions piece of our policy, as well as the limited relief in the agreement.
First of all, it’s important to understand that this builds on a several-year effort, one of the leading priorities for President Obama, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  And the P5-plus-1 is the forum through which we negotiate with the Iranians, and this, as the President said, is the most meaningful agreement we’ve reached with the Iranians since we took office.
We have described this as a first step towards a comprehensive agreement, and it’s a first step in that it halts the progress of the Iranian program, rolls it back in some important respects, but then provides a six-month window for us to test whether we can reach a comprehensive agreement.
Why a first step agreement?  We believe it’s very important that Iran not be able to make progress with its nuclear program during the course of the negotiation.  One of the concerns in the past has been that Iran would use the cover of a negotiation to advance its program, and indeed were we not to reach this type of agreement, six months from now Iran could make significant progress in increasing its stockpiles and selling advanced centrifuges, moving towards bringing their reactor in Arak online.  That is the outcome that we prevent with this agreement, by halting the progress of the program and rolling it back.
I’ll now just go through the elements of the first step. Then my colleague can speak to the relief.  Then I’ll say a few words about the comprehensive solution that we’re seeking.  Then we’ll take your questions.
First of all, Iran has committed to halt all enrichment above 5 percent and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5 percent.  Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near 20 percent uranium, and this is, of course, what has been of principal concern to us in terms of their stockpile.  It will dilute below 5 percent, or convert to a form that is not suitable for further enrichment, its entire stockpile of near 20-percent enriched uranium before the conclusion of this six-month phase.
So just to go through those elements specifically:  Iran will also not install additional centrifuges of any type.  Iran will not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.  Iran will leave inoperable roughly half of all centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordo so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.  Iran will limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines so that Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile additional centrifuges.  And Iran will not construct additional enrichment facilities.
Iran will also commit to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5 percent stockpile.  And this is an important point, because not only are they neutralizing the 20-percent stockpile, they, at the end of the six months, cannot have increased their stockpile of 3.5 percent.  So that allows for the rollback on the 20 percent and the halting of any increase in the 3.5 percent stockpile.
Furthermore, Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak, and to halt progress on its plutonium track.  Specifically, Iran will not commission the Arak reactor. Iran will not fuel the Arak reactor. Iran will halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.  There will be no additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.  Iran will not install any additional reactor components at Arak.  Iran will not transfer fuel and heavy-water to the reactor site.  Iran will not construct a facility capable of reprocessing.  And without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.
So just to pause here, there are essentially three different pathways towards a bomb that have been of concern to us.  One is the 20 percent enrichment stockpile — the 20 percent stockpile of enriched uranium.  That goes away with this agreement at the end of the six months.  The other is the combination of the 3.5 percent stockpile together with the advanced centrifuges that Iran has developed should they install them and move to break out.  That is halted with this agreement, because they can’t grow the 3.5 percent stockpile or install those advanced centrifuges.
And then the third track that we were concerned about was the Arak reactor.  And this would give them a new pathway to having a heavy-water reactor, a plutonium track towards a weapon. That is halted.
So these are very important concessions and the most significant progress that has been made in halting the progress of the uranium program in a decade.
Along with those agreements come an unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of the Iranian program.  Iran has committed to daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordo.  This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring.  This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and, of course, shorten the detection time for any noncompliance, so, therefore, also, getting eyes into those facilities in a way that would immediately detect any effort to break out or, of course, violate the agreement.
The IAEA will also have access to centrifuge assembly facilities, also, to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities, and also access to uranium mines and mills.  So, importantly, these are not just inspections and access to the nuclear facilities; we also have access to the production facilities, whether it’s a centrifuge production facility or even the raw materials at the uranium mines and mills.  This is much more extensive monitoring than we have today, and it is a significant portion of this agreement.
Furthermore, Iran has agreed to provide design information for the Arak reactor that we have sought for a long time.  This will give us insight into the reactor that that has not been previously available.  They will also provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor, and they will provide certain key data and information that is called for in the additional protocol to Iran’s IAEA safeguard agreement and, in modified code, 3.1.
So, again, taken together these verification steps will allow us, of course, to detect any Iranian noncompliance with the agreement, will allow us to have unprecedented access to their facilities, and frankly, will allow us to learn a lot more about the Iranian program and its various elements.
The IAEA will perform many of these verification steps consistent with their role in Iran, but in addition, the P5-plus-1 in Iran have committed to establishing a joint commission that will work with the IAEA to monitor implementation and address issues that may arise.  So this joint commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present concerns with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, including the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s activities at Parchin.  So, importantly, over this course of several months, we will be getting together those questions that we have about any potential military dimension associated with Iran’s activities.
So, taken together, again, a halt of activities across the Iranian program, a rollback in certain important elements, and extensive and intrusive monitoring.
With that, I’ll turn it over to my colleague to walk through the relief piece.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  And good evening, everybody.  I want to describe the contours of the limited relief in this deal, which we assess is worth at most about $6-7 billion.
The components are as follows:  We will pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales.  This means Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day, which is down 60 percent since our oil sanctions took effect in late 2011.  And with one exception, the revenue that Iran earns from these sales over the next six months will continue to be restricted by our sanctions, meaning that those funds will not be available to Iran for repatriation or cross-border transfer.
The one exception is that we will allow Iran to transfer $4.2 billion in revenue from these sales in installments over the six-month period.
We will suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports.  This could allow Iran to generate some revenue, which we estimate to be a maximum of a billion dollars in new revenue over the six-month period.  We will suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s trade in gold and precious metals.  There is no economic value to Iran from this provision because Iran will have to spend its limited unrestricted foreign currency for any gold purchases. Iran cannot use restricted oil earnings to buy gold.
We will suspend U.S. sanctions on exports to Iran’s auto industry.  This could provide Iran some marginal benefit on the order of about $500 million if Iran is able to resume its prior levels of production and revitalizes its auto exports.  However, Iran’s auto industry suffers from many problems beyond sanctions, many of which would have to be solved for Iran to benefit from this provision.  Moreover, Iran would need to use some of its limited foreign currency to pay for car kits it would import from abroad.
We will allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds overseas directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.  We will license safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines, and we will establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade in food, agricultural commodities, medicines, and medical devices for Iran’s domestic needs.  Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress, so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds.
Finally, to the extent permissible within our political system, we have committed to refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.  That does not prevent us from implementing and enforcing our existing nuclear-related sanctions, which, of course, we will do, or from imposing new sanctions targeting Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism or its abysmal human rights record.
Let me just make a few additional comments.  First and most importantly, this relief is limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible.  It is designed so that the core of our sanctions, the sanctions that have had a tremendous bite — the oil, banking and financial sanctions — all remain in place.  So in that very important respect, this deal is limited.
It is temporary in that the relief automatically expires at the end of six months.  It is targeted in that it allows Iran access to a set amount of funds in a controlled and controllable manner, and to permit specific additional commercial activity with quite limited upsides to the Iranians.  It does not allow any open-ended financial or economic activity.
And it is reversible.  If Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, the financial component, which is doled out in increments, can be turned off, and the sanctions that have been suspended can be put right back in place.
Second, the relief that Iran gets under this agreement is insignificant economically.  The total maximum value of this deal, as I said, is about $6 billion to $7 billion.  Compare that to the economic distress that Iran currently faces.  Over the past year, Iran’s economy has contracted by more than 5 percent. It’s currency, the rial, has lost around 60 percent of its value against the dollar since 2011.  Inflation is about 40 percent.  Iran is in a deep recession.  Because of our banking sanctions most of Iran’s major banks, including its central bank, are unable to transact internationally.  And because of our financial sanctions, the vast majority of Iran’s $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are restricted or inaccessible.
Iran’s oil exports currently average only around 1 million barrels per day.  That, as I’ve noted before, is down 60 percent, from an average of about 2.5 million per day in 2011, and is costing Iran today about $5 billion per month in lost sales.  In fact, over the past two years, Iran has lost about $100 billion in oil revenue due to sales it has not been able to make.  That is lost revenue that Iran will never recoup.
None of this changes with this deal.  In fact, looking ahead during the six-month duration of this first step deal, our oil sanctions alone will cost Iran around $30 billion in lost revenues, or close to $5 billion per month.  And as for the oil revenue that Iran will earn during this time, those funds will continue to be restricted in overseas accounts due to our existing sanctions.
So just looking at oil revenue alone, Iran will actually be worse off at the end of this six-month deal than it is today.  Its restricted foreign reserves will continue to grow and its budget gap — estimated to be about $36 billion — will not be closed.  What’s more, the relief I just described is the sum total of the relief.  All the rest of our sanctions remain in place and will be zealously enforced.
So, in addition to the sanctions that limit how much oil Iran can sell, our sanctions against the central bank of Iran and approximately two dozen other major Iranian banks and financial actors remain in place.  Those banks will continue to be de-SWIFTED — that is unable to access the SWIFT international financial messaging service.
Our key secondary sanctions that threaten to cut off from the U.S. any bank that does business with designated banks, individuals and entities in Iran remains in place.  Sanctions on the over 600 individuals and entities targeted for supporting Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile program remain in effect.  Sanctions on several sectors of Iran’s economy, including shipping and shipbuilding, remain in effect.  Sanctions on long-term investments in or providing technical services to Iran’s energy sector remain in effect.
The longstanding and broad U.S. restrictions on trade with Iran remain in effect, depriving Iran of access to virtually all dealings with the world’s biggest economy.  All U.N. Security Council and EU sanctions remain in effect.  And all of our targeted sanctions related to Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its destabilizing role in the Syrian conflict, and its abysmal human rights record, among other concerns, remain in effect.
And one final point.  We will in utmost good faith work to deliver our commitment under this agreement.  If Iran lives up to its obligations and commitments, it will get the benefit of its bargain.  But at the same time, we will not turn a blind eye to sanctions evasion, circumvention, or any other attempts to take advantage of this situation by anyone or any person or any entity anywhere.
As I just described, the vast bulk of our sanctions remain in place.  And as the President said just this evening, you can be sure that we will enforce those sanctions vigorously.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  I’ll just say a couple of comments quickly about the comprehensive piece, and then I know we’ll want to get to questions.
So, first of all, essentially what happens now is we have with this framework in place six months to see if we can negotiate a comprehensive resolution.  It’s an important point that this is an agreement that will have a duration of six months, and it would only be continued if it was mutually agreed upon.  So there is an expiration date as it relates to the terms of the first step, unless there is either a comprehensive resolution agreed to or there is a mutually agreed decision to continue.
In terms of the end state, we do not recognize a right for Iran to enrich uranium.  That is a specific issue that has, of course, at stake in the negotiation.  What we are going to explore with the Iranians and our P5-plus-1 partners over the next six months is whether there can be an agreed upon comprehensive solution that assures us that the Iranian program is peaceful.
And with respect to that end state, there are many issues that will have to be addressed.  I would note that in the agreement it is made clear that Iran will have to address the outstanding U.N. Security Council resolutions in which they have previously claimed to be illegal throughout the course of that negotiation.  So there is not an end state that can be arrived at unless we address those U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Moreover, nothing is agreed to with respect to the end state until everything is agreed to.  So when it comes to the various components of an end state, including those alluded to in the document today, which we can discuss, those are not agreed to unless we actually reach an comprehensive resolution that, again, gives us that assurance that the Iranian program is peaceful.
However, we have an opportunity here, as the President said — our goal has always been to resolve this issue peacefully through a diplomatic resolution, both because we believe that that is the more durable way of solving the problem, because diplomacy allows you the assurance that you have an agreement that is verifiable and puts limits and constraints on the Iranian program that can be checked over time; and similarly, because, of course, the enormous costs and consequences that would come with any potential military action were it to come to conflict.
So this is an opportunity that we aim to seize, but we have no illusions that it will be easy to do.  These are going to be tough negotiations, but we’re going to give it our very best shot.
And with that, we’ll move to questions.
Q    Thanks very much.  How real is the danger that the sanctions regime would have unraveled if this agreement had not been reached?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Scott, I’ll say one thing and then my colleague may want to add.  The purpose of sanctions were not to just have sanctions in place.  They were to change the calculus of the Iranian government.  We began to see that with the election of a new President who ran on a mandate to achieve sanctions relief through a more moderate foreign policy towards the West.  And we had an opportunity, the best opportunity we’ve had in five years, to test whether we could get an agreement through diplomacy.
We achieved that agreement in this third round of talks in Geneva.  It’s important to note that it isn’t simply the unilateral sanctions that have had a bite on the Iranian economy. What’s made a difference is countries around the world cooperating with the sanctions regime reducing their purchases of Iranian oil, for instance.  And that depended upon a great amount of political will from those countries.  But the reason that those countries cooperated with us is because they wanted to support a diplomatic resolution and because it was pretty clear to the world that Iran had been the recalcitrant party in previous negotiations.
Our point has been that were we to walk away from the table here, were we to move to additional U.S. unilateral sanctions before we had tested diplomacy, that the political will on behalf of our partners would have been tested in severe ways, and essentially, you could have seen an unraveling of the sanctions regime from those countries that felt like we were not negotiating in good faith.
And so the risk was that in refusing to test diplomacy, which was the purpose of the sanctions in the first place, the U.S. would have been alienated not just from our P5-plus-1 partners but from other countries around the world.  And that could have put at risk our ability to have the type of coalition we’ve had during enforced sanctions.
I don’t know if you have anything to add to that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, I think that’s exactly right.  The effectiveness of the sanctions regime that’s in place is not dependent solely on the force of our sanctions and the sort of coercive impact of our enforcement — although that’s obviously an important aspect of it — it’s also that we have galvanized the international community to join us in this effort, and so we have a great deal of voluntary cooperation and collaboration with others around the world.  And that depends in very great extent on the recognition that we are approaching this in a sensible way and not applying sanctions for sanctions’ sake.
And I think that there was obviously a danger — it’s hard to quantify, but obviously a danger if we discarded this opportunity and just moved to layering on additional sanctions unilaterally, that that important international coalition would not hold together.
Q    Thank you both very much for doing this.  What is your response to the arguments from the Israelis — and you’ll hear from the Prime Minister tomorrow, I’m sure — that this actually weakens our leverage because the sanctions were working, were getting Iran to be so serious, and now Iran knows and other countries know, and businesses around the world will know that Iran is going to be back in business and that they can start finding ways around the sanctions that have been so successful, that you’ll see this — you’ll see a big change in rial and you’ll see a lot more flexibility for Iran.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Andrea, to your question, I’ll say a couple of things, and I’m sure my colleague will want to add.
First of all, just to step back, we believe that this agreement aims to address a number of concerns that Israel has expressed over the years.  First of all, Israel has expressed concern that Iran could use the cover of negotiations to advance their program.  We are halting their program in its tracks and rolling back elements of the program while we test whether we can reach an agreement.
The Prime Minister has raised concerns in the past about the growing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  This would neutralize that stockpile, eliminating one of the most important paths that Iran could have towards a breakout to a bomb.
We and the Israelis were concerned about the Arak reactor coming online or a variety of reasons, including the fact that it would give them a plutonium track towards a weapon.  And we believe that this halts Arak in its tracks for the first time while we have the space to negotiate.
We had a tactical difference on this question of a first step or an end state agreement.  We, frankly, again, just believe that you weren’t going to get to an end state from a standing start, so we needed to put this in place to halt the progress of the Iranians while we negotiate that final step.  And we’ll consult with the Israelis.  And after every one of these negotiations, we brief our Israeli friends and I can tell you that Israel has been briefed by the United States on the elements of this agreement.
I’ll just say one comment on the sanctions before going to my colleague.  My quick comment would simply be I don’t think that this limited and reversible agreement suddenly makes Iran a good bet for businesses to invest.  The sanctions are still in place and the sanctions are still going to be enforced.  And even in the categories where there are these limited suspensions for a time-bound period of six months, that’s not exactly a fruitful climate for investment.
But I’ll turn to my colleague on that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’d make two points, picking up on the last one there.  Iran is not back in business and anyone who makes the mistake of thinking so I think will be met with some serious consequences.
The deal that was struck is very limited in terms of the additional business that Iran can engage in.  It’s able to sell petrochemicals and able to sell/export automobiles.  That’s it; full stop.  There’s no other business activity that is permitted under this first step deal with Iran.  And anyone who thinks they can now go in to develop Iran’s oil fields, go into shipbuilding, shipping with Iran, any of the other sectors that are subject to sanctions will I think swiftly come to realize that we are quite serious about maintaining — and robustly maintaining — the sanctions that are in place.
Secondly, with respect to the impact of this deal on Iran’s economy, as I noted before, we do not judge this to be economically significant.  The $6 billion to $7 billion maximum value of this deal — which I think probably overstates its actual commercial value — will be realized over the course of six months.  And in comparison to the hole that Iran’s in, its foreign exchange needs, which are more than 10 times that amount, its budget deficit, which is in the order of about $35 billion, this very limited package of relief will not move the needle economically for Iran.
Q    Just a question.  I want to clarify the right to enrich piece.  The Secretary said earlier that there is no right to enrich in the document.  But we’ve heard that some of the Iranian officials are claiming there is if not an explicit right to enrich, then an implicit right to enrich.  Can you tell me exactly what the document says or doesn’t say?  And is it an issue for the next round of negotiations if the P5 is claiming there isn’t a right to enrich and the Iranians are claiming there is a right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, that’s a good question, Mark.  The Iranians have asserted this, as you know, for some time.  And it is just the fact that as a matter of policy, the United States has not recognized a right to enrich for the Iranian government, nor do we intend to.  The document does not say anything about recognizing a right to enrich uranium.
In terms of the end state, what essentially the next six months will determine is whether there can be an agreement that deals with the Iranian program and gives us an assurance that the Iranian program is peaceful; an agreement that puts limits and constraints on the Iranian program and that has strict verification measures so that we have a certainty that Iran cannot use that program to develop a nuclear weapon.
We would have to negotiate over the course of those six months whether that can be achieved with some type of limited enrichment capability for the Iranians.  But the point is that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.  So there is nothing in this agreement that gives Iran something in terms of the end state that they can hold onto unless all of our concerns are met, with Arak, with Fordo, with Natanz, with strict limitations and constraints on the type of program that the Iranians have and with verification measures.
So that’s what the next six months are going to be about:  Can we define what an end state is that is mutually agreeable to the P5-plus-1 and the Iranian government.  That won’t involve a recognition of a right to enrich from us because we just simply do not recognize that there is a right to enrich for Iran under the NPT.
So that’s what will have to be explored over the next six months of negotiations.  We’ve also — just to make a couple of points I referenced earlier — made clear that the U.N. Security Council resolutions must still be addressed and that is something that Iran will have to deal with over the course of the next six months; and similarly, that Iran must come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA.  So those aspects of Iran’s commitments to the international community hold and will have to be addressed.
But we’ll see whether we can achieve an end state agreement that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy, an access to peaceful nuclear energy and clearly some domestic component of a nuclear program that provides for that peaceful nuclear energy with constraints and limitations and verification measures that are acceptable to us so that we have the certainty their program is peaceful.
And so again, that’s precisely what the negotiation will be about over the next six months.  But it does not enshrine any right for the Iranian government to enrich.
The other thing I’d just reiterate that I said earlier is that this first step agreement is not a permanent state.  This has a six-month expiration date on it unless we get a comprehensive resolution, or unless there is a mutually agreed upon decision to continue the negotiation with this first step in place beyond that timeline.
So again what that means is Iran cannot point to anything in this first step agreement as some type of permanent acknowledgement of their current nuclear capability.  It is not a new status quo.  It is a first step that is giving us the time and space to negotiate that entity.
Q    Thanks for doing this call at this late hour.  There is an Associated Press story that has just come out in the last several minutes that said there were some high-level talks going on in the months preceding this agreement and obviously the months preceding what took place in Geneva.  I was just curious if you can provide some details to the rest of us about that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, Jim.  I was just made aware of that story.  I’d just make a couple of comments.  Number one, when President Rouhani was elected and indicated a new direction, we decided to take that seriously and to test it.  And that effort commenced with President Obama writing a letter to President Rouhani, which, of course, we have made public.  And that letter I think was delivered in early August.
The second point I’d make is the United States has always been crystal-clear that the P5-plus-1 is the venue for negotiations with Iran towards an agreement on the nuclear issue. At the same time, we’ve also made clear that we were open to having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to supplement and feed into those P5-plus-1 negotiations.  So, again, any discussions we had with the Iranians on a bilateral basis were meant to reinforce and ultimately be a part of the P5-plus-1 negotiations.
And some of this has been quite public.  President Obama spoke to President Rouhani.  Secretary Kerry has had bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif,  Wendy Sherman has had bilateral meetings on the margins of these P5-plus-1 talks.  In addition to that, we’ve also had a small number of bilateral discussions with the Iranians since President Rouhani’s election, again, with the aim of discussing ideas that could then be merged into the P5-plus-1 negotiations.
So over the course of the last several months of very intensive diplomacy in September, October and November of this year, we had some limited bilateral discussions with the Iranians in addition to the P5-plus-1 discussions that, again, were aimed at developing ideas that we could provide in the P5-plus-1 negotiations.  And then the text itself, importantly, was negotiated in these Geneva rounds with the P5-plus-1.
I’d also just add that our bilateral discussions with the Iranians insofar as they deal with substance — we brief our P5-plus-1 partners on it so that they have an understanding of any discussions we’re having, just as our P5-plus-1 partners can brief us on their discussions that they may be having with the Iranians.  We also keep our Israeli friends informed of our substantive discussions with the Iranians.  This is something that we brief them on just as we brief them on the content of the P5-plus-1 talks.
Q    I just wanted to be clear on the sanctions relief, I just wanted to hear your explanation for why you don’t believe that this requires any congressional authorization.  Can you just outline that a little and get, if I could, maybe your sort of outlook on the Hill, how you think this will be received and what sort of diplomacy the President needs to prevent sort of further sanctions in the coming months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  A few points on that.  First of all, the sanctions that have been passed by Congress continue to be enforced, so it is not as if we need to unwind the legislative architecture of sanctions.  Again, this limited relief, as my colleague described, is very limited, reversible, and doesn’t dismantle in any way the architecture of sanctions we have in place.
With respect to new sanctions, the introduction of new sanctions would, we believe, derail the agreement, and we believe that people in Congress understand the importance of testing whether we can get to a comprehensive solution over the next six months.  And we have been having this discussion with members of Congress for several weeks now.  They’re fully briefed on what we’ve been discussing with the Iranians.  We’ve been making calls to the Hill tonight and will continue to do so in the coming days.
I’d just make a couple points about that.  First of all, if the Iranians violate the agreement, or if we can’t reach a comprehensive resolution, we have said that we will move to additional sanctions.  So we are open to working with Congress in the event that this agreement is violated, or that we get to the conclusion of this six months and we don’t have a deal and we don’t believe that we should continue negotiations.  So that will be an ongoing discussion with Congress.
But I’ll let members of Congress speak for themselves.  What I would say is I think most members of Congress have been clear that they do believe that this issue should be resolved peacefully through diplomacy, and that they have been key partners with us in providing the sanctions regime that brought us to where we are today.  And as the President said, we wouldn’t be here without these sanctions.  They helped bring Iran to the table.  But I think members of Congress also understand that a peaceful outcome to this is far preferable to the alternative, and that’s why we’re going to continue to test this over the course of the next six months.
And we’ll have to continue to make our case to Congress, but, again, I think the broad majority of members of Congress would agree that a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear program is in the U.S. interest, and that using the sanctions as leverage in those negotiations rather than doing anything that would derail the negotiations is similarly in the U.S. interest.
We have time for one more question.
Q    Hi, gentlemen.  Thanks for doing the call.  I wanted to just clarify, on Israel, has the President spoken with Netanyahu one-on-one about this tonight, and do you have any assurances from the Israelis that they’re not going to do anything within the next six months?
And then I have a technical question.  Can you give us any detail on the EU lifting insurance and shipping sanctions on oil spills?  We know a little bit about that from the Farsi version of the deal, but it’s not in your fact sheet, so if you could help with that that would be appreciated.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll take the first question, and then my colleague can take the second one.
With respect to Israel, you can be sure that President Obama will speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and in fact, we have every expectation that he will do so tomorrow — or maybe I should say today, since it is already Sunday.  We brief the Israelis after every one of these rounds of discussions.  And the President has had basically five years of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu on this subject.
And let me just say this.  We understand that there have been some differences, but we share the same objective here, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  That’s in America’s interest; that’s in Israel’s interest; that’s in the world’s interest.  That’s what this is about.  And we work through these issues in a spirit of great candor and we have dialogue at every level — from the President to the Secretary to our negotiator, and also in our security establishments, military and intelligence — a very regularized dialogue with the Israeli government.  And we will continue to do so.
And again, ultimately, we understand and appreciate why Israel is particularly skeptical about Iran, given the threats that have been made about Israel from Tehran.  We understand why Israel would want to make sure that this is the best deal possible, and make sure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.  One point we’d make is this is not simply about trusting the Iranian government.  There are strict verification measures through these intrusive inspections involved in making sure that Iran is meeting its commitments under this agreement.
I would say that what we have now is a six-month period to test whether the new leadership in Iran continues to follow through on their commitment to move Iran in a new path.  The Iranian President has said they will not develop a nuclear weapon.  The Supreme Leader of Iran has said that there is a fatwa to development of a nuclear weapon.  What we will know after six months is whether there can be a solution that is enshrined in an agreement that gives us assurance that their program is peaceful.  That would be good for the United States; that would be good for the world; and we believe that would be good for the security of Israel, for our Gulf partners and for the region.
And we’ll just conclude with my colleague taking your second question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, and just very briefly, the relief provisions in here, to the extent that there is additional business activity, also cover associated services.  So I assume that the — I haven’t seen the Farsi version myself — that it was referring to that, to the associated service.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  Something tells me this won’t be the last time we’ll be talking to you about Iran over the course of the next six months.  I just want to say, I know that this won’t be news to you that I think this, but I hope that we all at the very least appreciate the negotiators for the United States — John Kerry, Wendy Sherman, and the whole crew out there in Geneva who have been — who are up at 6:00 a.m., still working, and have been literally working harder than anybody that I’ve seen over the course of my time in government — of course, with the exception of our servicemen and women who are deployed.
But they have done extraordinary work.  They’ve been tireless.  And they have the personal — the President is personally grateful for what they’ve done, and holds them in tremendous esteem for their efforts on behalf of this agreement for the United States.
Thanks everybody.
END
12:16 A.M. EST, November 24

President Obama calls Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu

From The White House:

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Readout of the President’s call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu today to discuss the P5+1’s first step agreement with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  The two leaders reaffirmed their shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  The President noted that the P5+1 will use the months ahead to pursue a lasting, peaceful, and comprehensive solution that would resolve the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  Consistent with our commitment to consult closely with our Israeli friends, the President told the Prime Minister that he wants the United States and Israel to begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution.  The President underscored that the United States will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.  The President and Prime Minister agreed to stay in close contact on this issue as the P5+1 and Iran negotiate a long-term solution over the next six months.

12-year Secret Service Agent Resigns- Warns American People About ‘Life Inside the Bubble’

3927ed0aa44c4f408468f514f093f152-600x350WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Why would a successful, 12-year Secret Service agent resign his elite position in the prime of his career to run for high public office and blow the whistle on what goes on at the highest levels inWashington DC?

Dan Bongino’s Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All (WND Books, Nov 19) is a look at life inside the presidential “bubble,” a haze of staffers, consultants, cronies, acolytes, bureaucrats and lobbyists that creates the “alternate reality” in which monumental policy decisions are made. And it is the story of a dedicated Secret Service professional who, after years inside the “bubble,” walked away in favor of sounding a clarion call to the American people in defense of sane government and the U.S. Constitution.

Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity praises the book as “a rare peek inside the DC ‘Bubble’ which should be a wake-up call to every American.”

Former congressman and U.S. Army Col. Allen West says, “Dan Bongino walked away because he is an American patriot and the embodiment of the highest standards of honor, integrity, and character … exactly what we need inside the bubble.”

Take the journey with Bongino from the tough streets of New York City where he was raised, and later patrolled as a member of the NYPD, to the White House as a member of the elite Presidential Protective Division, through his ultimate decision to resign from the Secret Service in the prime of his career to run for the United States Senate against the feared Maryland Democratic machine.

Follow his experiences inside the Washington DC matrix and discover why a government filled with some incredibly dedicated people nevertheless continues to make such frequent and tragic mistakes. Indeed, Bongino shows why the “Fast & Furious” scandal, the terror bombings in Boston and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi are merely harbingers of what’s to come to America without a bold change in direction.

About Dan Bongino

Starting his career in law enforcement with the NYPD in 1995, Dan Bongino joined the ranks of the Secret Service in 1999 as a special agent where he was assigned to investigate financial crimes. In 2006, he entered into duty with the elite Presidential Protective Division in the administration of President George W. Bush and remained on protective duty during the change in administration to that of President Barack Obama. He resigned from the Secret Service in 2011 to run for a U.S. Senate seat inMaryland.

The California GOP Has a Mexican!

Here in California the race for governor is already starting. So far, Tea Party candidate Tim Donnelly has announced his candidacy, and State Senator Abel Maldonado has also put up a website announcing his intentions to run for the big chair in Sacramento. There are murmurs among my Tea Party pals that Mr. Donnelly is going to have an uphill battle and won’t be endorsed by the state GOP Establishment. They expect Mr. Maldonado, the alleged less-conservative choice, to get the official nod, the money, the support, etc., etc., yes we can.

When you think about it, that actually makes sense. Maldonado may indeed by the only chance the GOP has to win California (they’ll say), and all they need are fancy Establishment slogans meant to show the Democrats and the fruits and nuts in California that this isn’t Your Father’s Republican Party, such as:

Maldonado: We have a Mexican, too.

Maldonado: He Knows What it’s Like to be One of You

Or they can capitalize on his first name, Abel, and say:

Abel Maldonado: Our Mexican Sounds Like an Arab….Double the Diversity!

This is the path I expect the CA GOP to take. Why? Because apparently the GOP isn’t interested in governing, or standing up for the Constitution, or any of that other red, white, and blue rubbish we hear so often from the Tea Party (it actually gets a little old after awhile, guys). What the GOP wants is the status quo. We certainly see that in Congress. Don’t rock the boat, just go along with token resistance, and we’ll get back in charge of the money and spend it our way soon enough.

The Party itself has become a business. Right now, business is bad. The media tells us that conservatives are going to further ruin the business, and the Establishment has eaten that up. They regularly attack Tea Party candidates. In Virginia, where Hilary’s Man just won the state seat, the local Establishment refused to fund the conservative opposition. What does that tell you?

All people like Karl Rove and John McCain want is to be in charge of the money. We note that when the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, they quickly outspent the Democrats. Nobody ever talks about that. Fiscal responsibility? Not when we’re in charge!

Maldonado talks a good game. He doesn’t like California’s tax code, which keeps small businesses from creating jobs, bla bla bla, yes we can, etc. As Captain Kirk once said, I’m laughing at the superior intellect. Maldonado won’t stand a chance against the Democrat machine which has convinced Hispanic voters, the ones the GOP obviously wants, that Republicans are not their friends, and nationwide the GOP will get its clock cleaned for the next 10 to 15 years while they figure out this strategy of running lukewarm candidates will not achieve anything but more ridicule. We’ve seen the failures of extremists like Michelle “God Told Me to Marry my Husband” Bachman and nimrods like Todd “That Thing Just Shuts Down” Aiken and that “I’m Not a Witch” lady whose name I have forgotten and I’m too lazy to look up because who gives a crap, so now we’re going to run the center-left candidates to balance it out.

Donnelly won’t stand a chance against his own party, never mind the left. They won’t even bother with him because the GOP will take him out.

And in the end either Moonbeam Brown gets another term, or some other Moonbeam replacement will get the big chair; California will remain a firmly blue state, and more Californians will leave (a lot already are) and infect previously red states with their blue sensibilities (hello, Colorado!) and further ruin the nation.

But at least the California GOP has a Mexican.

Finally.

 

BRIAN DRAKE is a 20-year broadcast veteran in California and the author of The Rogue Gentleman, a thriller in the tradition of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor. Follow him on Twitter.

The Knockout Game is too dangerous to “play” with

As a pastor I am used to presenting some sort of social commentary in my weekly messages. There is very little I have seen or known of in the past twenty years that I have not been able to critique on a biblical basis. However, a phenomenon has surfaced and gained some media attention that I was not only not aware of, I was actually surprised by and I have found it difficult to comment upon. It is known as the “knockout game”.

Recently several incidents featuring this “game” have come to light. The rules are simple. Groups of young people, predominantly black males, randomly choose a passerby and one of them attempts to knock them out with one surprise punch. This is filmed and posted on the internet and has spawned imitation in cities around the country. The victims are not only male. In one case a 78 year old woman was knocked out and did survive the attack. Some have not been so fortunate and people have actually died from these attacks.

One of the things that surprised me was this is not a new activity. It has been going on with some frequency for years. http://www.wnd.com/2013/11/surprise-media-finally-wake-up-to-knockout-game/ It is also surprising that the makeup of these perpetrators is almost exclusively black teens and it is this specific detail which makes these incidents difficult to comment upon. The reason is not because the participants in this “game” are almost exclusively of one ethnicity. It is because youths who themselves identify with the same ethnicity as the President are engaging in these attacks! It makes little sense to this writer that what appears to be racially motivated violence is on the increase now. Wasn’t the election of the first African-American President supposed to decrease racial tension in our land? It seems to be having the opposite effect.

This behavior should be stopped in it’s tracks for several reasons. One is because this activity is beginning to spread not only in frequency but also across the color and age barrier and other ethnic groups are getting involved. An attack, recently reported by Fox News featured perpetrators who were identified as 3 Hispanics along with a “Asian Pacific Islander”, and the ages were 20s and 30s this time. http://video.foxnews.com/v/2857639805001/allen-west-on-why-black-leaders-are-silent-on-ko-game/?intcmp=obnetwork

Another reason is the exacerbation of the old problem of “white-flight”, although given the majority of the makeup of the victims, perhaps this should now be called White/Asian/Jewish flight. For those too young to remember this is the increased incidence of “whites” moving away from the city to the relatively more secure suburbs. This came to attention as a problem in the 1960’s and has largely been off the radar since the 80s. Why was this considered a problem then? Because the economic base of the inner cities was seriously impacted, resulting in the “ghettos” of that time. I believe that as these attacks gain media attention, more “white flight” will follow further degrading the economic base, and thus the well being, of those remaining in the inner cities.

But there is one fact about all of this which disturbs me greatly. Very soon, there will be a different kind of fatality resulting from these attacks. As rightly predicted by Colonel Allen West in report cited above, one of these times the victim will be carrying a gun and then the attacker will lose his life. There has already been one incident of an attacker being shot in Michigan. Should someone be shot and then die as a result of this, racial passions could well heat up to a fever pitch in our land perhaps stronger than in the recent upheavals following the Zimmerman trial, and I do not relish the outcome of that. Worse yet, should something like that happen, retaliation by some white groups may go far beyond simply fleeing the inner city. Then we could see racial violence escalate to frightening levels in our land.

These attacks have but one object, to inflict injury upon another person. If the increased media attention does serve a positive function, perhaps it will be that these attacks are more aggressively prosecuted in the future. Maybe, just maybe, if a very steep price is paid as a consequence of these attacks, the incidence of them will decrease and even cease. However, don’t count me as among those who will hold their breath waiting for this to happen, as there has yet to be any significant comment, let alone action proposed, against this sociopathic behavior among the liberal leadership in the African-American community, most notably the President himself.

 

Sun Tzu predicted Romney’s and Republicans’ defeat two and a half millennia ago

suntzusartofwar

Since Mitt Romney’s and Republicans’ calamitous defeat in the presidential and Congressional elections of 2012, explanations of that fiasco have abounded from all quarters. But the best explanation can be found in a text written over 2,500 years ago: Sun Tzu’s Art of War. If you read that masterwork, you will see how Sun Tzu predicted Mitt Romney’s and Republicans’ loss two and a half millennia earlier.

Republicans lost the election because they ignored not one, but several of Master Sun’s teachings. As a consequence, an election that was already going to be extremely hard to win became a guaranteed defeat. For that is precisely what will happen if you ignore Sun Tzu’s advice: you will most assuredly lose.

Before I continue, I’d like to stress that everyone in the GOP and the Tea Party is to blame for this – partially Mitt Romney himself, partially his campaign staff and advisors, partially fellow Republican politicians and operatives, and partially the Republican base and the Tea Party. Everyone in the GOP and the Tea Party is to blame for last year’s defeat.

Here are the teachings of Sun Tzu which Republicans ignored, and an explanation of how they did that and how it cost them.

1) Sun Tzu wrote:

“When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. 

Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. 

Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. ” – The Art of War, Chapter II, verses 2-6

“Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted. ” – Ch. VI, v. 1

In this case, the “nation” is the Republican Party. No party has ever benefitted from internecine, civil wars, especially not from prolonged ones. yet this is exactly what the 2011-2012 Republican nominating process was: a bloody, prolonged, internecine, suicidal circular firing squad which only benefitted the Democrats.

Not only that, but that civil war was fought among several candidates who, more or less, advocated similar if not the same policies and came from similar schools of thinking. All advocated cutting taxes and spending, reducing the size of government and abolishing entire agencies, reforming the tax code, appointing strict constructionist judges, traditional moral values (except Ron Paul, of course), and most importantly, repealing Obamacare. All opposed abortion and gay marriage, yet all except Santorum also believed these matters should be reserved to the states.

Yet, instead of them attacking Barack Obama, the RNC allowed liberal media journalists to moderate Republican debates and incite Republican candidates to attack each other – which they did for many, many months. The result – as some wise people predicted at the time – was that Republicans needlessly damaged each other’s public image and the eventual Republican nominee emerged bloodied, battered, and weakened for the general election – exactly what Obama and the Democrats wanted. (And this would’ve been true whoever would’ve been the nominee.)

But even more deadly, throughout all that time, the eventual Republican nominee had to waste his time and money finishing off unserious GOP presidential candidates who had no business running for President (incl. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum). These clowns continued their hopeless fight for so long that the eventual GOP nominee (Romney) did not clinch the GOP nomination until May 30th, 2012 – by which time Obama negatively defined him and tarred his image in key battleground states, especially Ohio, with utterly false ads. Some political analysts, such as Myra Adams and Dan Balz (the author of a decent book on that election) believe that May, not November, 2012 was the month Romney lost the election – precisely for the above reasons.

In other words, Obama won the general election before it even begun – because the Republican primary contest was such a prolonged travelling circus and circular firing squad.

2) Sun Tzu wrote:

“The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determinthe conditions obtaining in the field. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” – Ch. I, v. 3-6.

As I wrote in my previous article on Sun Tzu, this ancient Chinese strategist understood that in war, rulers – even despotic, dictatorial rulers like those of Chinese kingdoms during his time – must be supported by their people in order to win. This has been true throughout history, even in dictatorial states like the Soviet Union, when the growing fiscal and human costs of the Afghan War (1979-1989) forced Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachyov to withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan. US presidents have repeatedly had to bend to popular opinion to withdraw US troops from Vietnam (1973), Lebanon (1983), Iraq (2011), and now, Afghanistan.

To win elections, it is even more important – indeed, of paramount importance – to be backed by the people, since it is them who elect their leaders (in countries with representative governments, such as the US). It is THEM whom candidates are supposed to be courting and winning their votes. It is them who collectively hold the key to the White House.

Yet, Republicans have, for the last 4+ years, been doing everything they can to alienate large swathes of the American electorate that could otherwise be amenable to voting Republican.

They still support a total ban on abortion with no exceptions (it’s official party policy, written into the party platform), gay marriage, and restoring DADT; have advocated immigration policies that Latinos consider hostile to them and have added insult to injury by using insulting, derogatory language about Latinos (vide e.g. Herman Cain’s proposal of an electric fence on the US-Mexican border… with warning signs in Spanish and English); have spoken in very insulting words about women, contraception, and rape victims; and just recently, shut the federal government down and toyed with the idea of letting the US default on its debt. Some Republican Senate candidates have even claimed that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended to happen” and that women lie about rape.

Mitt Romney avoided most of these errors (except on immigration – he outdid every other Republican candidate as the toughest hombre on that issue), but was unfairly tied by the Dems to other Republicans who said these and other stupid things, and he also made the stupid “47%” remark.

According to an exit poll conducted on Election Day 2012, while Romney was considered by Americans to be by far the better visionary, more likely to share their values, and the stronger leader of the two main candidates, only 19% of Americans said “he cares about people like me.” 81% of Americans said that of Obama. So leadership qualities and economic competence lost to empathy – and Romney thus lost the votes of most Americans. As Art Kelly succintly explains:

“Those horrible results doomed his candidacy. While Romney is undoubtedly impressive in board rooms and other business meetings, that kind of upper-class authority figure is unlikely to win presidential elections.”

Moreover, in a recent poll, when asked what qualities LEAST describe the GOP, young Americans said “open-minded” (35%), “tolerant” (25%), “caring” (22%), and “cooperative” (21%).”

The problem is simple: Republicans are seen as close-minded, intolerant, uncaring, uncooperative, extremist, and out-of-touch, and Mitt Romney was personally seen as uncaring about ordinary people, unempathetic, and hostile to Latinos. This doomed the Party, and Romney himself, in 2012.

3) Sun Tzu wrote:

“Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:– 

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? (2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?” – Ch. I, v. 12-13

Factors #2, 5, and 6 merit particular attention here. Obama is, alas, a much better campaigner than Mitt Romney – campaigning is all he can do, he’s totally incompetent at everything else, he’s a disastrously bad president, but campaigning is the one thing he does very well. This is, after all, the guy who snatched the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton – nomination that was hers to lose – and from her powerful political machine. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is the guy who lost to the guy who lost to Obama in 2008.

Of course, Obama would’ve never won anything by himself. The real “generals” that won his two presidential elections were his campaign managers, notably David Axelrod and David Plouffe – and as much as I loathe these liberals, their campaign talent is second to none. They, together with other Obama campaign staffers, built a flawless organization that won two consecutive presidential elections by landslide margins – which also shows Obama’s “army” (campaign staff) was stronger than Romney’s, and its officers and men were better trained.

4) Sun Tzu wrote:

“You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.” – Ch. VI, v. 7

“Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. ” – Ch. V, v. 29-30

“Now an army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.” Ch. VI, v. 27 in the Griffith translation*

What Sun Tzu is saying here is that you should attack the enemy’s weak points, not strong – i.e. strike where the enemy is relatively weak, not where he’s strong.

Unfortunately, during the 2012 general election campaign, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wasted a lot of time in the last several weeks of the campaign trying to win blue states like Wisconsin and Michigan – some people even boldly claimed that these states would turn red in 2012. Some people predicted this would happen because their populations are overwhelmingly white.

But they didn’t turn red – they rested solidly Democratic: Wisconsin voted for Obama by 7 pp, and Michigan by 9.5 pp. Meanwhile, the vote in traditional swing states was very close: Ohio voted for Obama by just 2.88 pp, Virginia by just 3.87 pp, and Florida by the tiniest of margins, 0.88 pp.

Colorado voted Democratic by just 5.37 pp. Had Romney won these four states – or the former three and any other state, such as New Hampshire (5.58 pp) or Pennsylvania (5.39 pp) – he would’ve won the election. He should’ve reserved ALL, and by that I mean ALL, his resources to strike at these soft targets, not at Democratic bastions like Wisconsin and Michigan (the former elected a strident liberal, Tammy Baldwin, as its newest Senator in 2012).

Romney could’ve won Colorado (as well as FL and VA) by not alienating Latinos, and Pennsylvania by choosing someone from that state – e.g. Sen. Pat Toomey, as his running mate. That running mate could’ve treated the 2012 election as just another Pennsylvania statewide race, crisscrossing the Commonwealth and visiting county after county.

But Romney and Republicans did not exploit these possibilities and foolishly chased Wisconsin and Michigan, thus wasting time and money there.

5) Sun Tzu wrote:

“Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”

Sun Tzu loved to hold out baits to entice the enemy, to lull the enemy and then to attack him unexpectedly from another side. This is what Republicans (though not Romney himself) did en masse in 2012: Obama threw them a bait (the contraception mandate), knowing full well it would prod Republicans to declare their staunch opposition to contraception and personal liberties in general, and to say offensive things on the subject. Liberals also threw the traditional abortion bait at Republicans, and the GOPers again took it, passing extremist anti-abortion measures (e.g. vaginal ultrasounds) and thus giving credence to the Democrats theme of a Republican “War on women.”

Two Republicans, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock” also took the hook offered them by the liberal media regarding pregnancy resulting from rape: they called it “something God intended to happen” and said raped women should bear the children of their rapists. Akin even said rape victims may lie about the crime. Some Republicans, including Reps. Steve King (IA), Paul Broun (GA), and Phil Gingrey (GA), defended Akin!

And Mitt Romney? Through no fault of his own, he was tied by the liberal media and by Barack Obama to these extremists.

6) Sun Tzu wrote:

“Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” – Ch. IV, v. 13-15

As Master Sun wrote, the vast majority, if not all, military victories in history occurred because the conditions needed for achieving those victories were obtained before actual fighting began. That is, the victors in most if not all instances ensured BEFORE actual fighting they’d win. This essentially means most battles throughout history, if decisive, were won by the victors before they even began.

For if you obtain all the conditions required for victory, you’ve already defeated the enemy before the battle has even begun.

And that is what Obama and his campaign staff – indeed, Dem party operatives over the last few decades – did. By attacking and negatively defining Romney in Americans’ eyes before he even won the GOP nomination; by disseminating their own propaganda in all 50 states before the 2012 race even began; by controlling the media, schools, and the academia for decades; by throwing out lots of goodies to tens of millions of Americans who now depend on the government for their livelihood; by building a flawless campaign organization; and by courting key voter demographics over several decades, the Democrats made their victory in 2012 certain and Republicans’ victory impossible – no matter who would’ve been the nominee.

Few generals are able to do this. But Dem operatives and Obama campaign staffers did that. They ensured that the election was over before it began.

These are the real reasons why Mitt Romney, and the whole Republican Party, lost disastrously in 2012. Republicans paid a heavy price that year for ignoring Sun Tzu’s treatise, and they will suffer dreadfully in the future if they continue to ignore his wise advice.

Let Sun Tzu have the last word here, across 2,500 years of time:

“The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:–let such a one be dismissed!”

*The Lionel Giles translation, available for free here, was used for this article unless otherwise stated.