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Updated: 6 hours 39 min ago

No, The Size of the Universe Does Not Prove God Doesn’t Exist

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 12:08

Some philosophers are claiming God doesn’t exist because the universe is big and mostly humanity-free.

These academic philosophers look across the vastness of space and say, “God would not have made something so big and yet so sparse in humanity. Therefore God doesn’t exist.”

From the Real Clear Science article “Does the Size of the Universe Prove God Doesn’t Exist?” by philosopher Emily Thomas we learn:

Philosophers of religion such as Michael Martin and Nicholas Everitt have asked us to consider the kind of universe we would expect the Christian God to have created, and compare it with the universe we actually live in. They argue there is a mismatch. Everitt focuses on how big the universe is, and argues this gives us reason to believe the God of classical Christianity doesn’t exist.

What’s big?

Thomas says,

Our own planet is 150m kilometres away from the sun. Earth’s nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light years away (that’s around 40 trillion kilometres). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars. Humans occupy the tiniest fraction of it. The landmass of planet Earth is a drop in this ocean of space.

(Incidentally, it’s a good bet many of these same academics say there are too many people in the world.)

Thomas appeals to scripture to say, “God is human-oriented: human beings are like God, and he values us highly.” But then Thomas wonders why God did not “create a universe in which humans feature prominently.” She expected “humans to occupy most of the universe, existing across time,” which of course we don’t.

The mistake is what we can call the If I Were God Fallacy.

Quoting Everitt, Thomas says, “The findings of modern science significantly reduce the probability that theism is true, because the universe is turning out to be very unlike the sort of universe which we would have expected, had theism been true.”

The fallacy here should be obvious: How can they know why God made creation the way He did?

You aren’t God.

The mistake is what we can call the If I Were God Fallacy.

Step one of the fallacy: Suppose you had the Infinite Mind of God. Step two: Create your own imaginary universe. Step three: Compare the beautiful utopia of your imagination with what you see out the window.

Step four: Pronounce the comparison unfavorable.

Finally, step five: Say that because God did not create the perfect universe you envision, God doesn’t exist.

Not only is this argument silly, it is arrogant. It is to accuse God of sloppiness and of lacking in imagination. It is to say that God is less intelligent than your fine self because it didn’t occur to Him to make fewer cockroaches. It’s silly because it is impossible to comprehend the mind of God. Impossible, and not just unlikely.

Nouveau Golden Ratio

To say that the fraction of the universe occupied by humanity is “small” is to say one knows what the proper ratio of people to space should be. “God exists,” you must claim, “if people take up at least 32% of usable space. Anything less than that, and God could not have created this universe.” You have to defend that “32%,” or whatever number you choose, as being the only cutoff that proves God’s non-existence. Yet it’s obvious no such number can exist.

Even if you could figure what this new Golden Ratio must be, your job has just begun. Because then you have to declare how you would create your perfect universe. Nobody knows how to do that.

For instance, no scientist knows where the so-called laws of physics come from, even if they can crudely sketch how some of those laws work.

The Impossible Task

Now you can mentally toy with formulations for new laws, but once you settle on them you are left with two insurmountable difficulties:

(1) You have to specify how, starting from absolute scratch, which is to say having nothing in hand except your laws, just how humanity can (eventually) arise. It’s no good waving your hands and saying something like “They must.” You have to show in the most rigorous way how. We can’t even do that now with the laws we have guessed. Saying “It’s evolution” is not saying how. It’s sweeping the problem under a label.

(2) Even harder, you have to say how your laws were created out of nothing. By what power do the laws arise if there is nothing, not even you? You won’t be there at creation. You are the result of it. So who makes those first laws, whatever they turn out to be?

There has always been only one good answer to that question.

James Robison: A Challenge and Prayer in the Face of the Sutherland Springs Church Massacre

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 10:00

In the wake of Sunday’s horror in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Stream founder James Robison went to Facebook to offer the nation a powerful prayer and a challenge. He says in this hour of sorrow, “Lovers of faith and freedom are being forced into unity by crisis and pressure from the evil one and evil doers.”

WATCH:

The Illusion of Control, The Reality of God

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 10:00

I should almost be okay with it by now. I've had enough experience. I had surgery on my foot a couple weeks ago, for the fifth time on that foot. (I’ve been blessed with structural flaws that are to blame for it all.)

I should be okay with it, and honestly I'm past the fear part now. The lack of control still gets to me.

Surgery is such a passive experience. You lie there and people do things to you. Part of the time you're awake letting them do things to you, knowing that soon you'll be unconscious letting them do things to you, and from that point on there's not a thing you can do about it. You're in someone else's hands. Out of all control. Or rather, out of all illusion of control, for we're not as much in charge as we think we are.

What Can You Trust?

Years ago, while living in Big Bear City, California, my wife and went through a pair of major earthquakes. Aftershocks continued for weeks, including one strong enough to knock a neighboring home off its foundation. If you can't trust the ground you walk on, I wondered, what can you trust?

Or if you can't trust your feet. Two and a half weeks ago I was under treatment, physical therapy, for pain in my right foot, which has the same flaw as the left one though not with such bad effect. I was walking up the driveway from the mailbox, and a bone snapped in my left foot. No apparent reason. And here I am, in the first stages of a long recovery, praying both feet will be okay in a couple of months

Here I am, too, where my wife came in just seconds ago to inform me that the son-in-law of a friend of ours is in surgery right at this moment. Eight days ago he was in a car accident. He broke all four limbs, one of which is being amputated this afternoon. (I had no idea that was coming when I started writing this.)

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You can't go through surgery without thinking at least once that day, “Some people die this way.” You have to think about it. They won't let you put on that fancy hospital gown before you put your signature on a paper that says so.

We think we're in control, and we like to keep thinking so, but sometimes we're reminded it's not that way. If you can't trust the ground you walk on, if you can't even walk safely up your driveway on a nice day in a quiet neighborhood, if driving a car carries the risks we all know it carries, is anything safe anywhere?

The Obvious Can Still Be A Challenge

For those who know God through Jesus Christ, the answer is both obvious and a challenge at the same time.

For Jesus said plainly, "In this world you will have many troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) He proved His overcoming love and power, through the Cross and His Resurrection. If Jesus did that for us, then it's obvious God can save, and God will save, if we allow Him -- no matter what we go through, including our eventual deaths.

It's obvious, yet it's difficult, because experience is so dominated by feet and cars and earthquakes and hurricanes and wildfires and wars and all the visible, touchable, feel-able dangers and pains of life. They seem so real. They are so real. But they're far from the only reality.

Atheists like to mock faith as believing what we know isn't true. That's wrong. Faith is believing what we know is true, when tangible experience tries to tell us it isn't.

No Matter What Fails, He’s There For Us

Life seems under control for some of us, some of the time, but every honest person knows it isn't. Life seems completely out of control sometimes for all of us, but every believing person knows it isn't. God, the loving Father, is always in control. Faith is remembering He's there for us no matter what may fail around us.

My second and third surgeries came in quick succession, some time ago. I hadn’t been able to stand to worship in church in months. The day that opportunity finally came was also the first time I heard “Where Feet May Fail.” What an unforgettable moment!

They call it “Oceans” officially. They can call it that if they want. 

This Shane and Shane version expresses my own mood of hope better than the original; for it is a song of hope for a life of hope, no matter what’s out of control, no matter what fails.

 

Originally published at Thinking Christian. Used by permission.

Military Photo of the Day: Eagles Waiting to be Fed

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 08:00

Six U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles approach a KC-135 Stratotanker on October 27, 2017.

Have a great week, everyone!

 

 

 

 

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26 Worshipers Killed in Sutherland Springs Church Massacre

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 04:01

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) -- A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.

Authorities didn’t identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials -- one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement -- identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.

The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and didn’t appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before Sunday’s attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.

An Air Force spokeswoman said Sunday night that Devin P. Kelley received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force for allegedly assaulting his spouse and child, and was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement after a 2012 court-martial. Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

At the news conference, the attacker was described only as a white man in his 20s who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the First Baptist Church around 11:20 a.m.

The gunman crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, said Freeman Martin, a regional director of the Texas Department of Safety, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, where an 11 a.m. service was scheduled. As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who “grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect,” Martin said. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line.

Several weapons were found inside the vehicle and Martin said it was unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren’t ready to discuss a possible motive. Martin said 23 of the dead were found in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.

Addressing the news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott called the attack the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

“There are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed in Sutherland Springs today,” Abbott said. “Our hearts are heavy at the anguish in this small town, but in time of tragedy, we see the very best of Texas. May God comfort those who’ve lost a loved one, and may God heal the hurt in our communities.”

Among those killed was the church pastor’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy. Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, were both out of town in two different states when the attack occurred, Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to the AP.

“We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends,” she wrote. “Neither of us has made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as i can.”

Federal law enforcement swarmed the small rural community of a few hundred residents 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI’s evidence collection team.

At least 16 wounded were taken to hospitals, hospital officials said, including eight taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center. Another eight victims were taken to Connally Memorial Medical Center, located in Floresville about 10 miles from the church, including four who were later transferred to University Hospital in San Antonio for higher-level care, said spokeswoman Megan Posey.

Hunter Green, 16, normally attends the church with his girlfriend but they skipped Sunday after a late date night. Attending a candlelight vigil hours later, he described the building as having only small exits on the side and in the back that would have made it very difficult to flee a shooter entering the front door.

“They wouldn’t have had anywhere to go,” Green said.

Alena Berlanga, a Floresville resident who was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said everyone knows everyone else in the sparsely populated county.

“This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town,” Berlanga said. “Everybody’s going to be affected and everybody knows someone who’s affected.”

Regina Rodriguez, who arrived at the church a couple of hours after the shooting, walked up to the police barricade and hugged a person she was with. She said her father, 51-year-old Richard Rodriguez, attends the church every Sunday, and she hadn’t been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.

Church member Nick Uhlig, 34, wasn’t at Sunday’s service, but he said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, was among the dead.

“We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday,” he said, shaking his head. “This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men’s Bible study, vacation Bible school. Somebody went in and started shooting.”

President Donald Trump, who was in Japan, called the shooting an “act of evil” and said he was monitoring the situation.

“We’re shocked. Shocked and dismayed,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs, a rural community known for its peanut festival, which was held last month. “It’s especially shocking when it’s such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving.”

Later Sunday, two sheriff’s vans were parked outside the gate of a cattle fence surrounding the address listed for Kelley on the rural, western outskirts of New Braunfels, north of San Antonio, preventing a group of waiting journalists from entering. Officials from the Comal County Sherriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers declined to comment or say if they had raided his home.

Ryan Albers, 16, who lives across the road said he heard intensifying gunfire coming from that direction in recent days.

“It had to be coming from somewhere pretty close,” Albers said. “It was definitely not just a shotgun or someone hunting. It was someone using automatic weapon fire.”

The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.

In a video of its Oct. 8 service, a congregant who spoke and read Scripture pointed to the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting a week earlier as evidence of the “wicked nature” of man. That shooting left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.

Until Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in Texas had been a 1991 attack in Killeen, when a mentally disturbed man crashed his pickup truck through a restaurant window at lunchtime and started shooting people, killing 23 and injuring more than 20 others.

The University of Texas was the site of one of the most infamous mass shootings in American history, when U.S. Marine sniper Charles Whitman climbed the Austin campus’ clock tower in 1966 and began firing on stunned people below, killing 13 and wounding nearly three dozen others. He had killed his wife and mother before heading to the tower, one victim died a week later and medical examiners eventually attributed a 17th death to Whitman in 2001.

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Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker in Washington, Nomaan Merchant in Houston, Will Weissert in Austin, Diana Heidgerd in Dallas, Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles and Paul J. Weber in New Braunfels, Texas, contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Only 15 Players Protest During National Anthem on Sunday

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:08

Associated Press journalists counted 15 NFL players protesting the national anthem in some form before games Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, linebacker Eli Harold and receiver Marquise Goodwin kneeled during the anthem before their game with the Arizona Cardinals.

It appeared that six active players and at least one active player for Seattle sat for the anthem prior to a game with the Washington Redskins. The majority of the Seahawks defensive line has been sitting during the anthem for most of the season. Newly acquired left tackle Duane Brown knelt.

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Only five players were spotted protesting the anthem in some form before the early games.

Philadelphia Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod raised their fists during the anthem. Defensive end Chris Long put an arm on Jenkins. Giants injured defensive end Oliver Vernon took a knee.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews stayed off the field during the anthem.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protest movement last season. He remains unsigned and has filed a complaint that team owners colluded against him because of the protests -- aimed at police brutality against African-Americans and other issues.

Most weeks, a handful of players -- almost all of them black -- have protested during the anthems. On Sept. 24, however, more than 200 players protested after President Donald Trump said owners should fire any players who didn’t stand for the anthem.

About a dozen members of the New Orleans Saints took a knee before the anthem Sunday, but stood once the public address announcer asked the crowd to rise. That’s been the Saints’ typical anthem routine since the fourth week of the season.

No members of the Houston Texans knelt. One week earlier, all but about 10 Texans took a knee to protest team owner Bob McNair’s comment that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” during a meeting of NFL owners about player protests.

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving was pictured raising his fist shortly after the anthem finished playing before the Cowboys’ game with the Kansas City Chiefs.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bishop Barron and Women Who Make the World Better

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 22:11

“Show, don't tell," Bishop Robert Barron emphasizes, trying to do his part to lead by example.

As journalist John L. Allen Jr. writes in the book they've collaborated on, To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, Barron is convinced that the moral teachings of Catholicism are true, and that people who strive to practice them will live healthier, happier, and more-fulfilled lives.

At the same time, he knows that in a postmodern, secular world, "rule-talk" often comes off as an attempt to limit people's freedom rather than to free them to become the people God intends them to be. Therefore, the right way to deploy "the good" as a missionary tool is to start by showing people what a genuinely Christian life at its best looks like -- and then, gradually, to lead people to appreciate the principles and norms that make that kind of heroic life possible.

Bishop Barron's chief contribution to leading the way might be the video series he's been producing via Word on Fire, the media apostolate he founded after the late Cardinal Francis George put him on a mission to evangelize the culture. (John Paul II asked Cardinal George what he was doing on that front, so he put one of his priests, clearly gifted in communicating, on the case.)

Inspiring Lives

That series, Catholicism, puts some of the historic beauty of the faith and its civilizational effects on display. Pivotal Players, a work in progress, highlights some of the people (St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis Assisi, Michelangelo, and G. K. Chesterton among them) whose lives can inspire us today to fearlessly insist on something better than what the world tends to settle for.

In To Light a Fire on the Earth, Barron explains:

There's a wonderful story told of a young man named Gregory, who came to the great Origen in order to learn the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. Origen said to him, "First come and share the life of our community and then you will understand our dogma. The youthful Gregory took that advice, came in time to embrace the Christian faith in its fullness, and is now known to history as St. Gregory the Wonderworker. Something of the same impulse lay behind Gerard Manley Hopkins's word to a confrere who was struggling to accept the truth of Christianity. The Jesuit poet did not instruct his colleague to read a book or consult an argument but rather said, "Give alms." The living of the Christian thing has a persuasive power.

This book was published this week, the same week that Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by Congress to sit on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. During Barrett's confirmation hearing, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein expressed concern that "the dogma lives loudly within" Barrett, referring to her Catholic faith. When given the opportunity to clarify or walk these remarks back, amid charges of anti-Catholicism and a rigid secularism that would narrow religious freedom, Feinstein doubled down and then defended herself by saying, essentially, that some of her best friends are Catholic.

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I was grateful some years ago now when Feinstein took up the cause of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, which gave poor students in Washington, D.C., a fighting chance in Catholic schools. I don't think Feinstein is truly an anti-Catholic bigot; she just breathes the same air most of us do.

Harvard's Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, once described Catholics as having succumbed to one of two choices: becoming turtles or chameleons. We either bury our heads in the sand or blend in with the culture. We don't want to stand out or be noticed. But to live the Gospel, one's life should look different than much of what we see in the world. It should look different because you have hope, for one thing, and real, true, love that come from being called by Truth and Love and Beauty Himself.

In To Light a Fire on the Earth, Bishop Barron talks about some of our contemporaries who most famously understood this and lived it in such a way that they became household names:

John Paul II was the second most powerful evangelist of the twentieth century, but unquestionable the first was a woman who never wrote a major work of theology or apologetics, who never engaged s[c]eptics in public debate, and who never produced a beautiful work of religious art. I'm speaking, of course, of St. Teresa of Kolkata. No one in the last one hundred years propagated the Christian faith more effectively than this simple nun who lived utter poverty, and who dedicated herself to the service of the most neglected people in our society.

She showed by living love on a grand scale, but really by doing simply what God asked of her.

In the end, Barron says, if he could teleport someone contemplating the Catholic faith to see anyone, or any group, in action, in order to persuade them of the appeal of Catholicism, he'd send them to India.

"I would take them to Calcutta, and show them Mother Teresa's nuns working," Barron says. "I'd bring them there and say, 'Look, I'm not going to tell you what to think or how to behave. Just look at them. Just watch them for a while.' In itself, that would probably be enough."

Living Joyfully

I'm reminded of a story that New York archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan tells of a man dying of AIDs who was being taken care of by the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's sisters). Cardinal Dolan was visiting the sisters on Good Friday in 1989, taking a crucifix to bedridden patients for them to venerate and to kiss Jesus' feet on the cross.

Here's how Cardinal Dolan tells the story:

As I went from bed to bed, I noticed one emaciated man in the corner who seemed agitated, and kept beckoning to me to come to him. As I began in turn to approach his bed, the sister halted me, warning that this man was unusually violent, hateful to all, and had actually attempted to bite the attending sisters a number of times. Of course, you realize the consequences being bitten by one with AIDS. However, the poor man kept signaling for me to come near. What was I to do? What would any priest do? Slowly, cautiously, I approached, and carefully extended the crucifix, which he grasped and kissed -- not the feet, I remember so vividly -- but the crucified Lord. He then lay back down, exhausted.

The next day, Holy Saturday, the sisters called to tell me that the same man had asked to see me. I went, and, again, in company with two of the sisters as "bodyguards," approached him. As I got nearer he whispered, "I want to be baptized!"

I moved a few inches closer, and expressing satisfaction, asked if he could explain to me why he desired to enter the Church. "I know nothing about Christianity or the Catholic Church," he said, with the little bit of strength he had left. "In fact, I have hated religion all my life. All I do know is that for three months I have been here dying. These sisters are always happy! When I curse them, they look at me with compassion in their eyes. All I know is that they have joy and I don't. When I ask them in desperation why they are so happy, all they answer is 'Jesus.' I want this Jesus. Baptize me and give me this Jesus! Give me joy!"

Never as a priest has it brought me more satisfaction to baptize, anoint, and give first Holy Communion to someone. He died at 3:15 on Easter morning.

It's sanctity that that man saw in the sisters. They radiated holy joy.

A Story to Tell

In To Light a Fire on the Earth, Allen writes: "Barron is convinced that stories of the saints represent an especially effective way to respond to the Church's most ferocious critics." Seeing them is surely even more effective.

"We have to out-narrate them," Barron says. "Pope Francis says we have to out-love them, but that out-narrate part means that we have a more compelling story to tell. That has an extraordinary evangelical power, and I've always had the intuition to lead with the saints."

He suggests one great way to change the typical conversation, which can become bogged down in caricatures of the Church as patriarchal:

I usually deal with that by talking about the great female saints. Who is truly powerful? What is real power? We tend to identify power with office, but genuine power comes from sanctity, power comes from holiness. In the nineteenth century, I've argued, the most powerful Catholics were the "Little Flower," St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Bernadette of Lourdes. The most powerful Catholic of the twentieth century was Mother Teresa, no question about it. Or, think about a Mother Angelica. Talk about power! I think that's the key to it. Real power comes from holiness, and there's absolutely nothing preventing a woman from becoming holy. Thomas Aquinas was asked, "What must I do to be a saint?" and he said, "Will it." Be a saint and you'll unleash the power of grace and holiness.

At the end of the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI issued a message to the women of the world that Pope Benedict XVI reissued verbatim in 2012. It said in part:

Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible. . . . Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.

And:

Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible, make it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life. Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.

That's what the dying man saw in the Little Sisters of Charity. That's what the world needs. That's who Christians have to be. In the face of abhorrent, perverse violence -- like that violence done in the name of religion in New York City this past week -- Christians must show that same real love, that real religion -- it's a great gift to humanity. Light a holy fire on the earth, and people just might see some transformative faith, hope, and love and want it for themselves and everyone they love. They may even want to be saints, too.

 

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal's Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Millennials Are Clueless About Communism. Here’s Why That’s a Problem.

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 21:32

The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union ended the Cold War, but it didn't end the ongoing battle of ideas between liberty and collectivism.

Poll Results

A recently released survey by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation revealed some disturbing facts about what millennials think of communism and socialism.

Some of the results are a little disturbing and could have big implications for the future of our country.

For instance, the poll found that about half of millennials said they would rather live under socialism or communism than capitalism.

The poll also found that nearly 1 in 5 millennials think Josef Stalin was a "hero."

"Millennials now make up the largest generation in America, and we're seeing some deeply worrisome trends," said Marion Smith, executive director for the Victims of Communism, according to MarketWatch. "Millennials are increasingly turning away from capitalism and toward socialism and even communism as a viable alternative."

Communism: A Real Threat

The findings of this study should be a wake-up call to those who think that communism is no longer a threat to the United States and the West. Young people, who had little personal experience with the half-century battle between Soviet tyranny and American freedom.

It is a sad indictment on a generation that grew up with more prosperity than any in human history would turn on the system that brought them there. Alas, socialism appears to be the opiate of prosperous utopians.

Perhaps in the decades of unchallenged international supremacy, Americans let their guards down to real threats to our way of life. We were lulled into a false sense of security about our future and have now fallen into the trap of bringing back dangerous doctrines that we have had the good fortune to escape.

Communism and the Media

Yet, apologies and even wistful nostalgia for the high tide of communist revolution are being peddled in the pages of mainstream liberal outlets like The New York Times.

The Times has shockingly featured a section called "Red Century," which is all about the 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and its aftermath.

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While the section has editorials about the evils of communism, it also features numerous pieces that actually celebrate or make excuses for it.

It has run a puff piece on Vladimir Lenin being an environmentalist, praised the sex life of women behind the Iron Curtain, and published flattering profiles of Communist Party organizers, among numerous other absurdities.

While it's certainly reasonable to have a discussion of communism's legacy, it's jarring to see so many favorable columns devoted to the primary geopolitical existential threat to the United States in the 20th century.

As John O'Sullivan noted in National Review, the whole tenor of the section treats communism like "a noble experiment conducted in less than ideal conditions."

One has to ask: Would the Times have had a similar section with glowing pieces about fascism at 100 years?

Of course not, and for good reason.

But this is part of a larger cultural normalization of a destructive creed that lay dormant but was never entirely extinguished in the last few decades.

And now its back in vogue.

It's no wonder that so many millennials have a fanciful view of the ideology that took more lives than any other creed in human history, that destroyed civilizations, and nearly plunged the world into darkness.

School Choice

This is a dire warning that we need to do a better job of educating young Americans about history and the blessings of liberty that have imperfectly, but ultimately, flourished in this country. Perhaps we need to see school choice and the revitalization of our education system as a higher priority.

As historian Sean McMeekin wrote in his book, The Russian Revolution, after communism's "century of well-catalogued disasters ... no one should have the excuse of ignorance."

"Today's Western socialists, dreaming of a world where private property and inequality are outlawed, where rational economic development is planned by far-seeing intellectuals, should be careful what they wish for," McMeekin wrote. "They may just get it."

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

The Latest: Texas Governor Calls Church Shooting ‘Evil Act’

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 21:30
    SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) -- The Latest on a shooting at a church in Texas (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling a reported shooting at a church in a small town outside San Antonio an “evil act.”

A sheriff says a man entered First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started shooting, leaving multiple people dead and injured.

Abbott tweeted Sunday: “Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act.” He thanked law enforcement for their response.

The Republican governor has also promised “more details” from the state’s Department of Public Safety soon.

Sutherland Springs is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that his office “stands ready to assist local law enforcement as needed.”

___

2:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump has tweeted from Japan that he is monitoring the situation in Texas following a mass shooting at a church.

Trump tweeted: “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.” He added that the FBI is on the scene.

Trump is in Japan as part of a 12-day, five-country Asian trip. ___

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) -- The Latest on a shooting at a church in Texas (all times local):2:25 p.m. A spokeswoman say the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is sending special agents from field offices in Houston and San Antonio to the site of a church shooting in South Texas.ATF spokeswoman Mary Markos did not immediately have further details.A sheriff says that a man walked into the church and started firing. Authorities say the attacker is dead.The number of fatalities or injuries hasn’t been confirmed by authorities, but a Wilson County commissioner, Albert Gamez, has told cable news outlets that he was told it was more than 20 killed and 20 wounded, though those figures aren’t confirmed.

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One hospital about 10 miles from the shooting says there “multiple” victims with gunshot wounds are being treated.

Connally Memorial Medical Center spokeswoman Megan Posey declined to say how many patients were being treated at the hospital, but said the number was less than a dozen. The hospital is in Floresville, Texas.

2:15 p.m.

A County Commissioner in Texas says he’s been told that more than 20 people were killed and more than 20 were wounded in an attack at a church, though he says those figures haven’t been confirmed.

Albert Gamez, a Wilson County commissioner, made the comments to cable news outlets after the attack Sunday at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, a small community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.

A sheriff says that a man walked into the church and started firing. Authorities say the attacker is dead.

___

1:20 p.m.

A sheriff says a man walked into a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and started shooting, leaving multiple people dead.

The Wilson County News reports that Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said the shooter has been taken down. It wasn’t immediately known how many people were killed and wounded or who carried out the attack.

First responders converged on the church in the small town southeast of San Antonio and helicopters are taking victims to hospitals.

Sutherland Springs is a community of about 400 people 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.

___

1 p.m.

Local news outlets report that several people have been shot at a Baptist Church in South Texas.

Television stations KSAT and KENS report that there are multiple victims and that there is a large police presence at the church in Sutherland Springs, which is 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio.

KSAT reports that two Airlife helicopters are also at the scene.

A sheriff’s department dispatcher says everyone is at the scene and unavailable to comment.

KSAT has video of several fire and police vehicles at the church and a photo of a helicopter that the station says was arriving to take victims to hospitals.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Netflix and Kevin Spacey

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 18:00

I hope Kevin Spacey gets the help he needs, and I appreciate Netflix severing ties with him for now. But why didn't Netflix act earlier?

According to Fox News, after the initial accusations against Spacey were raised, crew members from his hit show House of Cards began speaking out.

"Allegations against the actor continued to mount as eight crew members reportedly came forward with assertions about sexual harassment and groping on the set of the streaming drama."

Eight crew members? If this is true, then these were hardly isolated incidents. Indeed, "CNN reported Thursday that eight people close to the production … have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct from Spacey that allegedly made working on the set a nightmare."

Why wasn't action taken earlier?

"All eight accusers have chosen to remain anonymous, but claim that the behavior was very well known on set and that it created a difficult work environment." Notice these descriptions: Stacey's abusive behavior was allegedly "very well known on set" to the point that "working on the set [was] a nightmare."

Shades of Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood: His abuse of many women was an open secret, but Hollywood chose to look the other way.

In Spacey’s case, both Netflix and MRC, the production company for House of Cards, "claimed they had received no reports of any widespread misconduct."

[donations_prompt]

If this is to be believed, it would mean that others within the production squelched the reports. Otherwise, if so many crew members were harassed, if the harassment was so widely known, and if working on the set was a nightmare, why did neither MRC or Netflix ever hear about it?

According to Netflix, "When the allegations broke about Kevin Spacey on Sunday night, in conjunction with MRC, we sent a representative to set on Monday morning.

“Netflix was just made aware of one incident, five years ago, that we were informed was resolved swiftly. … Netflix is not aware of any other incidents involving Kevin Spacey on-set."

Two Possibilities, Neither Pleasant

We are left with two possibilities. One: Netflix and/or MRC are lying, seeking to cover their tracks. Two: Those within the production itself have been looking the other way for years. (Again, if the allegations are true). Either way, it points to a very serious, ongoing problem in Hollywood. There’s indignation and action once the public finds out. Until then, it's just part of the industry.

And what are we to make of a scene in a 2005 episode of Family Guy? "The scene features baby Stewie running naked through a shopping mall screaming, 'Help! I've escaped from Kevin Spacey's basement!'" Were Spacey's alleged abusive actions an open secret back then?

And what of Spacey’s 1999 Oscar speech for Best Actor in American Beauty? In that film he seduces and kisses a teenage girl. As he said in his acceptance speech, "To my friends, for pointing out my worst qualities. I know you do it because you love me, and that’s why I love playing Lester, because we got to see all of his worst qualities and we still grew to love him.

"This movie to me is about how any single act by any single person put out of context, is damnable. But the joy of this movie is that it is real beauty, and we found real beauty in this extraordinary script by Alan Ball."

What did his friends know? And how much is being covered up in Hollywood right now with the hope that it won't get exposed? Really, there's not much virtue in confessing to a bank robbery when you're caught with the money in your hands.

Again, I hope Spacey discovers a new way of living and I'm glad Netflix severed ties with him for now. God can bring redemption. My question remains: Is this too little, too late?

Mark Taibbi

Consider Mark Taibbi, a leading contributor to Rolling Stone. In 2000, Taibbi, along with co-author Mark Ames, published a memoir titled The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia. As John Nolte reports, "To this day, using Amazon, you can open the first few pages of The Exile and find yourself reassured that 'This is a work of non-fiction. While all of the characters and events depicted in this book are real, certain names and identifying details have been changed.'" (Nolte's emphasis.)

In the book, Taibbi and Ames chronicle their abusive treatment of Russian women in graphic, despicable detail, including Ames's tryst with a 15-year-old girl. (Nolte's article contains direct quotes from the book that are NSFW.)

Today, both authors now claim that the accounts were all made-up. It's just "satire," they say -- despite stating explicitly at the outset of the book that it is non-fiction and that "all of the characters and events depicted in this book are real."

Why wasn't there any outrage when the book came out? And who writes such abusive stories about themselves?

One Amazon reviewer gushed, "Given Taibbi's brilliance as one of today's most insightful and entertaining writers about banksters and criminal financiers, I have suspected that there was more to [Taibbi's] early years than sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and this book contains the key."

A 2013 Amazon reviewer states, "matt taibbi is a god among writers and this book shows his burst from the eggshell." A reviewer from 2002, "As the subtitle might indicate, this is not a book for the faint of heart, nor is it a straight-up history, though the portrait it paints of post-Soviet Russia from the early ’90s to 1998 is pretty vivid in all its pornographic, bloody, vomitous, sexist glory, making it a pretty d—-d good history anyway." The reviewer gave the book five stars.

So, the book was all the rage a few years back and Taibbi was a rock star. Now, however, that some in the media have turned against Taibbi, the tone of Amazon reviewers has changed. One one-star review states, "Misogyny at its finest! Up until the Weinstein scandal broke -- the book was a work of non-fiction. However, today its authors say it’s a work of fiction."

A Wholesale Reformation

This is a microcosm of the larger Hollywood scene. The trade secrets were not outrageous until they became known to the public, at which point they became outrageous.

If Hollywood is really serious about making amends for its misdeeds, it's going to have to go far beyond offering up a few sacrificial lambs. Instead, it will require wholesale reformation.

Does Hollywood have the stomach, not to mention, the morals, to do it? And if so, how much will be left standing after Hollywood cleans house?

We will see soon enough.

The Elusive 15 Minutes of Fame

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 16:00

Andy Warhol's prediction that everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes captures a powerful drive in us all. When I was a kid and we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, we said things like, "I wanna be a fireman, policeman, pilot, cowboy, astronaut, president, etc." In recent years, a very common response to that same question is, "I want to be famous." It doesn't seem to matter what it takes to gain the fame, as long at the individual is the center of attention at least once.

We Are Not Ordinary

We are made for glory. We are significant. There are no ordinary people. Each of us has the image of God stamped on us. The problem is that when our ancestors, Adam and Eve chose to reach for the glory that belongs only to God, their own glory was marred. Ever since, humans have been seeking to recover it. We want to matter. We long for purpose and meaning. We find ourselves boasting of our accomplishments, spinning stories that present us as the hero. We will even stoop to killing the reputation of others in an effort to elevate our own status. We may work long years in obscurity, but underneath we hope for the day when, finally, we are appreciated and honored.

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When I was a young pastor in a decaying neighborhood in the city, the funeral homes discovered that I would handle funerals for those who had no church affiliation, and at no charge. I did lots of funerals. Some of the people were homeless, and almost all had lived their whole lives in relative obscurity, known only by a few others who mostly lived in obscurity as well. Sometimes there would be less than five people at the funeral. As I stood behind the casket, I always wondered about their stories. Who admired them? Who loved them? What had they done during their days on earth? What difference had they made? Who would miss them? It can lead one to think that our lot is to live in obscurity -- unless of course God's word is true about those who trust him.

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4 ESV)

United With Christ

Since our life is united with Christ's life, we have the assurance that when he appears we shall appear with him. He has come as one of us to do for us what we could never achieve. He has rescued us from guilt, shame and condemnation. We have been enlisted to be partners with God in spreading the news of his kingdom, which offers hope for everyone. We have glory and honor now as his own sons, but we look forward to the day when our 15 minutes of fame will last for eternity.

Our boasting now is in his achievements. He is the one who did what no other man could do. He lived the perfect life, died a sacrificial death that paid for our sins, defeated death in his resurrection, and now sits in the place of authority over all God's creation. What accomplishments do we have that could compare? Our fame is not in what we have done, but in what he has done for us, thus establishing a value on us that is inestimable. The fact that we are unconditionally loved by the most significant being in existence gives us a glory that mocks any fame we might achieve by what we do.

Because our life is united to his, we are enabled to live as people of the future while we are still in the present. He has already judged sin. He has already fulfilled the covenant. He has already stood in our place before eternal justice. He has already been enthroned. He has already sent his Spirit to empower us for our work on earth. We are glorious because we are united with the glorious one. No need to boast. No call to spin the stories. No pushing and shoving to get on stage. We are in Christ and he is eternally and outlandishly famous.

Ex-DNC Boss Donna Brazile Considered Pushing Hillary Out for Biden After 9/11 Collapse

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 14:02

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The former head of the Democratic National Committee says she considered initiating efforts to replace Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee with then-Vice President Joe Biden. Donna Brazile makes the revelation in a memoir being released Tuesday that has renewed deep divisions within the Democratic Party.

The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.

Brazile writes that she considered initiating Clinton’s removal after she collapsed while leaving a 9/11 memorial service in New York City. Clinton later acknowledged she was suffering from pneumonia.

But Brazile says the larger issue was that her campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

Brazile writes that after considering a dozen combinations to replace Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine from Virginia, she settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey as those with the best chance of defeating Trump.

Ultimately, the former DNC head says: “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

It was unclear whether Biden was willing to step into the race or even whether he discussed the idea with Brazile. A spokesman for the former vice president didn’t respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Brazile writes that on Sept. 12, 2016, the day after Clinton collapsed, Biden’s chief of staff called saying the vice president wanted to speak with her and that her thought at the time was “Gee, I wonder what he wanted to talk to me about?” The Post report gave no further details and it was unclear whether the book elaborates on this.

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As for Brazile’s powers to determine the party’s candidate, she writes that as party chair she would oversee the process of replacing a nominee who became disabled.

In an excerpt published earlier by Politico, Brazile says she believed a joint fundraising agreement signed between Clinton and the DNC “looked unethical” and that she felt Clinton had too much influence on the party during a competitive Democratic primary with rival Bernie Sanders.

During the nomination process for the 2016 election Democrats argued among themselves over whether Clinton was being given an unfair advantage over Sanders, a Vermont independent who sought the party’s nomination with the backing of its more liberal members.

On Saturday, Perez issued a statement saying he and the DNC leadership were committed to ensuring that the nomination process in 2020 will be “unquestionably fair and transparent.”

Among the reforms he said he developed after listening to Democrats across the party spectrum was ensuring that “no candidate participating in our presidential nominating process gains any unfair advantage -- real or perceived -- during our primary season.” He also said the debate schedule would be decided in advance rather than negotiated after all candidates had entered the race.

Perez also pledged to ensure that all joint fundraising agreements would be transparent, including the new Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund agreements developed with the 50 state parties.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Secular Strategy, Christian Strategy, and How To Focus on Our Strengths To Win

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 14:00

 "Our religion doesn't believe in hitting children." -- The Satanic Temple

Boom! Just like that, with seven words and a signature, Satanism steps up and stands on the moral high ground. The town of Three Rivers, Texas had just voted to allow corporal punishment in its schools. Satanism answers with an short message packing a powerful punch: Our religion is kind to kids. (Other religions probably beat their children.)

You could almost admire their strategic savvy. You certainly have to respect it, the way you respect heavy weather on the high seas, or a fire slipping out of control in the woods. It works. It's powerful. And it's destructive.

It works even if it isn't true. It doesn't have to be true; the message gets through regardless.

And this is just one example of the opposition strategy Christians have to deal with every day. It isn't just this sign. It's all the accusations of "hatred" and "homophobia." It's the charge that we're "intolerant." And on and on. See how easy it is for them? See how they can score points with just a word? How can we counter a strategy like that?

How Do We Answer?

First Baptist Church of Three Rivers put up a sign reading, "Satan doesn't own all the signs in TR -- Don't let him own you." That's thirteen words, and it doesn't hit nearly as hard as Satanism's seven. Where it does have some effect, it's in leading people to think about it.

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And there, I believe, is the key to Christian strategy in response to secular sloganeering. We have to focus on  thinking. If we do that effectively enough, we can turn the battle our direction.

Sloganeering Relies on the Gut

Thinking is the last thing the Satanists want you to do when you see their sign. All they want is to plant an unconscious impression. They're aiming for the gut, really, not the head. Powerful slogans, like effective images, hardly ever aim for the head. They get their power from the associations they bring forth.

It works even if it isn't true. It doesn't have to be true; the message gets through regardless.

You see the “swoosh” logo, and Nike comes to mind. You don't have to think about it; it just happens. Nike has placed that image next to its name so many times, in so many places, you can't see it without making the connection. Effective slogans work the same way: They call forth thoughts and images already planted in easily accessible locations in virtually everyone's mind.

Secular slogans can do this with the greatest of ease. Hollywood, the universities, other media, in fact virtually all our most influential voices speak a continual message that runs counter to Christian belief. We all hear it constantly, so it sits right at the top of everyone's minds. Even if you don't agree with it, it's there. You can access it without even trying -- and so can the slogan writers. They can get to it with just a word or two.

Then from that mindless place in your memory, their message jumps straight to the gut. There's no mental processing required; in fact, the more you think about what they're saying, the worse it is for them. Satanists sure don't want you asking, "Okay, then, what actually is Satanism? I want to look into that." They want a gut reaction, not a head response.

The Christian Message Is For the Mind

We have to work toward the mind. Then from there we can access the heart.

The Christian message, in contrast, requires real explanation. Very few people have it sitting in easy mental reach; few even know what it really is. That means we can't possibly get to it in people’s minds through using mere slogans. Our answers have to be slow, patient and thoughtful. We have to work toward the mind. Then from there we can access the heart.

What we've got going for us, you see, is truth: truth that can stand inspection. Truth that's true when you look at it from one angle, and another, and another, and another, ... .

Sloganeering isn't like that. Consider the Satanic Temple's billboard. They're implying lots of questionable things there: that "hitting children" is a religious belief; that corporal punishment belongs to the age of cavemen; that most religions are just awful, whereas Satanism is all sweetness and light. All of that's wide open to question, once you've decided you won't just settle for your gut reaction.

That kind of questioning takes time and thought. Real questioning won't rest until it gets to the truth -- and the truth is what Christianity is good at, or at least should be. For our truth -- God's truth -- is strong and robust. It can stand up to all the questions you can throw at it. Their slogans can't.

Christian Strategy: Building On Our Strengths, Not Theirs

So yes, secular slogans can score points at the level of the gut. The Christian message won’t often win the gut using slogans that way, but that’s okay; it's strong enough to win at the level of the heart, via the mind. That means Christian strategy needs to look toward our own strengths. Our main strength in the world, besides the power of God and the visible demonstration of his love, is the truth we bring. We've got to capitalize on that strength.

We desperately need a renewed Christian emphasis on the life of the mind.

Which is going to require change in the way we do things. We desperately need a renewed Christian emphasis on the life of the mind. We need it for strategic purposes, to grow into operating from our own strengths, rather than the other side's. And we need it because Jesus commanded us to "love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:37, emphasis added)

It may slow; it may be difficult. That doesn’t matter: It's essential anyway. We must develop among us the intellectual apparatus to turn the strategic battle into a contest for the head, not the heart. Then we can bring a different kind of battle to the field. We’ll be competing on our own turf.

Not Just Schooling; Sunday Morning, Too

The Church has an incredibly strong tradition of education throughout its history. That tradition lives today in the classical Christian education movement, in rigorous home schooling and in some of our colleges.

Generally speaking, though, it's weaker than it should be where it counts the most: Sunday mornings, where most of us are present, and where the morning message defines what it means to live as a Christian. Churches need to start acting as if the life of the mind belongs to everyone. This needs to be sermon material.

Over Time We Can Win

I’m talking about a serious culture change in Christianity, which I know is going to be tough. We've all grown up in the same unthinking culture, so turning ourselves into a thinking people isn't an easy, overnight project. Our game is a long game. It has to be.

Our opponents are really, really good at the fast game. Let's play it our way instead. Over time, with God's truth as our standard, and with robust thinking as our strategy, a true Christian strategy could win.

Billionaire Prince Among Those Arrested in Saudi Sweep

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 13:49

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of princes, senior military officers, businessmen and top officials, including a well-known royal billionaire with extensive holdings in Western companies, as part of a sweeping anti-corruption probe that further cements control in the hands of its young crown prince.

A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. told The Associated Press that the royal-- who is one of the world’s richest men-- was among those detained overnight Saturday. The company’s stock was down nearly 9 percent in trading Sunday on the Saudi stock exchange.

The surprise arrests, which also reportedly include two of the late King Abdullah’s sons, were hailed by pro-government media outlets as the greatest sign yet that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is keeping his promise to reform the country, long been plagued by allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government.

Analysts have suggested the arrest of once-untouchable members of the royal family is the latest sign that the 32-year-old crown prince is moving to quash potential rivals or critics. The prince’s swift rise to power has unnerved more experienced, elder members of the ruling Al Saud family, which has long ruled by consensus, though ultimate decision-making remains with the monarch.

King Salman named his son, the crown prince, as head of an anti-corruption committee established late Saturday, just hours before its arrest of top officials.

A Saudi government official with close ties to security says 11 princes and 38 others are being held in five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The scale of the arrests is unprecedented in Saudi Arabia, where senior royals and their business associates were seen as operating above the law. Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant corruption in government and of public funds being squandered or misused by people in power.

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Shortly before the arrests, King Salman had ousted Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the National Guard. The prince is reportedly among those detained in the sweep, as is his brother, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who was once governor of Riyadh. Both are sons of the late King Abdullah, who ruled before his half brother King Salman.

Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne.

Saudi Twitter accounts released several other names of those arrested, such as: Alwalid al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman with ties to the royal family who runs the Arabic satellite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority; Ibrahim Assaf, the former finance minister; and Bakr Binladin, head of the Saudi Binladin Group, a major business conglomerate.

An earlier crackdown on perceived critics of the crown prince included clerics, writers, lesser-known princes and Saudi figures popular on social media.

“The dismissals and detentions suggest that Prince Mohammed rather than forging alliances is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the national guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war,” James M. Dorsey, a Gulf specialist and senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said an analysis of the shake-up.

Saudi Arabia said late Saturday it intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen at Riyadh International Airport, on the outskirts of the capital. The crown prince, as defense minister, oversees the stalemated war against Yemen’s Iranian-allied rebels.

The Finance Ministry said the anti-corruption probe “opens a new era of transparency and accountability,” enhances confidence in the rule of law and improves the kingdom’s investment climate.

Reports suggested those detained were being held in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted a major investment conference.

Marriott International said in a statement that it is currently evaluating the situation at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. “As a matter of guest privacy, we do not discuss the guests or groups with whom we do business or may be visitors of the hotel,” the statement added.

It is not clear what Prince Alwaleed or others are being investigated for.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said the anti-corruption probe was looking into the response to flooding in Jiddah that killed around 120 people in 2009 and devastated the city again in 2011, as well as the government’s handling of a Coronavirus outbreak that has killed several hundred people in recent years.

Prince Alwaleed’s many investments include Twitter, Apple, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Citigroup, and the Four Seasons, Fairmont and Movenpick hotel chains. He is also an investor in ride-sharing services Lyft and Careem.

The prince, often pictured on his 85.65-meter (281 foot) superyacht in the Mediterranean, is among the most outspoken Saudi royals and a longtime advocate for women’s rights. He is also majority owner of the popular Rotana Group of Arabic channels.

The AP reached out overnight to Kingdom Holding for comment. There was no response as of Sunday afternoon. The senior employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of repercussions, said security bodies informed him of the arrest.

The kingdom’s top council of clerics issued a statement saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption-- essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported. A top royal court official, Badr al-Asaker, on Sunday appeared to confirm the arrests on Twitter, describing a “historic and black night against the corrupt.”

The government said the anti-corruption committee has the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions and freeze bank accounts. It can also trace funds, prevent the transfer of funds or the liquidation of assets, and take other precautionary measures until cases are referred to the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Prince Miteb was replaced by a lesser known royal, Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, to head the National Guard-- a prestigious force tasked with protecting the royal family, important holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and oil and gas sites.

Just three months earlier, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was plucked from the line of succession and from his post as interior minister, overseeing internal security. This laid the groundwork for the king’s son to claim the mantle of crown prince.

___

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell and Fay Abuelgasim in Dubai and Jonathan Lemire aboard Air Force One contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Diversity Visa is Bad, but the Real Problem is Homegrown Terrorism

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 12:03

In the several days after Tuesday's terror attack in New York City, much political debate has centered on the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which the terrorist used to enter the U.S. seven years ago.

The diversity visa doesn't make much sense and should be done away with, but it is not by any means a gaping hole in our vetting system.

If we want to actually make the homeland safer after this attack, we should be talking about the real problem: how to do a better job detecting and stopping homegrown terrorists.

Let's unpack this. The diversity visa is a lottery that gives out green cards, or legal permanent residence in the U.S., to 50,000 immigrants every year. The requirements for the program are twofold:

Having a high school diploma or two years of work in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform. Being from a country that has not sent more than 50,000 immigrants in the past five years, with more visas given to those countries and regions that send very few immigrants.

That's it. Are you a Ph.D. from India that wants to move to the U.S.? You can wait in line for a different visa. Are you a young professional from Canada who loves the U.S.? Sorry, maybe you can come here on a temporary basis.

But if you have a basic education from Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Namibia or Benin -- welcome to the lottery. Good luck with the spin of the roulette wheel.

The brain child of former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the diversity visa's only purpose is diversity. It's not about economics, it's not about bringing the best and the brightest, it's not about meeting employer needs, and it's not even about family reunification.

It doesn't take a genius to see that this program should be scrapped and replaced with a system that favors employment or skills -- things that are actually in America's national interests.

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But while the diversity program is foolish from an immigration perspective, it is not inherently more of a security risk than any other visa program. Individuals using the diversity visa are subject to the same vetting standards as immigrants on any other visa.

According to my survey of terror attacks and plots in the U.S., this week's is the only one committed by someone who entered through diversity visa. And contrary to popular belief, most terrorism in the U.S. has not been the result of terrorists sneaking through the vetting system.

The terror attack in New York brings the total number of Islamist terror attacks and plots against the U.S. homeland to 100 since 9/11. Of those 100, 87 were carried out entirely or substantially by homegrown terrorists -- that is, terrorists who were radicalized here in the U.S.

This is the case for the recent New York terrorist -- he radicalized after he immigrated here.

No amount of vetting will tell us if an incoming immigrant will become a terrorist. And since we don't live in the world of Minority Report, we also can't predict when a fifth-generation American is going to radicalize and become a terrorist.

So yes, stop the diversity visa and replace it with something better. And yes, let's improve our vetting. But in the case of the New York bike path terror attack, and the case of 86 other terror plots and attacks, the real area of action should be on tools and resources that will stop homegrown terrorists.

Let's focus our security debate on something that will actually make a difference, like the importance of the 702 intelligence program, improving our homeland security enterprise (including state and local law enforcement), and the need to do a better job assimilating immigrants and refugees.

Doing so will make the U.S. more safe and prosperous.

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

Latest on Trump in Asia: President Stresses Close Ties with Japan’s Abe

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 11:42

TOKYO (AP) -- The Latest on President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is stressing his close ties with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the two have dinner together.

The two leaders are dining with their wives in Tokyo, as part of Trump’s first stop on a 12-day trip through Asia.

Trump says that he and Abe “like each other and our countries like each other.” He adds that “I don’t think we’ve ever been closer to Japan than we are right now.”

The president adds that they are discussing a number of subjects “including North Korea and trade and other things

___

4:45 p.m.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and U.S. President Donald Trump had a lively conversation over golf.

Abe spoke to reporters after he and Trump had lunch and played golf Sunday. He said that the two leaders were able to talk frankly in a relaxed atmosphere while out on the course.

Abe said he and Trump were able to “carry out in depth discussion, at times touching on various difficult issues.”

Their formal talks Monday are expected to focus on North Korea and other regional and bilateral issues.

___

4:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia began with a round of golf, a custom cap and a hamburger of American beef.

The president got a taste of home as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed him to Japan Sunday with a display of friendship that will soon give way to high-stakes diplomacy. The two men have struck up an easy rapport.

The leaders played nine holes of golf at Japan’s premiere course.

The low- key start was a prelude to the formal talks planned in Tokyo Monday. Abe will be looking for a united front against North Korea and reassurances that the U.S. will stand by its treaty obligations to defend Japan if attacked.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Military Photo of the Day: Operation Attleboro

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 08:00

Dau Tieng, Vietnam November 6, 1966 – During a four hour period today a U.S. Air Force C-123 Provider was landing every seven minutes airlifting in supplies and troops during Operation Attleboro. (September 14 - November 25, 1966)

 

 

 

 

 

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New GOP Tax Plan Recognizes Personhood of Preborn Babies

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 17:00

The new GOP tax plan released yesterday allows parents to contribute to their preborn baby’s 529 college savings account, calling the baby a “child in utero.” The language, which recognizes the personhood of preborn babies, has infuriated pro-choice activists.

The bill, titled H.R.1, goes further to define a child in utero as “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

Abortion Activists React

The language has angered NARAL and Planned Parenthood. NARAL posted on twitter that, “The GOP’s relentless obsession with advancing its dangerous anti-choice ideology knows no boundaries and no common sense. #TaxReform.” NARAL’s Kaylie Hanson Long continued, “Inserting ‘personhood’ language into their tax bill is just the latest example of how they’re trying to turn back the clock on this country.”

The GOP's relentless obsession with advancing its dangerous anti-choice ideology knows no boundaries and no common sense. #TaxReform pic.twitter.com/gU6XyRdBC7

— NARAL (@NARAL) November 2, 2017

NARAL added “Leave it to the GOP to figure out how to stick language that would help them pass an abortion ban into a tax bill.”

Leave it to the GOP to figure out how to stick language that would help them pass an abortion ban into a tax bill. pic.twitter.com/4NPzrxLX4b

— NARAL (@NARAL) November 2, 2017

Planned Parenthood’s Dana Singiser, VP of Public Policy and Government Affairs also took offense at the new language. “It is absurd that House Republican leaders would use a tax bill to try to advance their relentless agenda to undermine access to safe, legal abortion,” said Singiser. “Denying women access to safe, legal abortion is wildly out of touch with the majority of Americans. Politicians in Washington, D.C. have no place inserting themselves in decisions about women’s health and lives, not on this bill and not on any bill.”

This is a clear attempt to use the Tax bill to make it harder to access abortion. pic.twitter.com/SVjUU33jrT

— Erica Sackin (@ericajanes) November 2, 2017

A ‘Huge Leap Forward’

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini called the language a “huge leap forward,” reported Townhall. “House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) deserves praise for including language in this tax bill that recognizes the personhood of unborn children by allowing expectant parents to contribute to their child's 529 education savings account in the year prior to birth," she said. Mancini further added,

A child in the womb is just as human as you or I yet, until now, the U.S. tax code has failed to acknowledge the unborn child -- all while granting tax breaks for those seeking an abortion under the pretense of “healthcare.” The proposed tax plan is a huge leap forward for an antiquated tax code, and we hope this is the first step in expanding the child tax credit to include unborn children as well.

Susan B. Anthony List’s Communication Director Mallory Quigley  “a small increment in the momentum that we’re building to ensure that one day every child is welcomed and protected under the law. …We hope that it stays in the House bill and that it stays in anything the Senate puts out.”

HHS: ‘Life Begins at Conception’

The tax code’s new language comes on the heels of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stating that “life begins at conception.” An article previously published on The Stream explains the HHS’ change. “The introduction explains that the “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives ... serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.” The claim that life begins at conception occurs five times in the “Strategic Plan FY 2018-2022.”

Senator Ted Cruz tweeted his approval.

Each life is a gift from God. Encouraged to see @HHS recognize that life begins at conception. https://t.co/Gx0iweVvNe

— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) October 11, 2017

Theses in Support of Biblical Marriage and Morality Pinned to 5 British Cathedral Doors This Week

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 16:51

“500 years ago Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany. He did it because the church had become corrupt. Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”

So begins a document nailed to five British cathedral doors by anonymous evangelicals this week. PJMedia reports that the declaration went up on the cathedral doors on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The declaration goes on to say,

The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice on the ground has already changed: clergy are already adopting lifestyles which are not biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God.

This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across the whole of the Church of England. It is weakening and destroying the church as it has done in the United States of America and in Canada. When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance, it can no longer off the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus; the church no longer remains distinctively Christian; it is no longer salt and light in the world -- see Matthew 5:13.

The Southwark Declaration has been signed by a good proportion of clergy and Parochial Church Councils of Southwark Dioceses to affirm and defend traditional teachings about the Bible and marriage and the kind of relationships God wants for his people.

The Bishops of the Church of England now have a very narrow window -- from now until General Synod next February -- to regain the confidence of Bible believing Anglicans in this country and around the world and to avoid a rupture in the church.

It is often said, “Leadership abhors a vacuum.” Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church, and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.

Soli Deo Gloria

First published on Reformation Day, 31st October 2017

Declarations posted at the choir entry to Canterbury Cathedral, week of 31 October 2017. Open Use. Provided by a Church of England priest. Via PJMedia

Also pinned to each of the five cathedral doors, alongside this statement, was a copy of the Southwark Declaration in support of biblical and historic views of marriage and morality. The Southwark Declaration has been signed by at least 60 priests.

Christian Today dismissed the act as a “stunt.”

Kent Vicar, the Rev. Stephen Rae, is the one identified participant in the campaign. He issued a press release expressing the “great sadness” with which he participated in the posting at Canterbury Cathedral. “God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance, ” he wrote.  “If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling.”

Other cathedrals chosen for the timely and symbolic nailing of the declaration were St. Paul’s, Hereford, Canterbury and Rochester.

The campaign is being chronicled through the Twitter account @TurbulentParson.

Trump’s Economic Adviser Explains How You Benefit From Tax Reform

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 16:00

Kevin Hassett, chairman of President Donald Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, visited The Heritage Foundation moments after House Republicans released their tax reform plan Thursday. The Daily Signal's Rob Bluey spoke to Hassett about his role in the White House and initial reaction to the GOP proposal. This is an edited transcript of the interview.

Bluey: Can you tell us what the Council of Economic Advisers is and the advice that you provide to President Trump?

Hassett: If you look at the Council of Economic Advisers' founding in 1946 and the Employment Act, it was basically established because Congress decided that the Great Depression was perhaps prolonged by the lack of sound economic analysis in the White House. In order to entrench the role of free-market minded economists in the White House, they constructed the Council of Economic Advisers.

Our job is to be in the White House and to advise the president with objective analysis based on the latest scientific evidence. We are a staff of about 35 economists and assistants. We answer questions like, "What happens when we do this or when we do that?" We base those answers on the latest learning and latest science.

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Bluey: Let's talk about the House Republican tax plan. Some of the highlights coming out this morning. You previously have done some work on the tax reform framework. What are your initial thoughts?

Hassett: There is a heck of a lot to like in the House plan that President Trump made clear that he has three main non-negotiable objectives for this tax bill. There needs to be a big tax cut for the middle class. There needs to be a corporate tax rate that goes down to 20 percent and makes our country competitive again. And it needs to be a lot simpler, so that we don't have a situation where almost every American doesn't have to hire someone to do their taxes for them. We want simplification.

There needs to be a big tax cut for the middle class.

The House bill very well accomplishes some of those objectives. The president is also very respectful of American history and of the political process that our Founding Fathers designed. This bill is going through regular order, which means you don't have to vote for it before you see it or anything like that. The committees are putting together bills that they have negotiated amongst themselves. They have to put it through the floor. Everybody has time to see it before they vote on it on the floor. The Senate is going to do the same and then they will work out their differences.

The president thinks that restoring regular order, the kind that is supposed to exist in our democracy, is a crucial part of getting this thing done. Because then everyone on the Hill will have a chance to influence this thing or that thing and all get on board and comfortable with that decision.

Bluey: That's right and while we're seeing some of the details today, you've been engaged in conversations with the Big Six, as they're known, and other members of Congress. One of the things that the Council of Economic Advisers has done is produce reports that have highlighted the significant benefits to the American worker. You've looked at the corporate tax rate cut, for instance. Can you tell us what that would actually mean for the American worker?

Hassett: We've put out two studies using four different methods to estimate the impact on the typical American household using the proposal of the 20 percent corporate rate cut. We have not yet analysed the individual side, the big middle-class tax cut, which will also be a big positive in the end I'm sure when we look at it.

On the corporate side, we estimate that the typical family will see a $4,000 pay raise because of the tax bill. The pay raise is not weird mystical magic at all. It's just hard science.

[W]e estimate that the typical family will see a $4,000 pay raise.

Right now, we have the highest corporate tax of the developed world. Businesses tend to want to locate their plants in other countries because if you make money in Ireland, you pay 12 percent tax. If you make money in the U.S., you pay almost 40 percent when you count state and local taxes. By going down to 20 percent and changing some of the rules, this plan will make it so that businesses will want to locate their activity here. When they do that, that will increase the demand for workers here and drive up wages here.

There is this big literature that looks at how other countries have fared when they've done a similar thing. That literature has a wide range of estimates, but really on the conservative end, I think that literature suggested that families will see the $4,000 pay raise when this bill becomes law.

Bluey: At the same time you're putting out those reports, though, Senate Democrats have been pounding away saying this is going to be a tax hike on the middle class. I want to hold up a story today from The Washington Post fact-checker that is headlined "Senate Democrats falsely claim GOP tax plan will raise taxes for most working-class families." This fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, gave four Pinocchios, which is, I believe, the highest number of Pinocchios The Washington Post will hand out.

Hassett: Yeah, there are a lot of [Pinocchios] there.

Bluey: You gave a speech in October to the Tax Policy Center, the organization from which the Democrats were deriving some of their numbers. You were critical of the analysis the Tax Policy Center had done. Can you explain why they were premature in putting out their analysis?

Hassett: The fact is that the Tax Policy Center is a bunch of skilled economists who are very good at taking a set of assumptions and telling you what that set of assumptions means for how much people pay in taxes and so on -- so long as you ignore the growth effects on the economy. Ignoring growth effects, they're very good at taking assumptions and mapping them to taxes.

The problem is that we specifically set out a process where a lot of the assumptions were going to be determined by regular order. The whole point was that different people have different ideas about the trade-off between equity and efficiency. Maybe you want the 12 percent bracket to end at $40,000 and maybe I want it to end way above that, and then we argue about that in committee and then we write a bill, and then we all vote on it. That's the process we all agreed to.

President [Emmanuel] Macron of France ran on the idea that they should cut the French corporate rate to 25 percent.

What the Tax Policy Center did is fast forward to the end, made assumptions of what the output of the process would be, and those assumptions weren't really friendly to the supporters of the bill. When I called them on that, it really was just about jumping ahead. I don't think I would expect them to give a wrong answer if they had the right assumptions, but it seems kind of inappropriate to make up assumptions that were harmful to the advocates of the bill at that early stage of the process. That's what I criticized them for.

If The Washington Post, which usually isn't friendly to Republicans who are adversarial toward Democrats, is giving four Pinocchios to people to cite that study, then that's probably confirmation that I was on the right track.

Bluey: What's the biggest misconception you want to correct about tax reform?

Hassett: The idea that there are these capitalists and these workers and that they're at war with one another, and if you cut the tax on capitalists, then you're giving money away, money to big business and the swamp and it won't benefit workers and so on. That's a very outdated view of the world.

Most workers like it when their employer does well. If you work for a company and they have a positive earning announcement, then that makes you feel good. You're more likely to get a raise. Your job is more secure. I don't think that workers view themselves as at war with capitalists the way that popular discourse suggests that they do. That's because they understand the basic economics that every other country understands. If we are a friendly place for business and job creation then that's good for people who want jobs. This is not that controversial of an idea.

I don't think that workers view themselves as at war with capitalists the way that popular discourse suggests that they do.

In my speech at the Tax Policy Center, I reminded the people there that President [Emmanuel] Macron of France ran on the idea that they should cut the French corporate rate to 25 percent, 10 percentage points below ours. The French already started with a rate below ours. Syriza, which is the party that runs Greece, their party's name translates roughly to the coalition of the far left or the radical left. The coalition of the radical left wants to have a lower corporate rate than we do.

It's not because they're tools of big business or that they've been bought off by the swamp, but rather because they understand the basic economics that I think too many people in America have been in denial about.

Bluey: Tax reform is an issue that we've seen President Trump highly engaged on. He gave a speech a couple of weeks ago to The Heritage Foundation. He tweets about it frequently. What has it been like working with him? Can you give us an inside scoop about why is this so important to him personally?

Hassett: President Trump has been a very successful businessman. He knows how to add up the bottom line and see if things make sense or not. He has great intuition on tax reform and how it will impact people's lives.

When he has successful projects, he sees how those successful projects employ thousands and thousands of people. His profits have gone up, and then his workers wages have gone up. He understands these connections--that we need to be a friendly place of business in order to improve the lives of Americans.

The thing I've seen in the Oval Office with President Trump is a strikingly effective intuition about how this all works and how it all fits together.

The thing I've seen in the Oval Office with President Trump is a strikingly effective intuition about how this all works and how it all fits together. The thing also that I see, that's certainly not something that I possess, is an ear for negotiation. The idea that he thought, well, let's start with the most important things, the middle-class tax cut, the corporate rate to 20 percent, and simplification. And then make those non-negotiable from the very beginning. I've seen that those anchors that he has set have a big effect on the evolution of the bill. They are things that everyone concedes have to be part of the final bill.

Below is the full event video of Hassett's conversation with Heritage tax policy expert Adam Michel.

 

Rob Bluey is editor-in-chief of The Daily Signal, the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation. Send an email to Rob@RobertBluey

 

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