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Viktor Orban Versus A More Perfect European Union

By Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi • Frontiers of Freedom

Since his return to power as Prime Minister in 2010, Viktor Orban has posed the greatest threat to the fledgling Hungarian democracy as well as to the gradual political integration of the European Union. Having been voted out of office unceremoniously after just a single four year term in 2002, he and his party, the Alliance of Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: FIDESZ), worked hard in opposition for eight long years to undermine successive Hungarian governments by developing and refining his all consuming ideological and institutional hatred for democracy. Domestically, his message centered around the extreme politicization of the historical miseries of the Hungarian people, and the emotional weaponization of the notion of being surrounded by a sea of hostile Slavic nations. This shameless and even unconscionable exploitation of Hungary’s turbulent history and lack of proper political culture, has resulted in an intellectual vacuum in politics that has prevented the country of leaving the past behind and to embark unequivocally on a pro-Western course. To add insult to injury, his relentless anti-Brussels’ rhetoric has cemented the centuries’ old Hungarian resentment vis-a-vis the leading powers of the European continent. However, these prior aberrations from core European values have not been taken into consideration as a wide assortment of European and American politicians mindlessly courted Viktor Orban, while in opposition, as the face of the “new Europe.”

In reality, Viktor Orban has never stopped being an authoritarian wolf in sheep’s clothing. Since 2010, he has wielded absolute power in Hungary. Thus, Hungary has reverted back to the status quo ante of being a one-party state. Therefore, knowing what motivates him means understanding the root causes of Hungarian domestic and foreign policies. Because he has worked very hard to create this situation, Viktor Orban has been determined not to give up even an iota of his powers. Voluntarily or constitutionally, he will never share it with anybody inside of Hungary or outside of it with the European Union’s institutions in Brussels and elsewhere.

His so-called “illiberal democracy”, which is in itself a contradictio in terminis, is decidedly anti-democratic as well as anti-capitalist. According to his primitiv and incoherent reasoning, the new era for Hungary has started not with the liberation of Hungary in June 1991, but with the financial crisis of 2008. Defining it as “a huge Western financial collapse” that changed the world forever, he states that the pre-2008 liberal world order is over, being replaced by the “illiberal democracies” of Asia, such as China, Singapore, India, and even the geographically hybrid Russia and Turkey. In his now infamous speech, delivered on July 26, 2014, in Baile Tusnad (in Hungarian: Tusnadfurdo), Romania, he spoke about his vision for the future of Hungary. Invoking former President Barack Obama, he claimed that the former “made numerous and repeated statements regarding how American society and the American government is to declare war on cynicism originating from the financial sector.” To underscore his thesis of America’s moral decline, Viktor Orban elaborated thus: “The US president says that if a hardworking American constantly has to choose between career and family, America will lose its place in the world economy.” To wit, without naming “a well recognized analyst”, Viktor Orban directly warned the United States of America that “the strength of American “soft power” is deteriorating , because liberal values today incorporate corruption, sex and violence, and these liberal values discredit America and American modernization.” Unsatisfied with calling the United States of America ubiquitously immoral, Viktor Orban turned on Western Europe thus: “Also, the Open Society Foundation published a study not long ago analyzing Western Europe. In this, we can read a sentence that says that Western Europe was so preoccupied with solving the situation of immigrants that it forgot about the working class.” Then, to up his anti-democratic and anti-capitalist rhetoric, he continued: “One of the richest Americans, who was one of the first investors in the company Amazon, stated that we are living in a society that is less and less capitalist and more and more feudal, and if the economic system does not reform itself then the middle class will disappear, and as he puts it, “the rich will be attacked with pitchforks.”

Following this idiotic and garbled reasoning, Viktor Orban came to the self-serving conclusion that there is a race in the world “to invent a state that is most capable of making a nation successful.” His solution is a system “that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracy, maybe not even democracy, and yet making nations (still) successful.” Designating China, Russia, India, Singapore, and Turkey “the stars of the world”, he found them all worthy of emulation. Again, reverting back to his fascination with authoritarianism and dictatorship, he stated: “Just because something is not liberal, it still can be a democracy.” How this feat could be accomplished is, according to this newly minted fake political philosopher, very simple. The world must abandon liberal democracy altogether and join the forces of authoritarianism and dictatorships, in order to establish divine justice, equality, prosperity; in other words, heaven on earth. What Viktor Orban failed to utter openly is that, according to him, universal peace and prosperity could only reign on earth when the almighty state, headed by people like him, would rule exclusively over everybody and everything.

The triumphant march of authoritarianism has started immediately after the 2010 elections in Hungary. Having secured a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament called Orszaggyules (the State Assembly) with a simple majority of the popular votes, Viktor Orban and his party decided to give the country a new constitution. The April 25, 2011, constitution that entered into force in 2012, and amended until now seven times to serve the increasingly authoritarian whim of the Prime Minister, starts with the first sentence of the Hungarian national anthem and continues with a preamble full of lies and historical distortions. Giving short shift and even denying the real history of the country between March 19, 1944, the occupation of Hungary by the Wehrmacht, and the withdrawal of the Soviet Red Army from Hungary in June 1991, Viktor Orban intended to hide that political developments in Hungary have failed to establish a solid foundation for democracy.

The main body of the constitution is laced with meaningless platitudes and political slogans, intended to conceal the intentional ambiguities of the legal guarantees of individual rights, the lack of separation of powers, the mocking of the rule of law, and the lost principle of checks and balances. Subsequent legislative acts resulted in total control by FIDESZ of the judiciary through the National Office of the Judiciary, the local governments, the media, academia, and the financial institutions by the long term appointments of loyal political soldiers of his party. In reality, the new legal system created by FIDESZ have destroyed the very principles of democracy by their actual application. Thus, Viktor Orban established a legal system that does not apply to him, his family, and his crownies. Clearly, such a dual implementation of the law makes the entire legal system a hoax. This hoax, in turn, cannot guarantee peace, freedom, and order in society. Today’s Hungary is an inverted democracy. Viktor Orban’s government is an instrument of legally sanctioned coercion.

Yet, along with this inverted and distorted democracy, Viktor Orban lives in permanent fear of the Hungarian people. For the majority of Hungarians, residing within the internationally recognized borders of Hungary, reject their growing tyrannization by the FIDESZ government. In 2014 and 2018 respectively, FIDESZ was only able to capture around 44% of the votes, while still maintaining its slim two-thirds majority in Parliament. Accordingly, the new citizenship and electoral laws have extended citizenship and granted voting rights to all ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries. These ethnic Hungarians are allowed to vote by mail, while Hungarian citizens residing within Hungary, but working abroad, have to go to one of the country’s diplomatic residences to cast their ballots. In this manner, general and local elections in Hungary have been tainted with serious irregularities, and even fraudulent schemes. Therefore, the Law CCIII of 2011 as amended, on the elections of members of Parliament, has been subjected to limitless criticism domestically by all the opposition parties as well as by the European Commission For Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission). To add political insult to legal injury, FIDESZ members in the National Election Committee also enjoy absolute majority. This construct, namely government within the government, could perpetuate Viktor Orban’s authoritarianism for decades to come.

The Orban administration’s rationale is obvious. Ethnic Hungarians resent to be a minority in states that the Hungarian kingdom controlled for centuries. For this reason, they are more inclined to vote for FIDESZ that they consider to protect them internationally. Hungarians who leave the country mostly to Western Europe, Canada, and the United States of America are less likely to prefer the current government. In this regard, reports of long lines in front of Hungarian embassies and consulates and the resulting chaos underscores the ulterior motives of Viktor Orban and his administration. In addition, votes submitted by mail cannot be monitored and verified as easily as ballots cast in person. Such vote rigging and ubiquitous electoral fraud, in order to maintain FIDESZ’s narrow supermajority in Parliament, has been well documented in numerous investigating journalistic reports in Hungarian social media and the international press.

The politically motivated overthrow of the pre-2010 legal system, accompanied by the aggressive dismantling of the democratic institutions and the persecution of private organizations representing core European values, finally has drawn the attention of the European Union to the Hungarian situation. Accordingly, on May 17, 2017, the European Parliament adopted by a vote of 393 in favor to 221 against with 64 abstentions a resolution to trigger the warning mechanism of Article 7, Section 1, of the Treaty of the European Union against Hungary. This resolution called upon the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs to produce a report on “the political situation in Hungary.” Invoking Article 7, Section 1, of the Treaty of the European Union was without a precedent before. Subsequently, the aforementioned Committee appointed Judith Sargentini of the Netherlands, as the rapporteur responsible for writing a report on the political situation in Hungary.

On June 25, 2018, the Committee adopted the Sargentini Report by a vote of 37 for and 19 against. On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament voted on the Sargentini Report, condemning with a four-fifths majority the anti-democratic turn of Hungary, and initiating the procedure related to Article 7, Section 1 of the Treaty of the European Union by requesting the Council of the European Union “to determine, pursuant to article 7, Section 1, of the Treaty of the European Union, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded.”

Here, it is noteworthy to state that in the entire history of the European Parliament such an overwhelming consensus concerning a member state had never been recorded before. Up until that date, Viktor Orban’s political acrobatics, namely, his attempt to ride simultaneously two horses, the European and the Hungarian, with two inherently irreconcilable rhetorics, have not been challenged in a serious way. Yet, FIDESZ’s campaign against Brussels under the banner of “Let’s Stop Brussels”, and the subsequent “Stop Soros” movement with its anti-Semitic overtones, finally opened the eyes of the European Union to the blatantly anti-EU policies of and to the destruction of democracy by the Orban administration, which taken together have posed a mortal danger to the entire Union.

Citing Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union that makes it the precondition of joining the organization the respect and the promotion of European values, the Sargentini Report enumerates the Orban administration’s transgressions in twelve points. For starters, the number twelve has its special significance for every Hungarian. When the Hungarians rose in 1848 against the Habsburg tyranny, young Hungarians condensed their demands for national independence and democracy in exactly twelve points. The public reading of the Twelve Points on March 15, 1848, signaled the beginning of the long and bloody Battle for Freedom (in Hungarian: Szabadsagharc) that was crushed in 1849 by the joint forces of the Habsburg Emperor and Nicholas I of Russia.

Generally speaking, the Sargentini Report raises three major issues: democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Primarily, it voices alarm over the functioning of the constitutional and electoral systems. In its second point, it deals with the independence of the judiciary and of other institutions, and the rights of judges. Next, it examines the topics of corruption and conflict of interest. In point four, it analyses the issues of privacy and data protection. This follows by taking under the microscope the subject of freedom of expression. Points six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve examine the state of academic freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of association, the right to equal treatment, the rights of minorities and their protection against hateful statements, the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, and the state of economic and social rights.

More specifically, the Sargentini Report criticizes the endangerment of the separation of powers and the weakening of the national system of checks and balances; the restrictions on the authority of the Constitutional Court and the recent changes to the procedure of selecting judges; the excessive powers of the president of the National Judicial Office; the “serious irregularities” and “conflicts of interest” with regard to EU-financed public-procurement tenders; insufficient legal guarantees against unlawful surveillance for national security purposes; inadequate guarantees of freedom of expression; the procedures regarding the election of the Media Council; the legal provision granting exclusive rights to the Hungarian News Agency (Hungarian acronyms: MTI) to provide news for public television and radio; the singling out of about two thousand Hungarians by name through the press, who allegedly working to “topple” the Orban government; constraint on academic freedom by then Law on National Higher Education; the war on NGOs; incitement against foreigners; discrimination against women; rising sentiments of racism and intolerance against the Roma minority; and the politicization of anti-Semitism.

As a response, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a resolution by a vote of 129 in favor to 26 votes against, with 18 abstentions, on October 16, 2018, condemning the Sargentini Report. The resolution reads in its main part as follows:

“The Sargentini Report attacked the decisions, Fundamental Law, legislation and personal decisions that the democratically elected Hungarian Parliament ratified within its own sphere of authority. With this, it (the Sargentini Report) transcended its sphere of authority and violated Hungary’s sovereignty….. We reject the slander contained in the mendacious pro-immigration indictment called the Sargentini Report. We reject this report which attacks Hungary because it did not admit immigrants, rejected the quota, built a legal border barrier and made the organization of illegal immigration punishable….. We call upon the government of Hungary not to submit to blackmail: reject the false accusations against Hungary and take legal measures against the fraudulently adopted report slandering Hungary.”

In the spirit of this resolution, the Hungarian government recently submitted a 131 page Information Note to the General Affairs Council of the European Union. In it, Hungary attacks the decisions by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on procedural as well as material grounds. Procedurally, Hungary objected to the method of vote counting. Because of the procedural irregularities, Hungary considers all the votes in this matter “null and void.” In its substance, Hungary judges the Report as being “politically motivated” and not being based on “facts, precise legal provisions and objective analysis.” The main body of the Note attempts to refute the Report point by point. However, the Hungarian government’s arguments are woefully one sided and selective. Contrary to its assertions, the NOTE is politically motivated and subjective in the extreme. Clearly, Viktor Orban is absolutely determined to prevent the Euopean Union from interfering with his authoritarian rule and his all pervasive criminal corruption schemes in Hungary.

Most recently, at the 28th Congress of FIDESZ, on September 28, 2019, Viktor Orban was reelected chairman of his party. His closing speech reinforced the message in the Hungarian government’s Information Note. To begin with, it was highly arrogant in its tone and extremely appalling in its content. Calling his fellow party members comrades, he credited their unquestionable loyalty to him as the most important political attribute of FIDESZ against his opponents. Defining the essence of membership as “of the same blood”, he thanked everybody for having shown understanding and forgiveness toward his weaknesses. Equating this with President Reagan’s eleventh commandment, he stated that in his party, members are mere workers and he alone is the boss. Rejecting 1991 as the initial date of regime change, he stated that the real political changes started to develop in 2010, from his second ascension to power. Repeating again his disdain for democracy, he termed the 2011 constitution the foundation of Christian freedom as opposed to liberal freedom. Without explaining what he meant by that distinction, he launched into an incoherent attack against “internationalism” and praised Hungarian patriotism. Displaying his total misunderstanding of the American and European democracies, he went after the liberal elites whose rule he termed “very dangerous.” Labeling his opposition “traitors of the nation”, he declared that the unity of FIDESZ and the Hungarian people is indivisible. Praising his like minded Polish colleagues and criticizing the new Italian government, and Prime Minister Conte personally, offering him sarcastically Hungary’s assistance in border protection, he again repeated his resolve not to cooperate with Brussels on immigration. In closing, referring to the Hungarian nation as “our race” (in Hungarian: a mi fajtank), he exhorted his comrades to persevere against those who try to harm Hungary. In his last sentence, he rejoiced over the “great powers that have moved around Europe and Hungary”, and assured his “comrades” that, for this reason, they are not animals but living souls, who understand that Hungary exists “over everything”, and that “the good Lord is present above everybody.” Finally, being the avid soccer fan he is, he yelled: “Go for it Hungarians! Go for it Hungary!” The message is: “My way United States of America and European Union or the highway.”

Two days later, on September 30, 2019, at a joint press conference with Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne, Viktor Orban lashed out at everybody who, according to him, dares to question that Hungary is a nation of laws, and who dares to state that the rule of law does not fully exist in Hungary. “Anybody who questions that Hungary is a state of the rule of law threads on our honor, and I recommend everybody to contemplate such a statement very carefully.” In addition, he stated that international relations must be based on mutual respect and not on countries snubbing each other.

Realistically, the European Union is powerless to act effectively against the challenges to its authority by Viktor Orban. It can strip Hungary of voting rights and representation, but powerless of removing the latter from the organization. Thus, the wholesale destruction of democracy and the free economy will continue in Hungary unabated. Along with Hungary’s “illiberal democracy”, the number of like minded governments and counterfeit republics would most probably multiply. These governments will surely remain unstable and weak. The peoples that they supposedly represent, will be denied their basic rights and, with time, will decide to revolt. From these dangers the European Union must be saved. Clearly, only a great reconstruction of the Union will save all of Europe.

The United States of America would be well advised to assist in saving the continent again. In this context, Viktor Orban is a highly destructive force and a great political liability that Washington cannot afford. His goal is to weaken and ultimately destroy the European Union, in order to save his corrupt, criminal, and authoritarian regime. Surely, he must be stopped. The United States of America must rise above Viktor Orban’s false narrative about being the European Trump because of his anti-migrant policy. Clearly, he is not President Donald J. Trump. More importantly, Washington must understand that a strong and more unified European Union is a strategic ally whom the United States of America cannot weaken by supporting those who strive to destroy it. For, if the European Union fails, democracy and capitalism will be endangered, and the United States of America will be at a strategic disadvantage vis-a-vis Russia and China.

More globally, the world cannot stand idly by, witness the current corruption, and the ultimate destruction of the most successful civilization in human history. The choice between the future of the European Union and Viktor Orban is a no brainer. If he does not comprehend what is at stake, Viktor Orban must be relegated to the ash heap of history.

Let’s Rediscover Our Individual Rights To Solve Our Political Polarization

By Nathaniel S. Hamilton • Frontiers of Freedom

As modern Americans, we have inherited the most significant philosophic and political revolution in the history of the World. That very revolution gave rise to a government that established a meticulously-calibrated system of checks and balances and important protections for individual liberty.

However, with the highly partisan and ideological rhetoric of today’s political rhetoric. The stability and harmony our government was designed to foster can seem under attack. The last time that Americans seemed to be this divided ideologically was during the Civil War.

Nevertheless, despite the ideological differences, we are still more united than divided. We may have varying individual opinions on particular issues, party affiliations, and ideologies, but we all agree that our rights as Americans must be preserved, protected, and defended. Many times we just don’t see eye to eye on how best go about reaching these rights.

But as long as we respect our opponents’ intentions, we all should celebrate and not balk at disagreement.

Let us not forget that before anything else, the United States was instituted as an experiment in individual liberty. Examine some of King George III’s actions that ultimately led to the American Revolution, as Thomas Jefferson laid out in the Declaration of Independence. 

Many of the issues below are still present today:

The King levied taxes on Americans without their consent. Currently people and businesses across the United States face ill-advised government policies, taxes, and regulations on a daily basis.

Along with Parliament, the King legislated upon Americans in every aspect of their lives. The modern Administrative State is threatening to do the same, with the will of bureaucrats taking precedence over the will of the people.

The King established a bureaucracy that hounded Americans and violated their property rights. The modern bureaucracy continues to subject Americans to this kind of harassment on a daily basis.

The King also denied people accused of crimes the due process of law. Countless people are being deprived of basic due process and subjected to excessive punishments under the modern criminal justice system.

And finally, for years King George III ignored pleas of Americans for relief. The people need to take action with the courts or in the court of public opinion when the government no longer lends them an ear.

Despite all of our differences, we Americans agree on far more than we disagree. 

Regardless of our political leanings, protecting individual liberty remains the story of the United States of America. We all want to safeguard the rights of everyone to ensure that they can fulfil their potential and enjoy all the benefits of participating in our inimitable American system.

We will only be able to rise above our evident differences and unite under our shared principles and destiny as Americans if we can learn to assume each other’s motives, respect one another’s sincerity, and acknowledge that we do agree on certain profound ideals.

Warren Backs AOC’s Illegal Immigrant Welfare Plan

Bill package includes federal rent control, welfare for illegal immigrants and ex-cons

By Collin Anderson • Washington Free Beacon

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren endorsed a Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) policy proposal that includes taxpayer-funded welfare benefits for illegal immigrants.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, dubbed “A Just Society,” calls for nationwide rent control and bans the federal government from denying welfare benefits based on an individual’s immigration status and previous criminal convictions. Warren became the first Democratic presidential candidate to endorse the plan, calling it “just the type of bold, comprehensive thinking we’ll need” to make “big, structural change.”

Ocasio-Cortez is considered to be “one of the most important endorsements in America,” and Warren’s immediate support of her latest policy marks another attempt to win the freshman congressman’s nod of approval. Warren’s quick embrace of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is the latest sign of the social media superstar’s policy impact on the Democratic presidential field.

Neither Ocasio-Cortez nor Warren returned requests for comment.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, consisting of six separate bills, calls for the expansion of welfare. Bills three and four make it illegal for the federal government to deny welfare benefits to ex-convicts and illegal immigrants. The legislation does not address how to pay for the rising cost of welfare, nor does it explain how it would accomplish its goals.

“It’s been really hard for me to find housing. I have the money to move places and stuff, but they deny me for my felony history. It’s not right,” a man with a face tattoo said in the legislative package’s announcement video.

Ocasio-Cortez’s second bill, titled “The Place to Prosper Act,” calls for federal rent control by imposing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases. Similar legislation has failed at the local level amid concerns that such policies increased housing prices while limiting supply. A recent study by the American Economic Association found that San Francisco rent control policy “drove up market rents in the long run, ultimately undermining the goals of the law.” The Council of Economic Advisers found that in 11 metropolitan areas with housing regulations, deregulation would reduce homelessness by an average of 31 percent. More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the University of Chicago in 2012 found rent control to be bad policy.

Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal also includes an official poverty guideline that accounts for “new necessities,” such as internet access, while the fifth bill creates a “worker-friendly score” based on union membership and other factors that would be used to evaluate or award government contracts.

The last bill in Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal establishes health care, housing, and healthy food as government-provided rights.

A Just Society is Ocasio-Cortez’s latest major policy initiative since introducing the Green New Deal, a $94.4 trillion environmental policy proposal that would have no effect on the environment.

All major Democratic presidential candidates quickly supported the Green New Deal, including Warren, Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.

To date, only Warren has endorsed “A Just Society.”

Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge

Federal records show that the intelligence community secretly revised the formal whistleblower complaint form in August 2019 to eliminate the requirement of direct, first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing.

By Sean Davis • The Federalist

Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. This raises questions about the intelligence community’s behavior regarding the August submission of a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump. The new complaint document no longer requires potential whistleblowers who wish to have their concerns expedited to Congress to have direct, first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing that they are reporting.

The brand new version of the whistleblower complaint form, which was not made public until after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the complaint addressed to Congress were made public, eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

The internal properties of the newly revised “Disclosure of Urgent Concern” form, which the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) requires to be submitted under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), show that the document was uploaded on September 24, 2019, at 4:25 p.m., just days before the anti-Trump complaint was declassified and released to the public. The markings on the document state that it was revised in August 2019, but no specific date of revision is disclosed.

The complaint alleges that President Donald Trump broke the law during a phone call with the Ukrainian president. In his complaint, which was dated August 12, 2019, the complainant acknowledged he was “not a direct witness” to the wrongdoing he claims Trump committed.

A previous version of the whistleblower complaint document, which the ICIG and DNI until recently provided to potential whistleblowers, declared that any complaint must contain only first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoing and that complaints that provide only hearsay, rumor, or gossip would be rejected.

“The [Intelligence Community Inspector General] cannot transmit information via the ICPWA based on an employee’s second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing,” the previous form stated under the bolded heading “FIRST-HAND INFORMATION REQUIRED.” “This includes information received from another person, such as when an employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing.”

“If you think that wrongdoing took place, but can provide nothing more than second-hand or unsubstantiated assertions, [the Intelligence Community Inspector General] will not be able to process the complaint or information for submission as an ICWPA,” the form concluded.

Markings on the previous version of the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form show that it was formally approved on May 24, 2018. Here is that original Disclosure of Urgent Concern form prior to the August 2019 revision:

Here is the revised Disclosure of Urgent Concern form following the August 2019 revision:

The Ukraine call complaint against Trump is riddled not with evidence directly witnessed by the complainant, but with repeated references to what anonymous officials allegedly told the complainant: “I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials,” “officials have informed me,” “officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me,” “the White House officials who told me this information,” “I was told by White House officials,” “the officials I spoke with,” “I was told that a State Department official,” “I learned from multiple U.S. officials,” “One White House official described this act,” “Based on multiple readouts of these meetings recounted to me,” “I also learned from multiple U.S. officials,” “The U.S. officials characterized this meeting,” “multiple U.S. officials told me,” “I learned from U.S. officials,” “I also learned from a U.S. official,” “several U.S. officials told me,” “I heard from multiple U.S. officials,” and “multiple U.S. officials told me.”

The repeated references to information the so-called whistleblower never witnessed clearly run afoul of the original ICIG requirements for “urgent concern” submissions. The change to the “urgent concern” submission form was first highlighted on Twitter by researcher Stephen McIntyre.

The complainant also cites publicly available news articles as proof of many of the allegations.

“I was not a direct witness to most of the events” characterized in the document, the complainant confessed on the first page of his August 12 letter, which was addressed to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the respective chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Hearsay is generally inadmissible as evidence in U.S. federal and state courts since it violates the constitutional requirement that the accused be given the opportunity to question his accusers.

The anti-Trump complaint also made several false claims that have been directly refuted and debunked. While the complaint alleged that Trump demanded that Ukraine physically return multiple servers potentially related to ongoing investigations of foreign interference in the 2016 elections, the transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky shows that such a request was never made.

The complainant also falsely alleged that Trump told Zelensky that he should keep the current prosecutor general at the time, Yuriy Lutsenko, in his current position in the country. The transcript showed that exchange also did not happen.

Additionally, the complaint falsely alleged that T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a U.S. State Department official, was a party to the phone call between Trump and Zelensky.

“I was told that a State Department official, Mr. T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, also listened in on the call,” the complaint alleged. Shortly after the complaint was released, CBS News reported that Brechbuhl was not on the phone call.

In a legal opinion that was released to the public along with the phone call transcript, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) determined that the complainant’s submission was statutorily deficient and therefore was not required to be submitted to Congress. The White House nonetheless declassified and released the document to Congress late Wednesday evening.

“The complaint does not arise in connection with the operation of any U.S. government intelligence activity, and the alleged misconduct does not involve any member of the intelligence community,” the September 3 OLC opinion noted. “Rather, the complaint arises out of a confidential diplomatic communication between the President and a foreign leader that the intelligence-community complainant received secondhand.”

“The question is whether such a complaint falls within the statutory definition of “urgent concern” that the law requires the DNI to forward to the intelligence committees,” the OLC opinion continued. “We conclude that it does not.”

It is not known precisely when the August 2019 revision to the whistleblower complaint form was approved, nor is it known which, if any, version of the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the complainant completed prior to addressing his complaint to Congress.

Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, a Director of National Intelligence official refused to comment on any questions about the secret revision to the whistleblower form, including when it was revised to eliminate the requirement of first-hand knowledge and for what reason.

Remembering Jamal Khashoggi and the Future of U.S.-Saudi Relations

By Peter Roff • Mediaite

Jamal Khashoggi

For all we know, what’s left of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is fertilizing olive trees in the hills outside Istanbul. It’s been a year since he went missing but the people who know what really happened to the well-known critic of the Saudi regime who disappeared after entering his country’s Turkish consulate aren’t saying.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam, who probably knows all, is giving lots of interviews as the anniversary of the disappearance approaches. He denies he ordered him killed but admits it “was a heinous crime,” as he told CBS’ 60 MinutesSunday. “I take full responsibility as a leader,” he said, adding it would be ridiculous to expect him to keep close track of the activities of the millions in the employ of the family business the rest of the world calls the Saudi government.

His denial is hard to swallow. A few senior officials lost their posts over the whole business but probably got to keep their heads. Which is more than can be said about Khashoggi, if the widely accepted rumors concerning his demise are true. Generally, things go on as before, with the Trump Administration and the Saudis continuing to cozy up in pursuit of regional peace.

The degree to which the Khashoggi affair has ceased to be a topic of conversation among American journalists is disturbing. Presuming he was killed (there’s no reason to believe he wasn’t) consider why. He was killed over his criticisms, because he made them and because they had power and were starting to be believed. One need not have liked him to be outraged. One does not have to believe what he wrote to be inflamed. And even if he was working, as some opinion writers friendly to Saudi interests working on behalf of another government have claimed, it is still gobsmacking that expression of his opinions got him killed.

The U.S. response has been weak, likely because presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s much-touted plan for Middle East peace depends so heavily on a lead role for the Saudis in checking Iran’s ambitions. The risks associated with opposing or even deposing MBS, as the crown prince is typically referred to, are considered too high to allow for decisive action against him.

MBS knows this and uses it to his full advantage. The interviews he’s giving now are designed to take the edge off through an expensive damage control operation, providing just enough cover for him to be welcomed into the family of global leaders once his father, the current King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud finally folds his tents and goes gently into the night.

It doesn’t have to be that way. MBS’s succession to the Saudi throne is not automatic. The order of succession is not clearly defined. In 2006 a royal decree still in effect established the need for future kings to be elected by a committee of Saudi princes rather than see possession of the throne go from brother to brother or father to son.

This new wrinkle may explain why MBS imprisoned members of the royal family and some of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton for an extended period ending in 2018. Instead of the anti-corruption effort, he said it was, it may have been what in western parlance is called “an effort to line up votes” for his eventual ascent to the throne. Those formerly imprisoned have been left living in what more than one publication termed “a climate of fear and uncertainty.”

Before the U.S. settles on MBS as the person around whom the future relationship with the Saudis will be built, policymakers need to think carefully about what they’re doing. In addition to Khashoggi’s murder and the imprisonment of much of the country’s political and business elite, MBS’s fingerprints are said to be all over the war in Yemen and the kidnapping of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He plays hardball, without a doubt, but can he be trusted to play it in a way that coincides rather than conflicts with U.S. interests over the next 40 or 50 years or does the United States need to look for other options?

With MBS in charge, there might be just as much of a reason to move Saudi Arabia onto the lists of state supporters of terrorism as there is to consider them our closest Arab ally in the region. Before we decide what to do, MBS needs to make a full account regarding what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. That won’t absolve him of all his sins by any means, but it would be a good start at the kind of candor we need from someone who says he wants to be our ally.

Let Seniors Use Health Security Accounts to Buy Better Care

By Peter Roff • RealClear Health

Atop the list of what America’s senior adults want are the preservation of their independence and a secure retirement. Admirably they don’t want to end up being a burden anyone, not their spouse, not their children, and not the rest of us. The way the system is rigged, however, almost guarantees they will

Medicare-for-All, which most of the Democrats running for president have endorsed, will only lead to increased dependency. It’s a typical one-size-fits-all proposal that sounds good from the stump and may look good on paper. The numbers though, just don’t work.

The way forward is to expand choice and to allow seniors to take advantage of competition in the health care marketplace to bring prices down. Some already have supplemental insurance that helps fill the financial gap between what they need and what Medicare will pay for but it’s not enough. Some people need more than one walker in order to stay in their homes.

This is where creativity is needed. The green-eye shade types who approve Medicare expenditures spend lots of time thinking about what things cost. Considering how many taxpayer dollars are involved in later-in-life health care, that’s not such a bad thing but it doesn’t always take into consideration what people need.

That forces seniors to make hard choices that can threaten their independence. They need to have more options as they would under a proposal by Dr. Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Jason Smith, R-Mo., that would let them use pre-tax dollars stored up in health savings accounts to fill the gaps between items covered under Medicare and what they are expected to pay for out of pocket.

“Having a Health Savings Account is a powerful resource that reimburses everything from doctor and dentist visits to prescription drugs, first aid supplies, and eyeglasses. Health Savings Accounts also incentivize saving for health-care expenses by providing critical tax benefits, just as we do for saving for retirement or college,” says Kevin McKechnie, the executive director of the American Bankers Association’s Health Savings Accounts Council.

Money put away in an HSA can stay there for decades. Under current law, there’s no “Use it or lose it” provision. That means younger workers can start saving for retirement health care upon entering the workforce and, through the magic of compound interest, build up a nest egg that’s there for them anytime they need it.

That means, if they’re lucky enough to remain relatively healthy and can be disciplined financially, it can be there for them in their retirement years which, it has suddenly become clear to me, come around a lot faster than it seems they will when you’re just starting out.

The tax benefits associated with HSA’s, McKechnie wrote in a recent op-ed, “have become even more important as deductibles and other health-care costs continue to skyrocket.” Struggling families, especially those that include senior adults facing the challenges associated with aging, are finding it harder and harder to plan for they can’t see coming. Expanding the range of services that can be paid for out of health savings accounts give them an additional hedge against the unexpected.

A recent Luntz Global poll found 46 percent support for the Bera-Smith plan and the idea of using HSA funds to fill the Medigap. Expanding the list of approved items upon which HSA dollars can be spent without tax penalties is low hanging fruit as far as health care reform goes. That’s probably why the idea has bipartisan support.

The challenges presented by an aging America in which people living longer and healthier must deal with diseases that can lead more quickly to economic ruin should give us all pause. New thinking is needed, not just where treatments are concerned but in how we make it possible for people to pay for it. We could as a country decide to turn the whole business over to the government but that inevitable means care will be rationed, fewer options will be available, and decisions regarding life and death matters will almost inevitably be taken out of our hands by the bureaucracy.

No one wants to live like that, and no one wants a loved one to die like that. The Bera-Smith Health Savings for Seniors Act will cover the gaps and help bring the cost of health care under control. At least 82 percent of those who answered the Luntz Global survey think it will. It’s time to give it a chance.

Sanders: Medicare for All Not Free for the Middle Class

By Elizabeth Matamoros • Washington Free Beacon

Medicare for All is not free and will require anyone earning more than $29,000 a year to pay more in taxes, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said on The Late Show Thursday.

“Is health care free? No, it is not,” Sanders told host Stephen Colbert. “So what we do is exempt the first $29,000 of a person’s income. You make less than $29,000 you pay nothing in taxes. Above that, in a progressive way with the wealthiest people in this country paying the largest percentage, people do pay more in taxes.”

Sanders’s 2020 campaign website details the Vermont senator’s Medicare for All plan, but contains no mention of a tax increase on the middle class. Colbert confronted the Vermont senator about whether his proposal would lead to tax increases. Sanders acknowledged that taxes would have to rise if the government took control of one of the nation’s largest industries.

Sanders said people will no longer pay premiums, co-payments, or out-of-pocket expenses, offsetting the higher taxes once the government takes control of the health care sector. Sanders also said there will only be a private health care market for non-basic health care services, such as cosmetic surgery.

Colbert previously asked the same question of rival 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.). Warren and Sanders are among the leading Democratic presidential candidates who have adopted Medicare for All as a key component of their 2020 campaign platforms. Warren declined to directly answer when Colbert asked about middle class taxes, focusing only on broad health care spending.

“So, here’s how we’re going to do this,” Warren said. “Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations … and hard-working middle-class families are going to see their costs go down.”

“But will their taxes go up,” Colbert asked a second time. Warren did not clarify. 

Presidential candidate and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.) criticizedWarren for being “evasive” about how she would pay for Medicare for All.

“Senator Warren is known for being straightforward and was extremely evasive when asked that question,” Buttigieg told CNN after her appearance. “And we’ve seen that repeatedly. I think that if you are proud of your plan and it’s the right plan, you should defend it in straightforward terms.”

Climate Worship Is Nothing More Than Rebranded Paganism

We're seeing sexualized dances, hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, all to promote a supposedly greater cause.

By Sumantra Maitra • The Federalist

Lynn Townsend White Jr., an American historian from Princeton, wrote an influential essay in 1967, at the height of the cultural revolution in Western campuses, arguing that Christianity and Judeo-Christian values are responsible for ecological disaster and climate change. The essay, naturally, was adapted by generations after, ironically almost like a document of faith.

The central argument went like this. White argued, “The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture. … By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.”

, and fear — didn’t just go away but manifested in various other pre-civilized tribal ways. For example, a liberal seminary encouraged its students to skip classes to pray and confess sins in front of potted plants. In Switzerland, 250 people in full funereal garb mourned the apparent approaching death of a glacier.

That is why members of “Extinction Rebellion” do what they do. Extinction Rebellion is an apocalyptic cult that wants to radically end every thing around you, from your private cars to the burgers you eat and the plastic chairs in your yard. It is a cult that was formed after its founder took psychedelic drugs and prayed for “social change.” Members have blocked D.C. and London intersections, “twerking” the way people in a pre-civilized era would perform a fertility dance to pray to Gaia.

And then there’s Saint Greta, our perpetual teen of sorrow. I have been comparing her worship to Joan of Arc ever since she was invited to the British Parliament, the birthplace of modern democracy. She was surrounded by buffoons nodding their heads like they were listening to gospel truth.

Mr Maitra@MrMaitra

Lads, I hesitate to take credit for my predictions…I am magnanimous and noble like that…but this entire Joan of Arc thingy…you guys read it here, first.

“Climate Apocalypticism” is simply a paganist religion, with its own saints, sinners, and providential end.

View image on Twitter

wrote about her long before the new woke-capital fanatics adopted her as a pawn. In a recent speech to the U.N., while clearly having an emotional meltdown, she told assorted leaders, voice trembling, that they have failed the children and history wouldn’t be kind. The “gatekeepers” immediately hailed her as a brave savior as well as a vulnerable, autistic teen who shouldn’t be bullied.

So, there you have it. Sexualized dances, psychedelic hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, and throwing them up on an altar, bereft of their childhood, to promote a greater cause. Add to that witches hexing Brett Kavanaugh, and having an Ouija board to invoke the spirit of Karl Marx, and everything old is new again.

The reality is, of course, completely different. Much less than destroying the planet, climate change isn’t even a settled science. Conservatives don’t disagree that climate is changing. That is a straw man. Conservatives, however, are opposed to hysteria, have skepticism about the rate of the climate change, and would like to see an actual cost-benefit analysis of the radical changes being demanded.

More important than that, conservatives understand that climate change is cynically used by a certain section of people to justify their political goals of steering the West away from its way of life, a way they perceive to be evil and harmful, hetero-patriarchal, and capitalist. How? Appealing to the faith-based part of human brains, the need for subservience, and propping up children as human shields.

The Left Created a Climate Crisis and Worships It

Consider a new letter by more than 500 scientists, which the mainstream media completely ignored. It urges the United Nations to have an open debate between scientists from both sides of the argument and states there’s “no climate emergency.” The report goes on to say, among other things:

The world has warmed at less than half the originally-predicted rate; Climate policy relies on inadequate models; More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth; There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent; There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050.

In short, everything you’re being told is wrong or flawed, and you’re a chump who is being taken for a ride.

For all the Marxists’ faults, the old left at least wanted to conquer nature instead of turning subservient to it. Of course, that went to its own extremes, but one can imagine Joseph Stalin putting all twerking climate fanatics as mentally ill people in a forced labor camp to build railroads in Siberia. The current Chinese government, likewise, gives two hoots about climate change, and for all the bravery of Green Peace and St. Greta, there’s nothing they can do about China burning more coal than the rest of humanity combined.

The modern left is a combination of two of the worst impulses in human history. First are the ultra-privileged bourgeoisie, which, having lost their old Judeo-Christian faith, are instinctively attracted to pre-civilized rituals, from overt sexuality to fewer familial ties. Consider Late Roman public orgies, and you get an idea. At the same time, human minds feel a gaping void that still needs to be filled by an alternate faith. It is in that intersection where this occultist, apocalyptic climate paganism comes from. It gives some privileged people a noble purpose.

As French philosopher Pascal Bruckner wrote in his book “The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings,” the current movement has all the trappings of a religion: saints, sinners, a providential end, apocalyptic fear, punishment, and penance. It appears Emperor Constantine’s children clearly failed to civilize their future generations. The pagan barbarians from the north are back circling outside the citadel.

Coalition Warns That New TTB Rule Violates Deregulatory Mandates

By Frontiers of Freedom •

Today, Frontiers of Freedom, along with 12 other organizations dedicated to promoting free markets, limited government, and constitutional principles, sent a letter of caution to President Trump about Notice No. 176, a new, massive regulation proposed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Among other concerns, the letter warned that Notice No. 176 will add two and a half times the number of regulations governing the distilled spirits industry, seemingly violating both Executive Order 1771 and Executive Order 12866. 

The coalition letter reads, in part:

“TTB contends that it released Notice No. 176 to ‘eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements and provide consumers broader purchasing options.’ Although cloaking it as a deregulatory effort, No. 176 would add two and a half times the number of regulations governing the distilled spirits industry. This comes in stark violation to Executive Order 13771 that you signed on February 3, 2017, which directs all agencies to eliminate two regulations for each new one proposed. Given that Notice No. 176 has also been said to create hundreds of millions in new business costs, it also seemingly violates Executive Order 12866, which states that the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs must review any new significant regulatory action before it is formally proposed.”

The full letter is available here.

Tax Backed by 2020 Dems Would Hurt Retirement Accounts, Report Finds

Average retirement account would lose $20,000 to tax

By Charles Fain Lehman • Washington Free Beacon

A financial transaction tax, though popular with 2020 Democrats, would raise little revenue and substantially shrink the U.S. economy, a recently released report concludes.

A transaction tax takes a percentage from financial trades, such as the sale or purchase of stocks, bonds, or derivatives. The United States levies an extremely small charge on each transaction to fund the Securities and Exchange Commission. A number of Democrats would like to bring a full-fledged financial transaction tax (FTT) back for the first time since 1965.

The idea’s most vocal proponent is presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) who has introduced a plan to charge a 0.5 percent fee on financial transactions. Sanders has made the tax “on Wall Street” a central revenue source to pay for his exorbitant spending proposals.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) introduced her own FTT proposal in 2015, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) wants one to pay for expanding Medicare, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg has also said that he is “interested in” implementing an FTT. Congressional Democrats have supported the idea outside of the campaign trail. Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) has his own0.1 percent proposed FTT — the bill has more than 200 co-sponsors in the House, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.).

These Democrats and others cite several justifications for an FTT. The tax is aimed at “Wall Street,” a preferred target of populist liberals—at least in principle, that means it also falls more heavily on those who hold a lot of wealth in investments. Additionally, such a tax would impose major restrictions on so-called high-frequency trading, which involves computer-run trades at fractions of a penny—profits that could be wiped out by the tax.

“This Wall Street speculation fee, also known as a financial transaction tax, will raise substantial revenue from wealthy investors that can be used to make public colleges and universities tuition free and substantially reduce student debt,” a brief from Sanders’s office reads. “It will also reduce speculation and high-frequency trading that is destabilizing financial markets. During the financial crisis, Wall Street received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world. Now it is Wall Street’s turn to rebuild the disappearing middle class.”

The scope of the tax, however, would extend beyond the confines of Manhattan, according to a report from the Center for Capital Market Competitiveness, an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce. The report argues that FTTs shrink the economy and hurt every-day Americans, not just Wall Street fat cats.

“Main Street will pay for the tax, not Wall Street,” the report argues. “The real burden [of an FTT] will be on ordinary investors, such as retirees, pension holders, and those saving for college.”

Much like a sales tax, the costs of a financial transaction tax would be passed on to consumers, who would pay more for each trade. Taxing transactions does not just drive up costs for the ultra-wealthy, but the 6 in 10 American households that own some kind of investment. Increased costs would have substantial effects on American savings. Under the Sanders plan, for example, the report estimates that a typical retirement investor will end up losing about $20,000 on average from his IRA.

These direct effects are arguably less significant than the overall effect that an FTT would have on the financial side of the economy. As multiple Democrats have acknowledged, the goal of an FTT would be to crack down on complicated financial instruments, such as high-frequency trades, to reduce what they perceive as dangerous market instability.

These instruments mostly serve vital functions greasing the wheels of the economy, according to the center’s report. An FTT would erase the razor-thin margins on which market makers operate, and severely constrain other forms of arbitrage. They would also reduce the use of vital risk-management tools, like many derivatives and futures contracts.

An FTT, the report argues, would thus serve to substantially slow the economy. Trade volume would fall; consumer good prices would rise; municipal bonds would generate less revenue for infrastructure; the cost of credit would increase, making mortgages more expensive—in turn exacerbating the homelessness crisis, depressing young home-ownership, and reducing family formation.

Obviously, each of these effects may not be massive—the U.S. economy grew substantially even during the 50-year period when we had an FTT. But, the new report argues, the experience of other nations indicates that the costs to the economy would substantially outweigh any benefit.

For example, they cite an economic analysis of a proposed 0.1 percent transaction tax in the EU—the authors found that “such a tax would lower GDP by 1.76 percent while raising revenue of only 0.08% percent of GDP.” Sweden’s 1 percent FTT caused a 5.3 percent drop in the Swedish market—meaning a 0.5 percent FTT, as Sanders proposes, would analogously cut nearly $800 billion from U.S. market capitalization. The evidence runs the other way, too: In the year following the repeal of the U.S. transaction tax, New York Stock Exchange trade volume increased by 33 percent.

All of this is why many countries—including Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Japan, Austria, and France—have eliminated such transaction taxes.

“Bad ideas have a habit of coming around again. The U.S., like many other nations, experimented with an FTT and wisely got rid of it. Yet each generation seems to be tempted by the false promise of a painless revenue stream,” the report said. “It would be wise to pay attention to the wisdom of experience and again avoid this false temptation. After all, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

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