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One God, One Vote!

World Magazine is addressing the issues head on.

It’s two weeks since the Supreme Court rocked American evangelicals by nationalizing same-sex marriage. It’s also 150 years since the greatest inaugural address ever given. Abraham Lincoln at his second inaugural culminated his attempt to find meaning in the Civil War by finally trusting God—and we can learn from his conclusions.

Here’s a key section:

“Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war might speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid with another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’”

Lincoln’s comment goes deeper than Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement that “One man with courage makes a majority.” Jefferson’s dictum works only if that man is on God’s side. Sometimes we fear that five Supreme Court justices will determine our future. Christians know that the real election is God’s. Many campaigners for universal suffrage have spoken of “One man, one vote.” But elections only decide who will rule us if God votes the same way. He raises up presidents. He drives them out of office. One God, one vote.

If we believe what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, the way we look at politics changes. Secular Republicans often say that strong pro-life or pro-family positions aren’t pragmatic. But Lincoln came to understand that he had to pay attention to voters, yes, but the real decider was one Supreme Voter: “The Almighty has His own purposes.”

If we believe that God is the crucial actor in history, then His vote is decisive. Pragmatism, if it ignores God’s vote, can sometimes be pandering to a temporary majority. Only when we follow biblical principle—discerning which is God’s side and joining it—are we truly pragmatic.


The Incredible Raisin Heist

In the USA? Yes, right here at home. Socialism at its best!
April 20, 2015 7:02 p.m.

Stealing is illegal, unless the government is the thief. On Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear a case on whether the government can seize a chunk of a business’s product to regulate prices. This is a big one.

Like much government mischief, Horne v. USDA has its roots in the Great Depression and federal programs to prop up the price of goods by controlling supply. To create raisin scarcity, the government established a Raisin Administrative Committee that manages the supply of raisins through annual marketing orders. Raisin handlers must set aside a portion of their annual crop, which the feds may then give away, sell on the open market, or send overseas.

Among the targets were Fresno, California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne, who have been in the business for decades. In 2003-2004 the family farm was required to give some 30% of its raisin crop to the government—some 306 tons—without compensation. The previous year they had to hand over 47%, and they were paid less than the raisins cost to produce.

The Hornes refused to participate, and in a letter to the Agriculture Department they called the program “a tool for grower bankruptcy, poverty, and involuntary servitude.” The raisin police were not amused. The Raisin Administrative Committee sent a truck to seize raisins off their farm and, when that failed, it demanded that the family pay the government the dollar value of the raisins instead.

The Hornes say this raisin toll is an unconstitutional seizure of their property. Under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, “private property” shall not “be taken for public use, without just compensation.” That clause is typically understood to make it illegal for the government to grab houses, cars or even raisins.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had a different view, ruling in 2011 that “the Raisin Marketing Order applies to the Hornes only insofar as they voluntarily choose to send their raisins into the stream of interstate commerce.” In other words, if you don’t want your raisins seized, you always have the option of going out of business.

After the Hornes sought rehearing en banc, the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel withdrew its opinion and replaced it with one that said the Hornes would first have to pay the fines and then appeal to the Court of Federal Claims. In June 2013 a unanimous Supreme Court overturned that decision and remanded it to the Ninth Circuit to decide on the merits. The court should “figure out,” Justice Elena Kagan said, “whether this marketing order is a taking, or just the world’s most outdated law.”

Hearing the case again, the Ninth Circuit went on another legal flight, ruling that the Takings Clause was meant to address the seizure of land, not other personal private property. And even if the government did take raisin farmers’ property, the confiscation created raisin scarcity which raised raisin prices, so the Hornes were compensated for their property in that way.

This is rewriting the Fifth Amendment. Under the Ninth Circuit’s logic, why couldn’t the government demand that an auto company hand over 20% of the cars off its production line to give to the poor or sell overseas? How about pharmaceuticals or iPhones to maintain stable prices or serve another regulatory purpose?

The Ninth Circuit’s defense of the seizure is that the Hornes could have avoided paying the toll “by planting different crops, including other types of raisins, not subject to this Marketing Order or selling their grapes without drying them into raisins.” But that’s tantamount to assessing a 30% toll on a small business for the privilege of participating in a given market.

The Federal Circuit, which hears many takings cases, as well as the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Tenth and D.C. Circuit Courts of Appeal have all held that the full protection of the Takings Clause does apply to the government seizure of personal property. A farmer should have no less right to the raisins growing on his land than he does to the land itself.

The Horne case is one of the most significant property rights cases in years—probably since the Court’s infamous 5-4 ruling in 2005 in Kelo v. New London, which allowed the government to take Susette Kelo’s home so a developer could replace it with condos and stores near a Pfizer Corp. office. The majority Justices in Kelo have a lot to answer for. This is a chance to make partial amends.

The Incredible Raisin Heist – WSJ.


Inside the War Against Islamic State

This provides some hope in the fight against ISIS.

In The Wall Street Journal, Joe Rago interviews retired Marine Corps. Gen. John Allen, U.S. special envoy in the fight against Islamic State.

Some six months ago, the Islamic State terrorist army poured south from Syria through Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates valleys, conquering multiple cities including Mosul and the border city of al Qaim. Iraqi army regulars disintegrated, the offensive carved out a rump state controlling somewhere between a quarter and one-third of Iraq’s sovereign territory, and mass executions, repression and videotaped beheadings followed.

Anticipating a strike on Baghdad and the potential fall of the capital, the U.S. Embassy evacuated 1,500 civilians. At the time, one measure of strategic neglect is that the U.S. was flying only a single surveillance sortie a month over Iraq, following the withdrawal of the last American troops in 2011. Saudi Arabia or Jordan were feared to be the next Islamic State targets.

Those calamities were interrupted, and now the first beginnings of a comeback may be emerging against the disorder. Among the architects of the progress so far is John Allen, a four-star Marine Corps general who came out of retirement to lead the global campaign against what he calls “one of the darkest forces that any country has ever had to deal with.”

Gen. Allen is President Obama ’s “special envoy” to the more than 60 nations and groups that have joined a coalition to defeat Islamic State, and there is now reason for optimism, even if not “wild-eyed optimism,” he said in an interview this month in his austere offices somewhere in the corridors of the State Department. He was spending a rare few days stateside by way of Brussels, among the 16 capitals he has visited (many multiple times) as he has helped to coordinate the alliance since accepting the mission in September.

At the Brussels conference, the 60 international partners dedicated themselves to the defeat of Islamic State—also known as ISIS or ISIL, though Gen. Allen prefers the loose Arabic vernacular, Daesh. They formalized a strategy around five common purposes—the military campaign, disrupting the flow of foreign fighters, counterfinance, humanitarian relief and ideological delegitimization.

Gen. Allen cautions that there is hard fighting ahead and victory is difficult to define, but he points to gradual yet tangible progress: For the first time, Islamic State has been confronted on the field and defeated, losing the initiative in battle. The Iraqi security forces are being rebuilt with a counteroffensive being planned to retake and hold terrain such as Mosul, Haditha and Beiji. This week the hundreds of members of the Yazidi sect were rescued from a long mountaintop siege.

The roughly 1,400 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that have been conducted so far continue to pound Islamic State positions and restrict advances. The U.S. now flies 60 reconnaissance missions daily.

Gen. Allen’s assignment is diplomatic; “I just happen to be a general,” he says. He acts as strategist, broker, mediator, fixer and deal-maker across the large and often fractious coalition, managing relationships and organizing the multi-front campaign. “As you can imagine,” he says, “it’s like three-dimensional chess sometimes.”

Gen. Allen seems governed by an abiding duty to the region and, perhaps, a job left unfinished. In 2006-08, as the deputy commander of Multinational Division West, he served in Anbar, in the deserts spreading west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Anbar was then among Iraq’s most violent and dangerous regions, the core of the terror insurgency, and Gen. Allen played an important role in the success of Gen. David Petraeus ’s “surge.”

A scholar-soldier, Gen. Allen cultivated relationships with the Sunni tribes, immersed himself in local culture and history, and helped nurture the Anbar Awakening and U.S. reconciliation initiatives as tribal leaders allied with the U.S. to defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. “I cleaved to John Allen,” says Ryan Crocker, then the U.S. ambassador. “When I needed to know what was going on out in al-Anbar, west Iraq, the tribes—who would do what, who would not do what, what we needed to do—he was the go-to guy.”

Gen. Petraeus adds in an email that Gen. Allen “pursued this effort brilliantly” and “contributed importantly to the achievement of what we termed ‘critical mass’ in the Anbar Awakening that helped set off a chain reaction with reconciliation rippling up and down the Euphrates River Valley in Anbar.” By the time the surge ended in summer 2008, enemy attacks had fallen by more than 80%.

Gen. Allen went on to lead NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013 and was poised to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe, among the military’s most prestigious overseas posts. Instead, after nearly 38 years in uniform, he retired, citing the strain of his deployment on his wife and two daughters.

Now Gen. Allen has returned to Iraq, where Anbar especially is once again the site of “humanitarian calamity and crisis.” There are some 20 million refugees fleeing Islamic State or the Syrian civil war. “You have Syrians who have fled to Iraq, sort of implausibly, but in fact, that’s the case,” he says.

Unlike its antecedent al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State is something new, “a truly unparalleled threat to the region that we have not seen before.” Al Qaeda in Iraq “did not have the organizational depth, they didn’t have the cohesion that Daesh has exhibited in so many places.” The group has seized territory, dominated population centers and become self-financing—“they’re even talking about generating their own currency.”

But the major difference is that “we’re not just fighting a force, you know, we’re fighting an idea,” Gen. Allen says. Islamic State has created an “image that it is not just an extremist organization, not just a violent terrorist organization, but an image that it is an Islamic proto-state, in essence, the Islamic caliphate.” It is an “image of invincibility and image of an advocate on behalf of the faith of Islam.”

This ideology has proved to be a powerful recruiting engine, especially internationally. About 18,000 foreign nationals have traveled to fight in Iraq or the Syria war, some of them Uighurs or Chechens but many from Western countries like the U.K., Belgium, Australia and the U.S. About 10,000 have joined Islamic State, Gen. Allen says.

“Often these guys have got no military qualifications whatsoever,” he continues. “They just came to the battlefield to be part of something that they found attractive or interesting. So they’re most often the suicide bombers. They are the ones who have undertaken the most horrendous depredations against the local populations. They don’t come out of the Arab world. . . . They don’t have an association with a local population. So doing what people have done to those populations is easier for a foreign fighter.”

Among the coalition’s major goals is to prevent these vicarious jihadists from arriving in the region—or from returning to their home countries. The coalition is locking down passports and creating more stringent screening at airports and border crossings world-wide.

A similar effort is under way to interdict Islamic State’s funding, though the challenge is that the group generally doesn’t rely on outside sponsors or traditional financial institutions that can be sanctioned. Black-market oil revenues and stolen money from Iraqi and Syrian banks mean Islamic State can pay for weapons, ammunition, vehicles and salaries for mercenaries.

“We have been bombing the dickens out of the modular refineries and tanker trucks” to disrupt the illicit oil business, Gen. Allen says, but Islamic State is turning to more pernicious methods: “Massive widespread criminal activity, largely extortion, in other words, shaking down the several million people that live under their domination. Sadly, kidnap for ransom is generating a lot of money. . . . A sheik’s son will be taken and the tribe will have to raise the money ultimately to gain his freedom.”

Gen. Allen adds that “Daesh has been very clear in the last several weeks, last couple of months, in undertaking a modern slave trade, if you can imagine that.”

A more hopeful sign is that the new Iraqi government is more stable and multiconfessional after the autocratic sectarian rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His replacement, Haider al-Abadi, has been “very clear that the future of Iraq is for all Iraqis,” Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. He has restored relations with Middle Eastern neighbors and believes in the “devolution of power” across Iraq’s regions, Gen. Allen says. “Maliki believed in the centralization of power.”

Critics of the Obama administration’s Islamic State response argue that the campaign has been too slow and improvisational. In particular, they argue that there is one Iraqi-Syrian theater and thus that Islamic State cannot be contained or defeated in Iraq alone. Without a coherent answer to the Bashar Assad regime, the contagion from this terror haven will continue to spill over.

Gen. Allen argues that the rebels cannot remove Assad from power, and coalition members are “broadly in agreement that Syria cannot be solved by military means. . . . The only rational way to do this is a political outcome, the process of which should be developed through a political-diplomatic track. And at the end of that process, as far as the U.S. is concerned, there is no Bashar al-Assad, he is gone.”

Defeating Islamic State inside Iraq, Gen. Allen says, is “the main effort.” A companion “supporting effort” to degrade Islamic State in Syria is under way, including bombing runs, as well as a “shaping effort” to encourage the moderate Syrian opposition to develop “a more coherent and cohesive political voice” and encourage “a political transition in Damascus.”

Gen. Petraeus says that among the “hugely impressive mix of talent, capabilities and experience” Gen. Allen brings to the mission is “a truly selfless approach to whatever task he is assigned.” Historians will debate how much the U.S. failure to obtain a status of forces agreement in Iraq after 2011 contributed to the rise of Islamic State. A residual combat force may have been an anchor and stabilizing influence, though Mr. Obama preferred to leave, and Mr. Maliki didn’t want the U.S. to stay. Gen. Allen, for his part, has articulated regret about what we left behind.

Last year, in a conversation at the Foreign Policy Initiative about the importance of American global leadership, Gen. Allen said: “We weren’t there long enough to provide the top cover for the solution of many of the political difficulties that might have resolved itself if we had been there for a longer period of time. So consequently, as we departed we have seen those tectonic plates begin to grind against each other again, and that has created instability, and the body count is going up.”

Gen. Allen speaks movingly about the tribes that allied with the U.S. amid the Awakening: The Americans and Iraqis fought alongside one another, he says, and “we, in turn, took care of tribes. We turned their electricity back on, we repaired the enormous damage that al Qaeda had done to the electrical grid. We restored the water purification systems that gave fresh water to the children. We rebuilt the schools.”

The war against Islamic State will go on long after he returns to private life, Gen. Allen predicts. “We can attack Daesh kinetically, we can constrain it financially, we can solve the human suffering associated with the refugees, but as long as the idea of Daesh remains intact, they have yet to be defeated,” he says. The “conflict-termination aspect of the strategy,” as he puts it, is to “delegitimize Daesh, expose it for what it really is.”

This specific campaign, against this specific enemy, he continues, belongs to a larger intellectual, religious and political movement, what he describes as “the rescue of Islam.” He explains that “I understand the challenges that the Arabs face now in trying to deal with Daesh as an entity, as a clear threat to their states and to their people, but also the threat that Daesh is to their faith.”

Gen. Allen says he regularly meets people who say “ ‘we want to take all measures necessary to reclaim our faith.’ . . . I recognize how central this faith is to so many people in the region, how important it is to so many people in the region, how difficult the struggle has become between those who would like to use it to justify horrendous acts and those who would like to reclaim it.”

Or as Gen. Allen put it in an essay earlier this year, “I can say with certainty that what we’re facing in northern Iraq is only partly about Iraq. It is about the region and potentially the world as we know it.”

Mr. Rago is a member of the Journal editorial board.

Source: Joe Rago: Inside the War Against Islamic State – WSJ


IRS Contempt of Congress

Some still claim its nothing but ‘conspiracy theory’ made up by Republicans.
Updated June 18, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

The IRS is now telling Congress that it has lost the emails of no fewer than seven IRS employees central to the targeting of conservative nonprofits, though that’s only half the outrage. There’s also the IRS’s quiet admission that it has spent most of the past year willfully defying Congress.

After informing Congress on Friday that it can’t find two years of email from former Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp revealed Tuesday that the IRS can’t produce records for six more employees whose hard drives also supposedly failed. These six happen to have been central to the IRS crackdown on conservative groups, and the lost emails were sent when the targeting took place, including in 2010 and 2011. The six include Nicole Flax, former chief of staff to former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.

There’s an equally disturbing IRS confession contained in its Friday letter to Congress. Some history: House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa as early as June 4, 2013 asked the IRS to provide “all documents and communications sent by, received by, or copied to Lois Lerner” between Jan. 1, 2009 and the present.” Note the “all.”

Mr. Issa sent an official subpoena demanding “all” the records in August 2013, and another subpoena reiterating the “all” demand in February 2014. Former Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel in August of 2013 told Congress, under oath, that the IRS was “reviewing every one of Lois Lerner’s emails, and providing the response.” Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in February told Congress, under oath, that the IRS was sending all of Ms. Lerner’s emails.

Yet in its letter on Friday the IRS slipped in the following: “In early 2014, Chairmen Camp and Issa reiterated their requests for all of Lois Lerner’s email, regardless of subject matter . . . Fulfilling the request,” said the IRS, meant it had to compile Lerner emails that went beyond the “search terms” it had “originally loaded for review.” By mid-March, the agency admitted, it had produced for Congress only the Lerner emails that it—the IRS—considered “related” to the scandal.

In other words, the IRS has from the start been picking and choosing which of Ms. Lerner’s emails it deigned to show Congress. And it did so despite knowing that Congress wanted everything.

This IRS filter has delayed the investigation and denied Congress access to important information. Congressional investigators learned only last week that Ms. Lerner corresponded with the Justice Department about potentially prosecuting conservative nonprofits. Congress had to subpoena Justice to obtain that Lerner correspondence. Only after Congress demanded the IRS explain why it hadn’t provided this Lerner-Justice correspondence did the IRS suddenly confess in its Friday letter that it had been picking and choosing emails.

And now we get the disappearance of seven hard drives. Ms. Lerner’s hard drive, by the way, appears to have “crashed” in June 2011, not long after Mr. Camp first asked the IRS if there was any political targeting going on. She denied it. Mr. Koskinen is due to testify before Congress on Friday, and he’s got a lot to answer for.

IRS Contempt of Congress – WSJ.