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July 2016

ABC News – Report: VA Spent Millions on Costly Art as Veterans Waited for Care By Elizabeth McLaughlin See Video

A new report alleges that the Department of Veterans Affairs spent $20 million between 2004 and 2014 on costly artwork.

The expenditures included more than $1 million for a courtyard with a large sculpture at a Palo Alto veterans facility; $330,000 for a glass-art installation; and $21,000 for an artificial Christmas tree, according to the report.

Open The Books, a nonprofit that claims to be the world’s largest private database of government spending, in conjunction with Cox Media used government data to examine the Veterans Affairs Department’s (VA) spending on art for their facilities in the decade ending in 2014.

Much of the spending occurred at a time when veterans were experiencing lengthy waits for treatment at VA facilities. After as many as 40 veterans died while seeking care at the VA’s Phoenix Healthcare System, the federal agency’s inspector general found in 2014 that lengthy waits for treatment might have contributed to the deaths but did not definitively cause them.

The Veterans Affairs agency admitted publicly around this time that its health care operations were overwhelmed and understaffed.

Now this new report is sparking fresh anger from both veterans and lawmakers.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, wrote Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on July 26, demanding a “moratorium on art spending by the VA.” In his letter, Kirk mentioned that a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last fall highlighted what he said were excessive expenditures, $6.3 million, by the VA on artwork at the Palo Alto Healthcare System.

A spokesperson for the Palo Alto facility told ABC News that it had more than $4 million in art contracts in 2013 and 2014, including for an installation on the side of a parking garage. The installation, meant to honor blind veterans, featured quotes by Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt in Morse code that light up. The irony, critics point out, is that a blind veteran would be unlikely to see the massive artwork that cost $280,000.

Feminism Attacks at All Levels By David Solway

I recently came across a mewling article in one of Canada’s “progressive” mags, The Walrus, in which theatre critic Erika Thorkelson bemoans “the insidious sexism of the Canadian theatre world” and the comparative paucity of female actors and playwrights. Her theme is “gender imbalance” — the latest buzzword in the feminist war against men — which, of course, is owing to something like an exclusionary male commissariat intent on safeguarding its unjust privileges. That there may be other reasons for the supposed “imbalance” — lack of comparable interest, different distributions of talent — must not be mentioned since that would call her thesis into question. I certainly have not noticed any marked dearth of females on the theatrical, operatic, or cinematic scenes. And in the music world, come to think about it, females abound. No matter. The patriarchy strikes again.

At around the same time that I stumbled on this silly piece of special pleading and culturally ratified paranoia, I learned that the husband of a friend, a self-taught biblical scholar and an expert on the Gospel of John, is now serving time after having been accused by his disaffected stepdaughter of sexual assault, although the evidence is sketchy at best, the stepdaughter is psychologically disturbed, and his wife and his other children have testified on his behalf. The judge nevertheless found the daughter’s rather improbable story credible and the man was sentenced to a seven-year prison term. To compound the judicial felony committed against him, he was remanded to maximum security after his preference not to be housed with Muslims was discovered — he had good reason, having been stabbed by a Muslim for wearing a t-shirt stenciled with the legend “I Am an Infidel.” The fact that he was a believing Christian clearly did not help his case. In any event, this was another tainted victory for the feminist cause.

Like our literary community and our judiciary, our schools are equally engaged in promoting the feminist agenda to the disadvantage of deserving — indeed, of all — male students. A typical instance occurred at a high school in a neighboring town, as a friend whose son has just graduated and who attended the graduation ceremony informed me. My friend reports that approximately 90 per cent of the innumerable awards were distributed to female students for various obscure achievements such as offering encouragement to classmates, displaying enthusiasm for the subject, showing aptitude for commitment or evincing general improvement, in short, for enriching the parietal atmosphere by their very presence. Many of these awards came with the caveat “in the opinion of the teachers.” Two girls, the school was proud to announce on its Twitter feed, excelled in the technologies — “Times Are Changin’” reads the accompanying comment. But the vast majority of these female laureates demonstrated their accomplishment in the mainly “soft” subjects — the Humanities, social sciences, dance classes, and the like, where marking typically involves a high degree of subjectivity and teacher preference often plays a role. Only a comparative handful of male students were honored, all of whom majored in the “hard” disciplines where objectivity rules — science, math — and received top grades. The valedictorian, obviously, was a girl, with a high composite average enhanced, it would appear, by easy marks in the less demanding areas — and, I strongly suspect, likely with the help of grade inflation, since the principal is female, the vice principal is female, most of the teachers are females, and the school focuses in its Twitter feed, replete with the most cloying and vapid bulletins imaginable, primarily on girls. The high school is toxic for boys, who prudently kept out of full participation in most school groups and activities. Male students cannot but react with a mixture of bemusement and resentment — going MGTOW, going Galt — at the cost of our society’s scientific, literary and intellectual health, already in precipitous decline.

Obama’s Dangerous Plan to Abandon a Key Nuclear Deterrent The threat of striking first in a nuclear conflict is vital to keeping global peace. Why would Obama give it up? By Arthur Herman

Barack Obama’s foreign policy has always been defined by ticking the boxes the far Left long wanted ticked.

Now he’s contemplating one more, by far the most dangerous of all: unilateral nuclear disarmament, or at least a rough approximation thereof. After reducing the size of our nuclear arsenal to dangerous levels, the Washington Post reports that Obama is considering a “no first use” policy with regard to nukes.

Peaceniks around the world will cheer; the rest of us will shudder. No First Use (NFU) was first raised as a strategic doctrine by JFK in a March 1961 speech. (Truman and Eisenhower knew better.) But Kennedy quickly dropped the idea after the Cuban missile crisis proved that proclaiming, “We will never strike first in any conflict,” had only encouraged Khrushchev to act more boldly. It was also true that NFU encouraged the Russians to think that they could win an all-out war in Europe. If, for example, a conventional Russian invasion through the Fulda gap into West Germany was so massive that NATO forces couldn’t respond in time or with enough impact, the Russians would be assured of victory with the threat of American nukes off the table.

Other presidents agreed with Kennedy’s abandonment of NFU, and the doctrine lay dormant for the rest of the Cold War. Today, the arguments against it may be even more urgent. As American and NATO troop levels stagnate and Vladimir Putin assumes a more aggressive posture while refurbishing the Russian military, the threat of a nuclear strike may be one of the few ways left to keep Russia in check. After all, Putin himself talks about using nuclear weapons to hold onto Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and his generals, meeting with American officials in March 2015, threatened to use nukes if NATO dared to reinforce the defenses of the Baltic states.

As General Sir Richard Shirreff, NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander from 2011 to 2014, said in a BBC Radio 4 interview, Russia has hardwired “nuclear thinking and capability to every aspect of their defense capability.” Renouncing first-use will only encourage Russia or another aggressor with nukes to strike first at what is perceived to be an opponent with one arm deliberately tied behind its back — and to target our nuclear assets so they can’t be used in retaliation. Far from diminishing the likelihood of a nuclear confrontation, then, it could actually trigger one.

Deterrence in war always depended on a degree of vagueness and uncertainty. It’s not so much what you will do in retaliation but what you might do that makes the would-be aggressor think twice — especially if he thinks you are ready and willing to do things that precipitate the all-out conflict both sides want to avoid.

Douglas MacArthur’s Brilliant, Controversial Legacy A new biography examines the many sides of the versatile American general. By Victor Davis Hanson

Of all the great American captains of World War II, none remains more controversial than General Douglas MacArthur, whose genius and folly have taken on mythic proportions. MacArthur alone among them fought in all of America’s major 20th-century wars as a general — World War I, World War II, and Korea — and he was the most versatile military figure since Ulysses S. Grant, as a combined tactician, strategist, geostrategist, diplomat, and politician.

Yet history has not with the same zeal sought to balance the strengths and weaknesses of the often hard-to-like MacArthur as it has with, for example, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a brilliant organizer but often strategically obtuse; George S. Patton, who was a dazzling field general but mercurial; and Omar Bradley, who was a media favorite but often plodding.

There are a number of writs against MacArthur, but perhaps three stand out. First, there is no doubt that his narcissism could reach obnoxious proportions. His ego was more than just superficial vanity that characteristically led him to stare endlessly in the mirror, pepper his speech liberally with first-person pronouns, and choreograph his public image with corncob pipe, shiny khakis, gold-braided cap, aviator sunglasses, and leather coat. At times his sense of self led to hubris — and nemesis often followed. He certainly proved personally reckless in a way at odds with his public persona of a ramrod-straight devout Christian. In 1930, the 50-year-old, divorced MacArthur had an affair with the underage 16-year-old Isabel Rosario Cooper and brought the young Filipina mistress back with him to Washington — only to be both blackmailed by columnist Drew Pearson into dropping his libel suit concerning Pearson’s allegations about the 1932 Bonus March and eventually leveraged into paying Cooper $15,000 to go away.

The more experienced MacArthur saw himself as intellectually superior to younger presidents and so talked down to both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He thought the wisdom of his strategy of island hopping through the Philippines should be judged by all as his personal redemption for his earlier loss of the archipelago. And by 1943, his “I shall return” press releases seemed to conflate his huge land, air, and naval forces with his own person, in a manner that had already irked Eisenhower, worried George Marshall, and frightened Roosevelt. Early on, MacArthur saw himself as a figure uniquely favored by God. In World War I, all on his small patrol near the Côte de Châtillon were killed by a surprise artillery barrage — a disaster known only by MacArthur’s own testimony, which would later be questioned. MacArthur remarked of his amazing survival: “It was God, He led me by the hand, the way He led Joshua.”

Second, MacArthur’s most brilliant victories — the Operation Cartwheel reconquest of much of the Japanese-held South Pacific and the brilliant Inchon landings near the Korean DMZ — were bookended by equally disastrous failures. He was ultimately responsible for, despite warnings, allowing his newly supplied air forces on Luzon to be caught by surprise hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His incautious approach to the Chinese border in November 1950 — albeit approved by almost everyone in Washington — downplayed growing warnings about the bitter cold, the difficult terrain, and the likelihood of the entrance of the huge Chinese Red Army across the Yalu River. MacArthur for the most part claimed the strategic breakthroughs as his own virtuoso performances but fobbed off the disasters on subordinates and politicians.

No, the Constitution Does Not Bar ‘Religious Tests’ in Immigration Law Properly vetting would-be immigrants’ religious beliefs is not only legal — it would be wise and prudent. By Andrew C. McCarthy

Of all the ignorant pronouncements in the 2016 presidential campaign, the dumbest may be that the Constitution forbids a “religious test” in the vetting of immigrants. Monotonously repeated in political speeches and talking-head blather, this claim is heedless of the Islamic doctrinal roots on which foreign-born Islamists and the jihadists they breed base their anti-Americanism. It is also dead wrong.

The clause said to be the source of this drivel is found in Article VI. As you’ll no doubt be shocked to learn, it has utterly nothing to do with immigration. The clause states, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (emphasis added). On its face, the provision is not only inapplicable to immigrants at large, let alone aliens who would like to be immigrants; it does not even apply to the general public. It is strictly limited to public officials — specifically to their fitness to serve in government positions.

This is equally clear from the clause’s context. Right before the “no religious Test” directive, Article VI decrees that elected and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution[.]” An oath of office customarily requires the official to “solemnly swear” that he or she will support and defend the Constitution, “so help me God.” (See, e.g., the oath prescribed by federal law.) The Framers tacked on the “no religious test” clause to clarify that the mandate of a solemn oath before taking office did not mean fidelity to a particular religious creed was required. The same principle informs the First Amendment’s prohibition on the establishment of a state religion.

This is as it should be. The Constitution prescribes very few qualifications for even the highest offices because its purpose is to promote liberty, which vitally includes the freedom to elect whomever we choose, to vote our own private consciences. The principal check on public officials is the ballot box, not the law’s minimalist requirements.

As voters, we have the right to weigh a candidate’s religious beliefs as a significant part of the total package. We have done so from the Republic’s founding — and to this day, virtually all candidates take pains to wear their faith, however nominal, on their sleeves. When the loathsome Jeremiah Wright fleetingly became an issue in the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama did not thunder, “Under the Constitution, you must not inquire into my religious beliefs!” He threw the Rev under the bus. When it comes to choosing those who will represent us, we do not limit ourselves by intrusive laws, but we reserve the right to bring to bear any consideration, including religion, that we deem relevant.

What works in the narrow context of qualification for public office does not extend to other aspects of governance — in particular, security.

Will Europe Refuse to Kneel like the Heroic French Priest? by Giulio Meotti

Go around Europe these days: you will find not a single rally to protest the murder of Father Jacques Hamel. The day an 85-year-old priest was killed in a French church, nobody said “We are all Catholics”.

Even Pope Francis, in front of the most important anti-Christian event on Europe’s soil since the Second World War, stood silent and said that Islamists look “for money”. The entire Vatican clergy refused to say the word “Islam”.

Ritually, after each massacre, Europe’s media and politicians repeat the story of “intelligence failures” — a fig leaf to avoid mentioning Islam and its project of the conquest of Europe. It is the conventional code of conduct after any Islamist attack.

Europe looks condemned to a permanent state of siege. But what if, one day, after more bloodshed and attacks in Europe, Europe’s governments begin negotiating, with the mainstream Islamic organizations, the terms of submission of democracies to Islamic sharia law? Cartoons about Mohammed have already disappeared from the European media, and the scapegoating of Israel and the Jews started long time ago. After the attack at the church, the French media decided even to stop publishing photos of the terrorists. This is the brave response to jihad by our mainstream media

Imagine the scene: the morning Catholic mass in the northern French town of Etienne du Rouvray, an almost empty church, three parishioners, two nuns and a very old priest. Knife-wielding ISIS terrorists interrupt the service and slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel. This heartbreaking scene illuminates the state of Christianity in Europe.

Stuck in the ‘Village’ Where’s the individual in Mrs. Clinton’s America? James Taranto

PHILADELPHIA—Last night Hillary Clinton reminded us of what is least appealing about Donald Trump. She then proceeded to remind us of what is least appealing about her. (To be more precise, what is least appealing about her apart from the corruption and nepotism.)

“Don’t believe anyone who says, ‘I alone can fix it,’ ” she exhorted the audience at home and here, in the Wells Fargo Center:

Yes, those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us. Really? I alone can fix it? Isn’t he forgetting troops on the front lines, police officers and firefighters who run toward danger, doctors and nurses who care for us, teachers who change lives, entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem, mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe? He’s forgetting every last one of us.

And remember, remember, our Founders fought a Revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power.

Two hundred forty years later, we still put our faith in each other. Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers. Police Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. And you know how the community responded? Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days.

That’s how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.

This was excellent work by Mrs. Clinton’s speechwriters, at once inspiring to the listener and merciless to her opponent.

In fairness to Trump, it was based on a misinterpretation of his comment—and surely a deliberate one, as there is no question of the literacy of Mrs. Clinton’s speechwriters. Here is what he said last week in Cleveland, with some context:

I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves.

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders—he never had a chance.

(As an aside, that last bit turned out to be truer than anybody outside the Democratic National Committee and WikiLeaks knew, didn’t it?)

Trump didn’t say, “I can fix it alone,” which is the claim Mrs. Clinton rebutted so effectively. His meaning was Only I can fix it—a more highly energetic formulation of a vanquished rival’s slogan, “Jeb can fix it.” Whether it is true that Trump can fix it, or that nobody else can fix it, is an open question.

But understood properly, the claim is no more than a bit of promotional hyperbole, similar to the assertion, often repeated in Philadelphia (though not by Mrs. Clinton herself) that she is the “most qualified” man, woman, other type of adult, or child ever to seek the presidency. It’s laughable when taken literally, but then so are most sales pitches.

Further, “I alone can fix it” had rubbed us the wrong way, and the subtle difference between it and “I can fix it alone” didn’t occur to us until after Mrs. Clinton had finished speaking and we were thinking about what to write about her speech. That means it likely occurred to very few of her listeners. And by the standards of political rhetoric, her twisting of his meaning was quite mild.

In sum, Mrs. Clinton effectively exploited her opponent’s poorly chosen phrase, and did so in a way that was almost fair. Good show. But then she went on:

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Will Dry Up Without New Oil New drill sites are needed to replace mature ones. But that requires Obama administration approval. By Thomas Barrett

Mr. Barrett, a retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and former deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, is president of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

For nearly four decades, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System has served as Alaska’s economic artery while providing the rest of the U.S. with a reliable supply of domestic oil from Alaska’s North Slope. Even with lower oil prices and the shale revolution increasing domestic production, TAPS, as we Alaskans call it, remains a key component of the national energy infrastructure. But the pipeline needs more Arctic oil to sustain its contributions to Alaska’s economy and America’s energy security.

As president of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which was formed in 1970 to build and operate TAPS, I’ve seen firsthand how essential the pipeline is to Alaska’s economy. One-third of all jobs in the state are tied to the oil and gas industry, and oil companies are, by far, the largest contributors to state revenues.

Even more important are the people who make the industry work. Thousands of Alaskans across the state—engineers and surveyors, pipeline technicians, welders and laborers, accountants and safety and environmental professionals—get up every day to ensure that Alaska’s oil and gas industry operates safely and responsibly, and continues to serve as the lifeblood of the Alaska economy, and a reliable energy source for America.

The pending five-year offshore leasing program under review by the Obama administration is critical to the continued operation of TAPS. The program stipulates the size, timing and location of possible leasing activity that the Interior secretary determines best meets the energy needs of the nation from 2017-22.

As the administration considers the public comments submitted on the draft plan, it is crucial to consider what is at stake. The draft 2017-22 leasing program includes three proposed sales in Alaska: one each in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas and one in Cook Inlet. The Arctic offshore resource potential is enormous. The Interior Department estimates that Alaska’s Arctic offshore basins hold more than 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—approximately one-third of the nation’s oil and gas reserves. Those resources could ensure a steady future supply of oil for TAPS.

Hillary Clinton, Underdog Even after Philadelphia, the momentum of the race to the White House points in Trump’s direction. By Douglas E. Schoen

After what even critics said was a highly effective Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton appears to have emerged as . . . the underdog.

Conventional wisdom has long held that Mrs. Clinton will capture the White House in November, regardless of the challenges her candidacy faces. With three months to go, that calculus looks shaky. The 2016 election is trending toward Donald Trump.

Yes, the race has been fluid and will likely remain so. Mrs. Clinton might get a solid convention bounce. But even in the best-case scenario, it seems unlikely to surpass Mr. Trump’s own bounce—five to six points in some polls, which is greater than President Obama’s in 2008 or 2012. The Republican’s boost is largely the result of Mr. Trump’s successful speech in Cleveland. Fifty-seven percent of those watching had a “very positive” reaction, and 56% said that they were more likely to vote for him. You’d never know it from listening to the mainstream press, which condemned the speech as “dark.”

Right now the momentum points in one direction: Mr. Trump’s. The race is tied in the Real Clear Politics polling average, which represents a reversal in his fortunes of three to four points. Earlier this week, with the GOP convention still fresh, Mr. Trump had the clear advantage and edged ahead of Mrs. Clinton. As polls during the first days of the Democratic convention began to be factored in, a statistical tie emerged.


My dear friend Nidra is a respected French journalist, commentator and novelist and has sent updates and commentary and reporting from France….in the belly of the terrorist beast….rsk

Prior To Attack, Adel Kermiche, Killer Of French Priest, Wrote On Social Media: ‘In A Very Short While… There Will Be Big Things [i.e. News] On This Page’

From MEMRI, our goldmine of information, ample details about the social media production of Adel Kermiche. I have seen none of this information in French media. Kermiche used various noms de plume, including Abu Jayyed, for his accounts. Since June, the real Abu Jayyed has been running a program called “Jihad from A to Z” on the Telegram channel. It’s on the model of advice to the lovelorn…but aimed at the jihad fighter seeking clarification, for example, of the rules of combat. Well, our real Abu Jayyed recently announced that he was giving classes at the St. Etienne du Rouvray mosque!

Did you even think to wonder who is the St. Etienne of the sorrowful Normandy church? I just learned, from Edouard Tertreau in le Figaro, that Saint Etienne (Stefanos or Stephen), who was Jewish, is the first Christian martyr. I can’t find his Hebrew name. [http://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/politique/2016/07/27/31001-20160727ARTFIG00272-face-aux-mecreantsde-daech-l-heure-du-devoir-pour-l-islam-de-france.php

According to l’Annuaire chrétien, [http://www.annuairechretien.com/etudes/0217-etienne-le-premier-martyre.php] St. Etienne is known for his vigorous efforts to prevent the backsliding of early Christians into Judaism. “He announced the end of the ‘old alliance,’ insisting on the difference between Judaism and Christianity, making impossible all compromising between the church and the synagogue.” So here we are, in a Normandy town with 2000 years of history in our hands!

And speaking of shameful compromising, here’s another admirer of Marion Maréchal Le Pen, la petite chérie of her grandfather who was, among other compromissions, a close friend of Saddam Hussein. The article ends with the bit about the killers “giving a sermon at the altar” before slaughtering the priest. Could Ruthfully Yours be the only English-language outlet that says they took an oath? Oath, as in oath to the caliphate? http://www.meforum.org/blog/2016/07/france-lepen-we-must-kill-islamism .


The government pursues its rear guard combat against the Opposition. But PM Valls did finally concede that it was a mistake to let Adel Kermiche out on parole. If the Le Pens, Aunt & Niece, were the only ones identifying the enemy and calling for résistance, I suppose the president and his allies would direct all their rebuttals against the Front National.

On the contrary. The report of the bipartisan Parliamentary Commission investigating the November 13th massacre was made public just before the Nice attack. It concludes with concrete proposals for improved security. Dismissed with hardly a blink by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister at the time, the proposals are snapping back with renewed punch today.

Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the parliamentary opposition (Les Républicains) outlined his vision in a full page interview with le Monde, July 28, 2016