"No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable." --James Madison
Good news, America: Those who believe that our nation has "barbarians at the gates" are dead wrong. The bad news: The barbarians are already well inside the gates, running the federal government. The Barbarian-in-Chief himself recently served up this point by lamenting, "I cannot just impose my will on Congress ... even though sometimes I wish I could." Tyrants like to impose their will on legislative branches. Thank goodness this president would never really do that.
Within that context, we consider the fiscal cliff and related debt ceiling. A little history: The cliff looms not just because of expiring tax cuts, but because of a deal to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, in which certain cuts would happen automatically if Congress couldn't hammer out better details. Naturally, Congress displayed its usual inability to come up with even puny cuts, so here we are.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered House Republicans the first post-election White House deal: $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over 10 years (higher rates on the wealthy will generate only $80 billion annually, if that), $180 billion in new spending and vague promises to cut entitlement spending (growth) at an indeterminate future date, all while giving the president the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, perhaps permanently. Sounds to us like he might be trying to "impose his will on Congress."
Obama, of course, is promising the same thing Democrats always do: Higher taxes now and mythical spending cuts later. Picture Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown and you get the idea.
Though the GOP has fallen for that trick twice in the last 30 years, fortunately, this crop of Republican leaders rejected Obama's offer -- for now.
Geithner says we should simply eliminate the debt ceiling. What's an extra few trillion dollars here or there? If translated into dollar bills, our on-the-books debt would span over eight laps to the sun and back. Make that eight-lap trip eight more times for a reasonable hack at the true total unfunded U.S. liability figure.
Government fiscal wonks think they know that as long as a nation can print its own money, it can never default. This is especially true if that currency is the preferred (so-called "reserve") currency for the rest of the planet. The problem is that one never gets something for nothing: Printing dollars doesn't change the underlying value of our GDP. Usually, such buffoonery ends badly, either in spiraling inflation or else outright hyperinflation. The only reason inflation hasn't exploded thus far is that demand in the global market has propped up an otherwise-inflated U.S. dollar. That merry-go-round ends as soon as the U.S. dollar falls from grace as the world's reserve currency, and cracks in that particular ice sheet are already forming.
Back to the cliff, fighting to stem the tide both of a languishing GDP as well as an overburdened budget is conservative activist and leader of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist, who has come under fire lately for holding congressmen and senators to their pledges never to vote to raise taxes. The reason for all the heat stems from the stakes involved. Democrats and RINO statists loathe cuts to government for the simple reason that, by-and-large, they are government. That's why everything they do centers on "raising revenue" (i.e., taxing the producers in society) rather than opting for the elephant-in-the-living-room solution, namely, cutting government expenditures to fit the real budget: If government shrinks, so do their jobs.
Not that they don't argue that they have shrunk the government. Nancy Pelosi complained that Democrats had already "voted for over $1 trillion" in cuts. The truth is, any cuts they have made were to growth, not nominal spending. In other words, increase spending by $10 trillion, back it up to $9 trillion, and call it $1 trillion in "cuts."
Obamacrats know the stakes, as evidenced by the latest White House propaganda -- er, "report" -- explaining in so many words that Republicans must get on board with the Chosen One's plan to raise taxes or else Christmas will be ruined: "The holiday season is no time to threaten middle-class pocketbooks." Please. The only thing threatening middle-class pocketbooks is the same thing that's been threatening them for the past century: statist, spoils-system parasites who use government to live off the rest of us.
Obama will continue to paint Republicans as unyielding ideologues "holding the middle class hostage" to "tax cuts for the wealthy," and, unfortunately, that position is easy to sell. But it is the president who isn't negotiating in good faith, and it is Democrats who would happily take the nation over the cliff.
Elections do have consequences, and Democrats won the low-information electorate with a platform of raising taxes and kicking the entitlement can down the road. They believe they have all the cards, the winning Powerball ticket; indeed, it will be hard for even a united Republican party to pick winning numbers.
The first thing House Republicans should do is again pass an extension of all the current tax rates, thereby somewhat shielding them from blame for higher taxes. But when the Senate or the president kill that bill, then perhaps the only thing for Republicans to do is stop playing and walk away, leaving Democrats to raise taxes on everyone and take the country where they obviously want to go: over the cliff.
Quote of the Week
"Obama is claiming an electoral mandate to raise taxes on the top 2 percent. Perhaps, but remember those incessant campaign ads promising a return to the economic nirvana of the Clinton years? Well, George W. Bush cut rates across the board, not just for the top 2 percent. Going back to the Clinton rates means middle-class tax hikes that yield four times the revenue that you get from just the rich. So give Obama the full Clinton. Let him live with that. And with what also lies on the other side of the cliff: 28 million Americans newly subject to the ruinous alternative minimum tax. Republicans must stop acting like supplicants. If Obama so loves those Clinton rates, Republicans should say: Then go over the cliff and have them all. And add: But if you want a Grand Bargain, then deal. If we give way on taxes, we want, in return, serious discretionary cuts, clearly spelled-out entitlement cuts and real tax reform. Otherwise, strap on your parachute, Mr. President. We'll ride down together." --columnist Charles Krauthammer
From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) was first elected in the state's 20th congressional district in 2010, in part because he signed Grover Norquist's pledge to not raise taxes. Asked if he would keep that pledge now, he said no -- because he was re-elected to the 19th district.
As National Review's John Fund put it, "This comical maneuver should make Representative Gibson a laughing-stock. What if the New York legislature had kept his district number the same? Would he then be bound by it? About half of his new constituents were also in his old 20th district. Doesn't his pledge to them still hold?"
If the likes of Gibson are our last defense, we're in trouble.
Class Warfare President Preps for Hawaii
Residents in the area of the multi-million dollar beachfront homes near Kailuana Place in Hawaii, where Obama and his family, friends and entourage have vacationed each December since 2008, were alerted that he will be back in town for 20 days from Dec. 17 through Jan. 6.
Obama, who has been consuming millions of tax dollars for political junkets around the east coast to promote his class warfare "tax the rich" rhetoric in an effort to refrain from any government spending cuts, will again be vacationing with the rich and famous. While tens of millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet, Obama's vacation is conservatively estimated to cost taxpayers upwards of $20 million.
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Government and Politics
Judicial Benchmarks: Small Wins Against ObamaCare
There is some good news on ObamaCare this week. The Supreme Court ordered that the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, must consider the lawsuit brought by Liberty University alleging that ObamaCare violates religious liberty. Extending beyond just the HHS contraception mandate, this legal challenge opens the health law to a new line of attack that could provide for its overturning.
Additionally, Tyndale House Publishers, a large Bible publisher, as well as O'Brien Industrial Holdings in Missouri, won separate preliminary injunctions against the enforcement of the mandate that employers provide insurance that covers contraception -- even abortifacients. The White House offered exemptions from the mandate, but only to "religious institutions," which it then narrowly defined as churches and religious hospitals. Tyndale and many other businesses with and without explicit religious functions have sued to retain their First Amendment rights.
Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby lost a request for an injunction against the same mandate. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton wrote, "Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby ... have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion." Dear Judge Heaton, please read the First Amendment. It is not limited to churches.
Internet Power Grab
The United Nations has long proved itself irrelevant in the fight to defend global freedom, and often the world body is actively engaged in curtailing it. Next week, the UN's International Telecommunications Union will hold a conference in Dubai where some member states will propose international controls of Internet usage. These controls include charging fees to countries where companies send information over the web across international borders.
The proposal is backed by the likes of China, Russia, Iran and other authoritarian regimes that view the Internet's ability to freely share information as a dangerous threat to their hold on power. These countries would love nothing more than to see U.S. companies like Google and Yahoo dial back their international operations so that they may continue to suppress the truth and oppress their citizens. The power of the Internet to open up the world to new ideas lies in the fact that no one entity controls or regulates it. If that changes and the UN gets involved, it can only bode ill. The U.S. opposes the move, and we hope that prevails.
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
"We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations." --Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Guam)
House Election Loose Ends
Rep. Allen West (R-FL) conceded a hard fought House race last week to Democrat challenger Patrick Murphy. West, who was gerrymandered -- by Republicans -- out of his previous district, initially sought a full recount after his team discovered voting irregularities. Though Murphy's margin of victory was quite narrow, it wasn't narrow enough to trigger an automatic recount according to Florida law. West's team conducted recounts in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties and was able to claim a number of votes for West, but it wasn't enough to change the outcome of the election. Leftists rejoiced at the defeat of a black candidate by a white one after having targeted West as one of the most vocal members of the Tea Party coalition elected in 2010.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) became the latest in a long line of Democrat Chicago politicians to resign from office in disgrace. Jackson, who won re-election while "convalescing" at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic for a bipolar disorder, claimed that his illness was the reason for his resignation, but we think that's merely a cover. If he was concerned about his ability to carry out his duties, he shouldn't have run for re-election in the first place. The real reason for his departure is the ongoing FBI investigation into his abuse of campaign funds. His wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, is also under investigation for her possible role in the matter.
A special election will be held to fill the vacant seat that will assuredly go to another Democrat. One possible candidate is Debbie Halvorson, a former member of Congress who was squeezed out of office thanks to redistricting. Before that, she was a 12-year member of the Illinois State Senate. Yet another possible candidate is -- we kid you not -- Mel Reynolds, who was convicted of bank fraud and child sex, and who Jackson replaced 17 years ago.
New and Notable Legislation
The Senate is on the verge of passing the Sportsmen's Act of 2012, a wide-ranging bill that contains provisions for funding wildlife conservation programs, regulating hunting on federal lands, and other outdoor-related activities. Environmental groups are upset because the bill, authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), doesn't regulate lead content in bullets and fishing tackle, which environmentalists claim poisons wildlife in record numbers. They sought redress with the Environmental Protection Agency, but the EPA responded only by noting that the administration supports the bill. In fact, language in the bill specifically states that the EPA cannot regulate components "used in shot, bullets, and other projectiles," including arrows and fishing tackle. This isn't the first time that environmentalists have tried to push the EPA octopus to wrap its tentacles around hunting and fishing, and they have vowed to continue their fight.
Around the Nation: Ding Dong the Twinkie's Dead
Perhaps the week after our Thanksgiving celebration, with all of its (overly) generous portions of food, is a poor time to raise this subject, but Hostess, an American icon snack maker, is no more. The demise of Hostess Brands after a walkout by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union left Americans without the Twinkies, HoHos, Wonder Bread, and other Hostess products that used to fill store shelves.
While the union contended it was poor management and Wall Street greed that led to the end of Hostess, there were other factors that the union, through its support of leftist politicians and policies, had a hand in creating. The most obvious is the attack by do-gooders in government -- led by Michelle Obama -- who criticize American dietary habits, threaten to enact a "fat tax," and to otherwise curtail the marketing of Hostess' non-nutritious junk-food production. Another is the high cost of sweeteners, thanks to high tariffs supported by protectionist sugar growers. Still a third was a slew of union rules like one that prevented Wonder Bread from sharing a delivery truck with Twinkies, thereby requiring two union driving jobs instead of one.
Yet the Twinkie may come back, as Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn announced that suitors were lining up to purchase the rights and recipes to many Hostess brands. One possible buyer is El Grupo Bimbo, a Mexican-based company reputed to be the largest bread baker in the world. While Hostess couldn't make a profit here in America, the Mexican company could easily make Twinkies more affordably thanks to lower labor costs and cheaper sugar since there's no high tariff in Mexico. It's possible Wonder Bread could return to our grocers' shelves, but the jobs lost are likely lost to our country, not to mention Big Labor. Viva la Union!
Income Redistribution: Bailing Out the Bankrupt
Many of us believe the left hand of government doesn't know what the right hand is doing, and a recent grant payment by the Department of Energy proves (again) that the government is throwing our money down rat holes. In October, lithium ion battery maker A123 declared bankruptcy after a last-minute financing deal with a Chinese company fell through. However, that very same day the DoE gave A123 another $946,830 payment on a $249 million grant, as A123 had already burned through $133 million. An incurious media didn't report on this until after the election.
Granted, the payment was already in the pipeline before the company made its formal bankruptcy filing, but for several months it was well known that the troubled A123 was looking for a financial white knight to come to its rescue. A cursory reading of the news (including our own features) would have revealed that the electric car market on which it depended was limping along with sales at only a fraction of expectations. In August A123 announced that they were negotiating with Wanxiang Group, a Chinese auto parts maker, to acquire a majority share of the company in exchange for further financing. DoE had to have some inkling that trouble was brewing, but it's not their money, and A123 is a politically correct company to support.
Our educated readership undoubtedly knows that UN ambassador Susan Rice trotted out to the Sunday morning talk shows immediately after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, to parrot the trope that the anti-Islam video on YouTube incited spontaneous protests that caused four American deaths. Rice is still under fire for that, more so because she's the leading candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in Obama's second-term administration.
Several Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (AZ), Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Susan Collins (ME) met with Rice to try to get to the bottom of the story -- what did she know and when, and why, given that the administration already knew it was a coordinated terrorist attack by al-Qa'ida, did she continue insisting that the video caused the attack? All four expressed dismay at Rice's explanations. Ayotte promised to put a hold on any further nomination because she said Rice "misled the American public," not just about the attack itself, but by absurdly claiming on the same Sunday shows that al-Qa'ida had been "decimated." Of course, this has been the administration's deceptive narrative ever since Barack Obama -- er, the Navy SEALs -- killed Osama bin Laden.
Now, even the Left is realizing that a Rice nomination is overcooked. In fact, a leftist blog set the stage for Rice's exit, pointing to her "significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline." Against "company" policy, she would benefit greatly from the construction of the very pipeline Obama has promised to scuttle. Consider her pending appointment cancelled. John Kerry can now begin preparing his own testimony to take the post.
Taking Morsi Power
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his supporters are taking damage control measures after Morsi last week declared himself above the law, thus prompting large protests in Cairo and elsewhere. By asserting that Egyptian judges could not overturn presidential edicts, Morsi appeared to be consolidating his power in a move straight out of the Dictator's Handbook. But, apparently unexpected by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, ordinary Egyptians were having none of it, and they flooded Tahrir Square in protests that quickly turned violent.
Morsi's handlers subsequently changed their tune, claiming on Wednesday that Morsi's powers might only last until the new constitution could be ratified -- an assembly passed it Friday, but ratification could be weeks away. This, too, is straight out of the Dictator's Handbook, and was precisely the tool former president Hosni Mubarak used to claim sweeping powers: Declare the president must have extraordinary powers during a time of emergency; claim the emergency is only temporary; then ensure the "emergency" lasts forever, and with it the president's power. (Sound familiar?) It seems that the new constitution will perpetuate the "emergency."
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's clumsy attempts to consolidate power raised memories of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Islamists who took power by force in the vacuum left by the Shah's departure. But Egyptians have access to modern social media and a large foreign media presence, both of which were largely absent in Iran in 1979. It will be vastly more difficult for Morsi and the Brotherhood to replicate the Khomeini takeover.
More worrisome is the example set by the Gaza Palestinians who in 2006 were given a free election for the first time and promptly elected Hamas. With the Muslim Brotherhood composing the largest voting bloc in Egypt, a national referendum on the new constitution could enshrine powers just as oppressive as any traditional dictator's with the fig leaf of democratic law to cover it. Western and especially U.S. political pressure must be exerted to the fullest extent to prevent that outcome, and there is no time to waste.
Israel Is UN-dermined Again
Thursday was the 65th anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to establish the independent Jewish state that is modern Israel, and to provide for a Palestinian state that they rejected. Fast forward to 2012, and Nov. 29 also became the day, Fox News reports, that the "U.N. General Assembly ... voted in favor of Palestinian statehood, after the Palestinians asked it to recognize a non-member state of Palestine in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, and the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip." The vote was 138-9, with 41 nations abstaining.
The vote does not immediately establish full statehood -- that depends on negotiations with Israel -- though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it an "investment in peace." Of course, the move has nothing to do with peace. The Palestinians are planning to use the vote as leverage against Israel, and could very well now pursue "war crimes" charges against the Jewish state at the International Criminal Court, even as Hamas has been firing rockets into Israel for much of the past month. In reality, the vote likely delays a Palestinian state.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Beyond 2014
With the end of 2014 fast approaching and bringing with it Barack Obama's deadline for the full withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, negotiations continue for the maintenance of some sort of residual American troop presence in the continuously troubled country after that date. The Obama regime is looking to keep some 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when formal combat comes to an end in 2014, assuming Kabul agrees. That number of troops would be the median of the recommendation of General John Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Allen, who is tangentially embroiled in the scandal involving former general and CIA director David Petraeus, proposed a force between 6,000 and 15,000 U.S. combat troops to conduct training and counterterrorism efforts when the U.S. and NATO formally conclude their mission at the end of 2014.
Any U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014 would require the consent of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A long-term bilateral security agreement is currently being discussed, and Afghan officials have said that Karzai is willing to accept a U.S. troop presence after 2014, as long as "key demands" are met. No doubt one of those key demands is some sort of significant financial assistance for Kabul, but a key, possibly deal-breaking, demand is that American troops would fall under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts. Iraq's government had a similar demand in 2011, which the U.S. rightly refused. This led to a U.S. withdrawal with no residual American force left in Iraq, causing the U.S. to be blamed for rising instability in that country. Still, U.S. forces cannot be put under Islamic courts, and the Obama regime should hold fast on that point in Afghanistan, too.
Obama Writing Drone Strike Rules
Since Barack Obama has used the technique far more than his predecessor, George W. Bush -- who was continually maligned by the Left for what they considered serial human rights abuses -- the president began to write a set of rules regarding the usage of drones to take out terrorist suspects. Perhaps the most famous victim of a drone strike is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who was killed in Yemen in September 2011. But over 2,500 have been killed in 300 drone strikes since Obama took office.
These rules were being debated by the Obama administration for months, but work on them became more focused when the election results were in doubt -- the intention was to have them in place before Mitt Romney took office. With the election in the bag and extra "flexibility" available to Obama, these rules can disappear down the memory hole.
This stance, of course, is at odds with a regime that promised to close the terrorist holding facility at Guantanamo Bay and toyed with the idea of using a failed Illinois prison to house captured terrorists. Obama has clearly decided that killing terrorists with drones is a lot less messy than capturing and holding them and trying to exact usable intelligence from them. The easy way out is generally the Obama way.
Faith and Family: It's That Time of Year
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas -- thanks not to yuletide and mistletoe but to the never-ending barrage of atheistic whining intent on eradicating any religious context from the celebration of Christ's birth. In Santa Monica, California, atheists launched their annual protest against the traditional nativity display. Unfortunately, this year the city caved rather than expend energy (a.k.a. display backbone) in the fight. We aren't surprised by this opposition. After all, Christmas has been unpopular in some quarters ever since the first one.
Christmas isn't the only holiday falling prey to the anti-God agenda, either. Barack Obama issued his Thanksgiving address without giving any thanks to God for the blessings we enjoy. Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation included gratitude to God, but as the Daily Caller notes, the "proclamation is lower profile than the address." And in the more widely heard address, the president omitted the very reason the early Pilgrims gathered: to thank God. Instead, his focus was a call to unity behind his own agenda.
While we're at it, let's bring Easter into the fray. A painting currently on display in Boston shows Obama wearing a crown of thorns and posing as a crucified Christ. The artist argued, "The crucifixion of the president was meant metaphorically. My intent was not to compare him to Jesus." We're not buying it -- the Left generally treats Obama as messianic. Actor Jamie Foxx recently took this to a new level, saying at the recent Soul Train awards, "First of all, give an honor to God and our lord and savior Barack Obama." In all of these cases, had the religion under attack been anything but Christianity, the outcry would have been deafening. Ironically, Scripture foretells these attacks. The Left should be appalled to know their actions are proving Scripture true.
Village Academic Curriculum: Tracking Chips
It seems schools will do anything these days to secure funding, even in Texas. The Northside School District in San Antonio is testing a new program that will electronically monitor the whereabouts of its students. Beginning this fall, two high schools began requiring students to carry identification cards embedded with microchips. The chips then send signals to electronic panels in the schools' ceilings. If the trial run is successful, the district will expand the program to all of its 97,000 students.
Not everyone is taking this lying down. Last weekend, a 16-year-old student posted a message online claiming he had teamed up with the hacker group Anonymous to break into the district's website. The system was indeed down the next day, but school administrators said they "couldn't confirm" that it was hacked. While the student claimed he was protesting a threat to his freedom, Anonymous probably has very different motives. In the past the group has hacked into Visa and MasterCard databases, law enforcement agencies and the Church of Scientology.
Others have also found the monitoring program objectionable. A female student, citing religious reasons, refused to participate, then brought the case to court when the principal threatened to kick her out of school. Proponents of the program claimed it's necessary to increase attendance; however, the judge wasn't convinced. He ruled that the principal violated the student's speech and religious rights under the First Amendment. He didn't rule whether the program in general is unconstitutional.
Don't Tickle Me, Elmo
Recall that during the first presidential debate in Denver Mitt Romney argued that an example of runaway government spending was public funding for programs like Sesame Street. Seeking an offensive opportunity after an embarrassing debate performance, Obama and his Leftist media quickly jumped on the remark, arguing that Romney's goal was to "kill" Big Bird. His campaign even launched an ad suggesting that Romney's motive was to protect "greedy" criminals by creating a distraction: "Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about; it's Sesame Street."
But what's your tax money paying for over at PBS? After 28 years as the Elmo puppeteer, Kevin Clash was forced to resign last week amid allegations that he had sex with underage boys that he met through a homosexual website. Three accusers have come forward claiming that Clash lured them into having a relationship, and there are possibly more victims involved. Sesame Workshop, the corporation behind the show, said that the issues were "a distraction that none of us want." Indeed -- not when federal funding is involved!
It's your tax dollars at work, and it appears there's been more damage than some ruffled (yellow) feathers.
Sometimes the media, whether it's our own sycophantic Leftmedia or another nation's state-controlled media, gets duped. First, China's Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, reported on Tuesday that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un had been named the "Sexiest Man Alive," and they ran a 55-photo slideshow to go along with it. The trouble is that their source was an American satirical website called The Onion, which they quoted at length in its over-the-top description of North Korea's Communist thug. The Onion took note, mockingly thanking their "Communist subsidiary" for their "exemplary reportage, comrades." Given the stuff that passes for "news" on MSNBC or in The New York Times, however, one can hardly criticize the Chinese.
If that's not funny enough, Time magazine furthered its journey to irrelevance by announcing that Sandra Fluke, the 30-something former Georgetown student who spent the year whining that she can't afford enough contraception and needs you to pay for it, is a finalist for the rag's "Person of the Year" award. If they keep that up, People's Daily will start confusing Time with The Onion.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team