Three Things You Need to Know - September 18, 2017

New York City is being invaded. By diplomats.

It’s UN week.

There are 193 member states of the United Nations, and the chaos and confusion they bring to the streets of New York City is an unintentional metaphor for what’s going on inside their organization.

Does anyone have confidence in the UN anymore? Did we ever? Billions of dollars pour into this international organization and yet they rank near dead last in every category they lead.

Have you ever been to a UN refugee camp? They’re awful. People just sit there waiting to die. Among aid agencies, the UN is ranked near the worst in the world.

Fraud, corruption and mismanagement follow the UN wherever they go.

UN peacekeepers caused a cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010.

Their employees have been accused of sexual exploitation in over 10 countries. On top of all that, UN personnel cannot be sued in national courts, arrested, or prosecuted for their actions.

President Trump has been a vocal critic of the UN. Today, he’s meeting with representatives of 120 other member states that have had enough. They’re pushing for long-overdue reform, but two nations are curiously missing. Both Russia and China are refusing to attend.

Why is that? Why wouldn’t 2 of the 5 permanent members of the UN security council be interested in reforming this dumpster fire we call the UN?

Follow the money. The United States cuts an $8 billion check to the UN every year. We supply nearly a quarter of the entire UN budget. And they say we aren’t exceptional.

Of course, China and Russia want the status quo. Look at what they get in return. The UN provides them a check on US power through their security council veto, it costs them little money in return, and they make us pay disproportionately for it!

The time for bankrolling corrupt, failing and all-powerful international organizations is over. The time for reform is now.

What is your protest strategy?

Broken glass littered the sidewalk.

The debris was evidence of what had occurred hours earlier --- chaos.

Shop and restaurant owners in University City outside St. Louis woke up early to sweep the glass from the broken windows of their businesses.

They were innocent victims of the violence that erupted after Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder on Friday. Stockley is a white former police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011 during a car chase.

It’s a colossal failure of our nation that more of our citizens don’t understand that this is not what we do here. Rioting, looting, destruction, chaos --- that’s the way they do things in totalitarian countries, socialist countries, under-developed countries. That chaos is what a lot of immigrants come here to get away from.

If you want to protest something that you had nothing to with and don’t understand all the details, go ahead. That’s your call. Just do it in a peaceful manner. Remember Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. --- their protest strategy was never violent. They knew riots would not work.

The moment you smash a window of a small business, messing up that owner’s effort and right to make a living, you forfeit your ability to be heard. You’re no longer a protester at that point. You’re a felon.

Medicare for all?

When the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

And the bespectacled Bernie Sanders wants to lead the country into a massive pit.

The independent senator from Vermont --- who calls himself a “democratic socialist” has proposed a Medicare for all, single-payer health care system.

The plan would repeal Obamacare and replace it with a huge expansion of Medicare --- large enough to open the government-run program to all Americans.

This proposal is no longer just a dream of the far left --- it enjoys the support of 16 Democrat senators.

A list that includes Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kristen Gillibrand and Kamala Harris.

If this list sounds familiar --- it’s because these are names being tossed around as possible candidates for president in 2020.

It sounds great, but there’s a big problem with Bernie’s proposal --- it’s lacking in details.

Specifically, how to pay for it.

But Bernie already knows this:

You want to guarantee that all people have access to health care as you do in Canada. But I think what we understand is that unless we change the funding system and the control mechanism in this country to do that --- for example, if we expanded Medicaid [to] everybody. Give everybody a Medicaid card --- we would be spending such an astronomical sum of money that, you know, we would bankrupt the nation.

That was Bernie in 1987. He’s avoiding the details --- because he’s well aware of the costs.

They’re astronomical.

When the blind lead the blind --- both shall fall into the ditch.

Democrats follow Bernie at their own peril.


This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

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