Three Things You Need to Know – February 5, 2018

The Memo is Released

The FISA memo bomb has been dropped. It pretty much confirmed everything Republicans had been talking about in interviews for the past two weeks. If you watched cable news last week you pretty much know everything that’s in the memo. Is that why the information was a little - I don't know - underwhelming? For being billed as a memo full of classified information, I struggled to find anything in it that could be considered damaging to national security. That makes the Democrats, FBI and DoJ look kind of ridiculous in trying to block it’s release.

But it also makes Republicans look a little ridiculous in all the build up and hype that led up to Friday’s release. Now, don’t get me wrong, the information within the memo is interesting. The GOP is accusing the FBI and DoJ of lying to the FISA court in order to get a warrant for former Trump advisor Carter Page. They claim that the Steele Dossier was listed in the initial FISA application, but the roles of Fusion GPS, the DNC and the Clinton campaign were never mentioned. If that’s true then the FBI and DoJ were knowingly trying to pass off partisan opposition research as actual intelligence, AND they hid the truth from the court, not once, but four times.

This all looks really bad, but it’s also only half of the story. Democrats have written their own rebuttal memo, and a vote for its release is expected later today. We can also expect to hear from the FBI AND DoJ at some point as well. Will The Great Memo Wars of 2018 reveal anything new, or will it descend into a giant “liar liar pants on fire” slap fight? Either way, more transparency is still the answer. So get ready for a flood of memos. This is either going to be very enlightening, or brutally painful.

Powerful Super Bowl Ads

A beautiful newborn baby cries and fidgets in her hospital bed. She is perfect. A nurse lifts her up to comfort her. It’s revealed that the child is missing both legs below the knee and one arm.

She is still perfect.

Toyota hit the ball out of the park with its compelling Super Bowl commercial about Paralympic Gold Medalist Lauren Woolstencroft. In 60 seconds, we saw her birth, her struggles to use her mechanical limbs, her failures, and her victories.

People who believe in eugenics see no quality of life for those born with deformities. How can they possibly think that after watching Lauren thrive and go on to win eight gold medals?

In that one minute, Toyota showed the world that all life matters. It’s important to note that no cars are mentioned in the ad, because that wasn’t the point. Toyota is transitioning into a “mobility company” and they wanted to show that the technology they are developing will help humanity.

Dodge also opted to showcase their new technology, but the carmaker was heavily criticized for their commercial.

The commercial featured a new Dodge Ram truck helping bring supplies and volunteers to communities hit by natural disasters. The controversial part? Dodge used Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech on serving in the background.

People were outraged that Dodge would use MLK’s words to sell cars.

I don’t see it that way.

I think anytime Martin Luther King Jr’s words are broadcast and remembered is a good thing.

We need to hear his words, especially now.

Yes, Dodge is selling their new Ram, but they are also selling what you can do with that vehicle: Serve others.

In 120 seconds, the Toyota and Dodge commercials conveyed the message that advancements in technology can be used for good—it’s up to us to use it that way.

The Gender-Neutralization of 'O Canada'

If progressivism is a disease, Canada is terminally ill with it. The U.S. prognosis is probably critical condition.

On Wednesday, Canada’s Senate approved changing a line in the English version of their national anthem, “O Canada,” to make it gender neutral. The second line of the anthem will now be “True patriot love in all of us command” rather than the oppressive, insanely offensive old version, “True patriot love in all thy sons command.”

Now that their anthem isn’t sexist anymore, Canadians can finally feel free to sing it again.

Somehow, I doubt the Canadian senators checked with the people because that’s not how progressives operate. I bet most Canadians would’ve preferred leaving the anthem alone. They’ve had the song that way for over a century and no one died of sexism because of it.

Canadian feminist author Margaret Atwood was one of the people behind this effort. She wrote the novel The Handmaid’s Tale. You can look that one up for insight into her feelings on tradition, faith, and conservatism. She’s real subtle.

This is the dark side of progressivism everywhere – it presumes to know what’s best for the people. But it’s always the agenda of a few, forced on the majority. Or sometimes the agenda, or feelings of just one individual. Progressivism thinks it is promoting more freedom, when often it is tyranny. So, you get things like Michelle Obama dictating to your local school what cafeteria food it can serve. Or one mother in Webster Parish, Louisiana who recently got student-led prayer banned at her daughter’s high school.

Respect for tradition as a stabilizing, enriching agent in society is one of the key diverging points of the Left and Right in the U.S. Decades of progressivism chipping away at things like religion, the flag, the Constitution, and patriotism in general, all the way to Obama’s apologizing tour of a presidency, has created an enormous backlash from heartland Americans. To the point that a whole section of Trump’s State of the Union speech was a lecture on respecting the flag, anthem, and motto. It’s just sad that we’ve sunk so low that the State of the Union has turned into a pep rally about who has more team spirit.

It’s easy to laugh at those Canadians for wimping out on their anthem. But progressivism is a persistent disease, so don’t think it can’t happen here.

MORE 3 THINGS

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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