State of the Union

Filling Ideology’s Absence

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On our TV talk shows and op-ed pages, and in our think tanks here, there is rising alarm over events abroad. And President Obama is widely blamed for the perceived decline in worldwide respect for the United States. Yet, still, one hears no clamor from Middle America for “Action This Day!” to alter the perception that America is in retreat. If a single sentence could express the seeming indifference of the silent majority of Americans to what is going on abroad, it might be the simple question: “Why is this our problem?”

If a Russian or Ukrainian flag flies over Simferopol, why should that be of such concern to us that we send U.S. warships, guns, or troops? If Japan and China fight over islets 10,000 miles away, islets that few Americans can find on a map, why should we get into it? And, truth be told, the answers of our elites are unconvincing. One explanation for America’s turning away from these wars is that we see no vital interest in these conflicts—from Syria to Crimea, Afghanistan to Iraq, the South China Sea to the Senkaku Islands.

Moreover, the prime motivator of a half-century of sacrifice in a Cold War that cost us trillions and 90,000 dead in Korea and Vietnam—the belief we were leading the forces of light in a struggle against the forces of darkness that ruled the Sino-Soviet Empire—is gone. The great ideological struggle of the 20th century between totalitarianism and freedom, communism and capitalism, militant atheism and Christianity is over. The Communist empire collapsed. Only the remnants remain in backwaters like Cuba. Marxism-Leninism as an ideology guiding great powers is a dead faith. The Communist party may rule China, but state capitalism has produced Chinese billionaires who do not wave around Little Red Books. Lenin’s remains may lie in Red Square, and Mao’s in Tiananmen Square, but these are tourist sites, not shrines to secular saviors who remain objects of worship.

The one region where religion or ideology drives men to fight and die to create a world based on the tenets of the faith is in the Islamic world. Yet, as CIA Director Richard Helms observed, the three nations that had adopted Islamist ideology—the Afghanistan of the Taliban, the Ayatollah’s Iran and Sudan—all became failed states. Read More…

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Reagan’s Lessons for Dealing with Russia

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President Reagan was holding a meeting in the Cabinet Room on March 25, 1985, when Press Secretary Larry Speakes came over to me, as communications director, with a concern. The White House was about to issue a statement on the killing of Major Arthur Nicholson, a U.S. army officer serving in East Germany. Maj. Nicholson had been shot in cold blood by a Russian soldier. Speakes thought the president’s statement, “This violence was unjustified,” was weak. I agreed. We interrupted the president, who reread the statement, then said go ahead with it.

What lay behind this Reagan decision not to express his own and his nation’s disgust and anger at this atrocity?  Since taking office, Reagan had sought to engage Soviet leaders in negotiations, but, as he told me, “they keep dying on me.” Two weeks earlier, on March 10, 1985, Konstantin Chernenko, the third Soviet premier in Reagan’s term, had died, and the youngest member of the Politburo, Mikhail Gorbachev, had been named to succeed him. Believing Gorbachev had no role in the murder of Maj. Nicholson, and seeking a summit with the new Soviet leader to ease Cold War tensions, Reagan decided not to express what must have been in his heart.

Which raises a question many Republicans are asking: What would Reagan do—in Syria, Crimea, Ukraine? Is Sen. Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, or Gov. Jeb Bush or Chris Christie the candidate most in the Reagan tradition, the gold standard for the GOP? We cannot know what he would do, as we live in a post-Cold War world. But we do know what Reagan did. In the battle over the Panama Canal “giveaway,” Reagan stood against Bill Buckley and much of his movement and party. “We bought it, we paid for it, it’s ours, and we’re gonna keep it,” he thundered.

The Senate agreed 2-1 with Jimmy Carter to surrender the Canal to Panama’s dictator. Reagan’s consolation prize? The presidency. Reagan came to office declaring Vietnam “a noble cause” and determined to rebuild U.S. military might and morale, which he did in spades. His defense budgets broke the spine of a Soviet Union that could not compete with the booming America of the Reagan era. What’s our strategy, his first National Security Council adviser Dick Allen asked him. Replied Reagan: “We win, they lose.” Reagan saw clearly the crucial moral dimension of the ideological struggle between communism and freedom. He called the Soviet Bloc “an evil empire.”

Yet he never threatened military intervention in Eastern Europe, as some bellicose Republicans do today. Reagan would not be rattling sabers over Crimea or Ukraine. Read More…

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Brendan Eich: First on the New Blacklist

“There is a gay mafia,” said Bill Maher, “if you cross them you do get whacked.”

Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time,” was talking about the gay activists and their comrades who drove Brendan Eich out as CEO of Mozilla. Eich, who invented JavaScript and co-founded Mozilla in 1998, had been named chief executive in late March.

Instantly, he came under attack for having contributed $1,000 to Proposition 8, whereby a majority of Californians voted in 2008 to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage. Prop 8 was backed by the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, and the black churches, and carried 70 percent of the African-American vote. Though Eich apologized for any “pain” he had caused and pledged to promote equality for gays and lesbians at Mozilla, his plea for clemency failed to move his accusers. Too late. According to the Guardian, he quit after it was revealed that he had also contributed—”The horror, the horror!”—to the Buchanan campaign of 1992. That cooked it. What further need was there of proof of the irredeemably malevolent character of Brendan Eich?

Observing the mob run this accomplished man out of a company he helped create, Andrew Sullivan blogged that Eich “has just been scalped” by gay activists. Sullivan went on: ”Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole thing disgusts me, as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.”

Yet, the purge of Eich, who, from his contributions—he also gave to Ron Paul—appears to be a traditionalist and libertarian—is being defended as a triumph of the First Amendment. James Ball of the Guardian writes that far from being “a defeat for freedom of expression,” Eich’s removal is a “victory—the ouster of a founder and CEO by his own people, at a foundation based on open and equal expression.” Eich’s forced resignation, writes Ball, “should be the textbook example of the system working exactly as it should.”

Ball seems to be saying that what the gay mob did to Eich at Mozilla is what the heroes of Maidan Square did in driving President Viktor Yanukovych out of power and out of his country. This is how the democracy works now. Mitchell Baker, the executive chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation, who escorted Eich out, said in her statement: “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”

George Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour. What Baker is saying is that you have freedom of speech, so long as you use your speech to advocate equality. Read More…

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Vladimir Putin, Christian Crusader?

In his Kremlin defense of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin, even before he began listing the battles where Russian blood had been shed on Crimean soil, spoke of an older deeper bond.

Crimea, said Putin, “is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

Russia is a Christian country, Putin was saying. This speech recalls last December’s address where the former KGB chief spoke of Russia as standing against a decadent West:

Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.

Heard any Western leader, say, Barack Obama, talk like that lately?

Indicting the “Bolsheviks” who gave away Crimea to Ukraine, Putin declared, “May God judge them.” What is going on here? With Marxism-Leninism a dead faith, Putin is saying the new ideological struggle is between a debauched West led by the United States and a traditionalist world Russia would be proud to lead. In the new war of beliefs, Putin is saying, it is Russia that is on God’s side. The West is Gomorrah.

Western leaders who compare Putin’s annexation of Crimea to Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria, who dismiss him as a “KGB thug,” who call him “the alleged thief, liar and murderer who rules Russia,” as Wall Street Journal‘s Holman Jenkins did, believe Putin’s claim to stand on higher moral ground is beyond blasphemous. Read More…

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Sheldon Adelson, Iran, and the GOP

For four days ending Sunday, a quartet of presidential hopefuls trooped to Las Vegas to attend the annual gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Impresario: Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas-Macau casino mogul whose fortune is estimated at $39 billion—8th richest man on the planet—and who dumped $92 million into the election of 2012. Adelson kept Newt Gingrich alive with a $15 million infusion of ad money, gutting Romney, and then sank $30 million into Mitt’s campaign.

This time Sheldon wants to buy himself a winner.

Ari Fleischer, press secretary to Bush 43, and a member of Adelson’s RJC fiefdom, put it plain and simple: “The ‘Sheldon Primary’ is an important primary. … anybody running for the Republican nomination would want to have Sheldon at his side.” One such man is Jeb Bush, son and brother to presidents, who was the prize bull at Sheldon’s cattle show. Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times speculates on Jeb’s motive in showing up:

Would you slink into Las Vegas to schmooze gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson who regards GOP presidential nominees as if they were trophy heads mounted in his den, if you had no interest in the White House? Bush is not going to Vegas to catch Meat Loaf’s act at Planet Hollywood.

The 2016 presidential hopefuls “are falling at his feet,” said a veteran Republican strategist of the 80-year-old oligarch. Each of those who came—Bush, Chris Christie, and Govs. Scott Walker and John Kasich—apparently auditioned, one by one, before the godfather. In 2016, says Adelson’s top political adviser Andy Abboud, Sheldon’s “bar for support is going to be much higher. … There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny.” Guess that means no more Newts.

Victor Chaltiel, a major donor and Adelson friend who sits on the board of Las Vegas Sands, tells us Sheldon “doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee.” Adds Shawn Steel, a big California GOP money man, Sheldon is a “very rational guy.” Perhaps. But last fall at Yeshiva University, this “very rational guy” gave this response to a question from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on whether he supports U.S. negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program:

No. What do you mean support negotiations? What are we going to negotiate about? What I would say is, ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ … You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’

So, there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.

And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.

‘You want to be peaceful. Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’

Adelson’s response was recorded by Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss website who was at Yeshiva and filmed the interview. Weiss says the audience cheered Adelson’s proposed nuclear strike on Iran and no one on the stage, not Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, peeped a word of dissent. And this is a “very rational guy,” who doesn’t want “a crazy extremist to be the nominee”? Read More…

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Putin and the Soviet Shipwreck

As the old saying goes, you cannot truly understand a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. Perhaps Americans, a fortunate tribe, should try to see the world from the vantage point of the Russian people and Vladimir Putin, and, as the poet Robert Burns said, “see ourselves as others see us.” At 35, Putin was a rising star in the elite secret police, the KGB, of a superpower with a worldwide empire. The USSR was almost three times as large as the United States. Its European quadrant was half of the Old Continent. The Soviet Empire extended from the Elbe River in Central Germany to the Bering Strait across from Alaska. It encompassed thirteen time zones.

North to south, the USSR reached from above the Arctic Circle down to the Middle East. Beyond the contiguous empire were Soviet bases from Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam to Tartus in Syria to Cienfuegos in Cuba. Consider, then, what the last dozen years of the 20th century must have been like for proud Russian patriots and nationalists.

First, the European empire suddenly and wholly collapsed. East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria all broke away to join the West. The Red Army came home, undefeated, but also unwanted and even detested. The Warsaw Pact, the rival to NATO, dissolved. Eastern Europe, which Russians believe they had liberated from the Nazis at a monumental cost in blood, turned its back on Russia, hailed the Americans as liberators, and queued up to join a U.S.-led alliance created to contain Russia.

Then, as Germany was reuniting, the Soviet Union began to break apart—what Putin calls the great tragedy of the 20th century. One-fourth of the nation he grew up in and half its people vanished. Tens of millions of Russians were left stranded in foreign lands.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia departed first, leaving Russia with a tiny enclave on the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad, the old Prussian city of Konigsberg, isolated and wedged between Poland and Lithuania. Russia has no other outlet to the Baltic except St. Petersburg at the top of the tiny narrow Gulf of Finland. Russian warships must now pass between Helsinki and Tallinn even to get out into the Baltic. The great Russian navy of Adm. Sergei Gorshkov is history. Read More…

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Europe’s Bonds Begin to Fade

A week ago, in the St. George’s Hall in the Kremlin, Russia’s elite cheered and wept as Vladimir Putin announced the re-annexation of Crimea. Seven in 10 Russians approve of Putin’s rule. In Crimea, the Russian majority has not ceased celebrating. The re-conquest nears completion. In Eastern Ukraine, Russians have now begun to agitate for annexation by Moscow. Ukrainian nationalism, manifest in the anti-Russia coup in Kiev, has produced its inevitable reaction among Russians. While praising the Ukrainians who came out to Maidan to protest peacefully, Putin said that those behind the decisive events “resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup.” The Kremlin erupted in cheers.

But not only in Ukraine is ethnic nationalism surging.

“National Front Vote Stuns Hollande” was the headline on the Financial Times’ story about France’s municipal elections Sunday. Though the FN of Marine Le Pen, daughter of party founder Jean Marie Le Pen, did not field candidates in many cities, it won the mayoral race outright in Henin-Beaumont and ran first or second in a dozen medium-sized cities, qualifying for run-off elections on March 30. ”The National Front has arrived as a major independent force — a political force both at the national and local levels,” declared Le Pen.

No one is arguing the point. Indeed, a measure of panic has set in for the socialist party of Francois Hollande, which is calling on all parties to unite against FN candidates. In early polling for the May elections for the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the National Front is running close behind the UMP of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, and ahead of Hollande’s socialists. Begun as an anti-immigrant, anti-EU Party, the FN has broadened its base to issues like crime and unemployment.

But the most startling news on the nationalist front last week came in Venice and the Veneto region, where 89 percent of a large turnout in a non-binding referendum voted to secede from Italy and re-establish the Venetian republic that vanished in 1866. Exulted Luca Zaia of the separatist Northern League, “The will for secession is growing very strong. We are only at the Big Bang of the movement—but revolutions are born of hunger and we are now hungry. Venice can now escape.” The proposed “Repubblica Veneta” would embrace five million inhabitants of Veneto. Should it succeed in seceding, Lombardy and Trentino would likely follow, bringing about a partition of Italy. Sardinia is also reportedly looking for an exit.

In readying their referendum, Venetians journeyed to Scotland to observe preparations by the Scottish National Party for the vote this fall to sever the 1707 Act of Union with England. Also observing in Scotland were representatives of Catalonia who will hold a similar referendum this fall on secession from Spain. Basque Country secessionists were present in Scotland as well.

In a report published this weekend, “Europe on Trial,” a poll of 20,000 British commissioned by Lord Ashcroft of the Conservative Party found that Russia (before the Kiev-Crimea crisis) was viewed more favorably than either the EU or European Parliament. By 49-31, British think the costs of membership in the EU outweigh the benefits and they are now evenly divided, 41-41, on whether to get out of the union altogether.

Prime Minister David Cameron has set a vote on EU membership for 2017. Now it appears the Labour Party, seeing the unpopularity of the EU, may also be open to changing the EU treaty and a referendum on saying goodbye to Europe, should they take power in 2015.

Why is the EU under rising centrifugal pressure? Why do so many nations of Europe seem on the verge of breaking up? There is no single or simple explanation.

Venice and Northern Italy feel exploited. Why, they ask, should we subsidize a less industrious and lazier south that consumes tax revenues we raise here. Many northern Italians believe they have more in common with Swiss than Romans, Neapolitans, or Sicilians. Flanders feels the same about the Walloons in Belgium. Scots and Catalans believe they are a people with a culture, history and identity separate from the nations to which they belong.

Across Europe, there is a fear that the ethnic character of their countries and continent are being altered forever against the will of the people. Western Europeans are recoiling at the Bulgarians, Rumanians and gypsies arriving from Eastern Europe. Asylum seekers, economic refugees and migrants in the scores of thousands arrive annually on the Italian island of Lampedusa and in the Spanish Canaries. Early this month, the New York Times reported a surge of 80,000 African migrants headed for the tiny Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast.

The goal these desperate people seek: the mother countries of the Old Continent and the wealthy welfare states of Northern Europe. What the children of Europe are rebelling against is what their fathers, paralyzed by political correctness, refused to prevent. It was predictable, it was predicted, and it has come to pass.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

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America’s Overextended War Guarantees

Sweeping through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania this week, Joe Biden reassured all three that the United States’ commitment to Article Five of the NATO treaty remains “solemn” and “iron clad.” Article Five commits us to war if the territory of any of these tiny Baltic nations is violated by Russia. From World War II to the end of the Cold War, all three were Soviet republics. All three were on the other side of the Yalta line agreed to by FDR, and on the other side of the NATO red line, the Elbe River in Germany. No president would have dreamed of waging war with Russia over them. Now, under the new NATO, we must. Joe Biden was affirming war guarantees General Eisenhower would have regarded as insane.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that in the Ukraine crisis, “All options are on the table.” John McCain wants to begin moving Ukraine into NATO, guaranteeing that any Russian move on the Russified east of Ukraine would mean war with the United States. Forty members of Congress have written Kerry urging that Georgia, routed in a war it started with Russia over South Ossetia in 2008, be put on a path to membership in NATO. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, other voices are calling for expanding NATO to bring in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and for moving U.S. troops and warplanes into Poland and the Baltic republics.

President Obama says, “All options are on the table” if Iran does not give us solid assurances she is not building a bomb. Members of Congress support U.S. military action against Iran, if Tehran does not surrender even the “capability” to build a bomb. End all enrichment of uranium, or America attacks, they warn.

In the Far East we are committed to defend Japan if China seizes the Senkakus that Beijing claims as Chinese territory, a collection of rocks in the East China Sea. If Kim Jong-Un starts a war with South Korea, we are committed by treaty to fight a second Korean War. We are committed by treaty to defend the Philippines. And if China acts on its claim to the southern islands of the South China Sea, and starts a shooting war with Manila’s navy, we are likely in it.

Is this not an awful lot on Uncle Sam’s plate? Read More…

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Who and What Is Vladimir Putin?

Vladimir Putin on a 2010 visit to Kiev, Ukraine. Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com
Vladimir Putin on a 2010 visit to Kiev, Ukraine. Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com

Vladimir Putin seems to have lost touch with reality, Angela Merkel reportedly told Barack Obama after speaking with the Russian president. He is “in another world.” ”I agree with what Angela Merkel said … that he is in another world,” said Madeleine Albright, “It doesn’t make any sense.” John Kerry made his contribution to the bonkers theory by implying that Putin was channeling Napoleon: “You don’t just, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.”

Now that Putin has taken Crimea without firing a shot, and 95 percent of a Crimean electorate voted Sunday to reunite with Russia, do his decisions still appear irrational? Was it not predictable that Russia, a great power that had just seen its neighbor yanked out of Russia’s orbit by a U.S.-backed coup in Kiev, would move to protect a strategic position on the Black Sea she has held for two centuries? Zbigniew Brzezinski suggests that Putin is out to recreate the czarist empire. Others say Putin wants to recreate the Soviet Union and Soviet Empire.

But why would Russia, today being bled in secessionist wars by Muslim terrorists in the North Caucasus provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, want to invade and reannex giant Kazakhstan, or any other Muslim republic of the old USSR, which would ensure jihadist intervention and endless war? If we Americans want out of Afghanistan, why would Putin want to go back into Uzbekistan? Why would he want to annex Western Ukraine where hatred of Russia dates back to the forced famine of the Stalin era? To invade and occupy all of Ukraine would mean endless costs in blood and money for Moscow, the enmity of Europe, and the hostility of the United States. For what end would Russia, its population shrinking by half a million every year, want to put Russian soldiers back in Warsaw?

But if Putin is not a Russian imperialist out to re-establish Russian rule over non-Russian peoples, who and what is he?

In the estimation of this writer, Vladimir Putin is a blood-and-soil, altar-and-throne ethnonationalist who sees himself as Protector of Russia and looks on Russians abroad the way Israelis look upon Jews abroad, as people whose security is his legitimate concern. Consider the world Putin saw, from his vantage point, when he took power after the Boris Yeltsin decade. He saw a Mother Russia that had been looted by oligarchs abetted by Western crony capitalists, including Americans. He saw millions of ethnic Russians left behind, stranded, from the Baltic states to Kazakhstan. He saw a United States that had deceived Russia with its pledge not to move NATO into Eastern Europe if the Red Army would move out, and then exploited Russia’s withdrawal to bring NATO onto her front porch. Read More…

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Russia’s Demographic Time Bomb

In the last stanza of “The Battle of Blenheim,” Robert Southey writes:

‘But what good came of it at last?’ Quoth little Peterkin.
‘Why, that I cannot tell,’ said he; ‘But ’twas a famous victory.’

What did it really matter? The poet was asking of the triumph of the Duke of Marlborough—”Who this great fight did win.” What brings back this poem about the transience of glory and folly of war—during this week’s struggle over whose flag will fly over Crimea—is a wall chart that just arrived from the UN.

“World Population 2012″ projects the population growth, or decline, of every country and continent, between now and 2050. Most deeply involved in Crimea’s crisis are Russia and Ukraine. Yet, looking at the UN numbers, there seems an element of absurdity in this confrontation that could lead to a shooting war.

Between 2012 and 2050, Ukraine, war or no war, will lose one-fourth of its population. Eleven to twelve million Ukrainians will vanish from the earth, a figure far higher than the highest estimate of the death toll of the horrific Holodomor of 1932-33. Russia will lose 22 million people, with her population falling below 121 million. Every month between now and 2050, close to 50,000 Russians will disappear. Some demographers believe the UN numbers to be optimistic. Indeed, this writer has seen projections far more dire.

Those who warn that Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstitute the Soviet Union might explain how this is going to be done as Russia loses 22 million people, while the former Soviet republics of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—together add 22 million people.

How often in history do nations with shrinking populations invade and annex those with surging populations?

When the UN was set up in 1945, Stalin wanted each of 15 Soviet republics given a seat in the General Assembly. He settled for three seats—for Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia, now Belarus. That was the core of the old Soviet Union. Yet, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will lose together 35 million people by mid-century, a figure comparable to the human losses from four years of the Hitler-Stalin war and seven decades of Bolshevik rule.

Our War Party is demanding that we send military assistance and possibly troops to Poland, the Baltic republics and Rumania, and bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would mean America would fight Russia to defend them all, should another clash occur as in 2008 in Georgia and today in Crimea. Does this make sense—for any of us? Read More…

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