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Townhall Magazine - RedState: Our Christmas Wish For You and Yours
Posted: 12/25/2014 7:00:00 PM EST

In the December issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, RedState’s Bryan Pruitt offers a few thoughts on the New Year.

As the year winds down and our focus turns toward time with family and friends, our thoughts at RedState are on you, our readers. Whether we reach you through this magazine, online at RedState.com, via Erick’s ubiquitous Morning Briefing, or on our Twitter feed or Facebook page, we value you and your interaction with us. RedState has one of the most dynamic, engaged readerships in the political world. We are only effective because you so often answer the call and hold your elected officials accountable throughout the year, and especially at the ballot box.

The following are some thoughts we have from this year and looking forward to the next. Happy Holidays.

Setbacks and steps forward

Anyone following politics knows the conservative movement has had a few setbacks in this election cycle. Be not afraid. Less covered in the media are our significant steps forward, the elections won with good strategy and great candidates. There will be more of this to come. Keep the faith and stay tuned.

RedState Gathering

Please give some serious thought to making time in your summer schedule to attend the RedState Gathering in Atlanta from August 6-9. If you are an alum of previous Gatherings and have already registered, we are deeply grateful. We anticipate most if not all of the 2016 presidential aspirants will attend. They want your early support and we are working to ensure they earn it.

2015…we mean 2016

Speaking of aspirants for that highest office, there are elements that are frustrating about the fact that our presidential politics begin so much earlier these days. President Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy less than a year before he was elected. President Obama declared almost two years prior. You can expect that candidates for the Republican nomination will begin announcing their intentions soon after the New Year, perhaps even immediately after the midterm election results are known.

There will be plenty of candidates in the field. This is a good thing. Do not believe the mainstream media and liberal pundits when they tell you that competition will weaken the eventual candidate against the Hillary Clinton coronation machine. Pay close attention to the candidates’ positions on issues. Use social media to promote the candidate who inspires you. If you happen to live in a state that doesn’t get a lot of media attention, anywhere outside Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, raise your voice even louder. Every state matters when electing a president.

Run, RedStater, run

There is an often-quoted line (used throughout the television show “The West Wing”), “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

This is usually interpreted to mean showing up to vote. Certainly being an informed voter is part of our civic duty. But as a RedState conservative, we also hope you will take the next step and consider running for office someday. Sure, our democracy can survive with leaders who stay in power for endless amounts of time. But it truly thrives when average citizens take that big step, throw their hat in the ring by putting their name on the ballot, and standing in front of their fellow citizens with fresh ideas and a new face for leadership.

Whether running for dogcatcher or Congress, you can make a difference. You never know when the right opportunity might present itself to challenge an old, entrenched incumbent dedicated only to their D.C. lobbyist friends. Representatives should always represent their constituents, not special interests.

And finally…the things that matter

We wish you the happiest of Christmas seasons. Have a great time! We never really cared for those conservative commentators who take to lecturing the public on the commercialization of a religious holiday. Kids love gifts and Santa Claus is kind of cool in a weird way.

But as they say, be sure to remembering in your own way the reason for the season. Donate anonymously to a charity, give support to those struggling, say a prayer of thanks for the abundant blessing that is the United States of America.

Our family tradition is to read the Christmas story (Luke 2: 1-20) before opening presents on Christmas morning. It’s the best way to start the day if you ask me.

God bless and Happy New Year, the future is bright.

Matt Vespa - New Documentary Puts You 'Beneath The Helmet' Of The Israeli Military
Posted: 12/25/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

What’s it like to be in the Israeli military? For a nation with no strategic depth, the law requires that all Israeli citizens–men and women–to serve once they turn 18 years of age. A new documentary Beneath The Helmet, examines the lives of five members of the Israeli Defense Forces as they go from high-school student to soldiers serving in one of the best-trained militaries in the world.

The film is from the creators of the PBS documentary, Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference. According to their website, the film not only shows the training these young men and women experience in preparation for the defense of their country, it also delves into “the values of peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Israel is one of the few nations where women can serve in combat roles, sometimes alongside men. Israel has the mixed Caracal Battalion and is currently recruiting women for their second unisex “Lions of the Jordan” battalion, which will be responsible, amongst other things, for making sure the West Bank remains secure.

In a press release, First Lt. (Res.) Aviv Regev, who’s in the film, said, “Beneath the Helmet shows how young Israelis, serving in the army just out of high school, face enormous struggles with their identity and their responsibilities as soldiers.” It brings a face to a military that while praised, is also vilified and misunderstood by much of the world.

So, while you flock to see American Sniper on Christmas Day, make sure to check out Beneath The Helmet as well.

Christine Rousselle - Bill Gates Plays Internet Secret Santa, Gives Charitable Gift
Posted: 12/25/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in the world, joined over 200,000 members of the website "Reddit" to participate in their annual Secret Santa gift exchange. (Full disclosure: I also participated.) In Reddit's Secret Santa, participants are matched to a random "giftee," and the "gifter" can choose whether or not to share their identity. Gates was matched to a 25-year-old woman named Cali, and gave her a Loki helmet (from the movie Thor), a book of pictures of Africa, and a donation in her name to Shot@Life, a charity that provides vaccinations to children in poor countries.

From Business Insider:

For the last four years, thousands of Redditors have participated in a Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange. A whopping 212,894 users signed up this year, including — for the second year running — Bill Gates.

His gift ended up being incredibly thoughtful. User Calid7, a 25-year-old woman named Cali, writes that she was in shock when she discovered that Gates was her Santa.

Not only did he send her a Loki helmet she had listed as her "pie in the sky wish," but he also gifted her a book of gorgeous pictures of Africa (a place she says she desperately wants to visit), a stuffed polio virus microbe, and a donation in her name to Shot@Life, a program that provides vaccines to kids in poor countries who need them.

This is pretty cool, and it's a decently thoughtful gift from Gates. It's cool to see that even someone as rich and powerful as Gates would be willing to sign up to make a random stranger's Christmas, and at the same time help protect children from dangerous diseases. I just feel bad for the person who got Bill Gates as his giftee--what on earth could you possibly get him?!

Guy Benson - Video: 'The 12 Days of Christmas'
Posted: 12/25/2014 12:30:00 PM EST

I always enjoy sharing this performance by Indiana University's Straight No Chaser a cappella group around this time each year. Merry Christmas!


"Five golden rings!"

Conn Carroll - More And More Americans Are Choosing A Sunshine Christmas
Posted: 12/25/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

As most of New York faces a possible Christmas snow storm this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Florida has officially passed the Empire State as the country's third most populous state.

"By adding an average of 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014, Florida passed New York to become the nation’s third most populous state," a Census Bureau press release read.

California is still the nation's most populous state with 38.8 million residents, and Texas retained second on the list with 27 million. Six states actually lost population in 2014, and all of them have colder winters, including: Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska, and Vermont. 

North Carolina, a warmer southern state, also outgrew Michigan to take over the ninth spot on the most populous state list.

Also of interest, of the nine states with the fastest growing populations, all nine (North Dakota, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and South Carolina) have Republican governors.

Daniel Doherty - Merry Christmas, Everyone!
Posted: 12/25/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” --Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

The complete transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge is, perhaps like most readers, my favorite part of Charles Dickens’ classic novella. After spending a lifetime in isolation, accumulating wealth for its own sake, he realizes, in the end, what truly matters most: His relationships and friendships with other people.

Since it hit the streets of London, this classic work of fiction has reminded readers for generations that material pursuits and acts of selfishness are totally anathema to the spirit of Christmas, and ultimately unfulfilling, too. As his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, laments during his night-time visit:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

These simple but oft-forgotten lines are why I try to read Dickens’ famous work every year. They remind me how I should strive to live my life, even if I fail or fall short. You are not, after all, defined by what you have, but instead by how you live your life and treat others; and as bad as you might have it, there is always something to be grateful for.

Think of poor Bob Cratchit, whose financial situation is exceedingly bleak, perhaps even perilous. But what he has, in a sense, cannot be measured in earthly terms: a beautiful, loving family with whom to share the joy of Christmas with.

So, my friends, with that being said, I wanted to wish you all a very blessed holiday season with your friends, family and loved ones this year, and a Merry Christmas.

As Tiny Tim might say: “God bless Us, Every One!”

Kevin Glass - The Presidency Can't Stop Obama's "Golf Tradition"
Posted: 12/24/2014 2:43:00 PM EST
George W. Bush was frequently mocked for his leisure trips during his presidency, but President Obama may have taken it to a new level with his golfing trips.

As The Hill reports, President Obama's trip to Hawaii this year is a part of a vacation he's been taking since before he was President - and he hasn't discontinued that while having the office of perhaps the most prestigious, stressful job in the country:

He arrived on Tuesday morning at the golf course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, according to a pool report. He is playing with his high school friends Greg Orme and Bobby Titcomb, as well as staffer Joe Paulsen.

Titcomb and Orme are part of a group of Obama's friends who reunite in Hawaii every year, a practice that continued even after Obama became president.

Obama also made golf outings, which opponents have criticized throughout his presidency, on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of the break.

This isn't to say that Presidents can or should never take vacations. But it's to point out that President Obama is almost never criticized for his own refusal to yield on vacations by the mainstream media, while it was a firestorm of controversy for his predecessor.

Kevin Glass - Obama's NLRB Threatens Decades of Precedent To Help Unions
Posted: 12/24/2014 2:41:00 PM EST
NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin has brought complaints against McDonald's in response to employees alleging that they were unfairly retaliated against for discussing unionization.

The NLRB siding with a union against a corporate parent of a franchise would completely change how business is done in the United States - and tip the balance towards unions. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains:

In July Griffin stated (without offering a legal argument) that McDonald’s USA was a joint employer of those workers who are employed by local McDonald’s franchises, but he waited until last week to bring charges against the parent company. Before his appointment as general counsel, Griffin was one of the unconstitutional recess appointees to the NLRB, whose appointment was overturned by the Supreme Court.

This decision to charge both the McDonald’s franchise and the parent company with these violations overturns decades of precedent. For half a century, the local franchise was considered the only employer. The NLRB defined employers as those who controlled workers’ “essential terms of employment,” namely hiring, wage rates, firing, and job description. The franchises were the employers, not the owner of the franchise.

So the NLRB unilaterally changes the law without any notice or public comment, uses the change in the law to sue a major corporation, and tells the general public that the legal reasoning behind the change cannot be revealed. That’s Kafkaesque. And this from a president who stated in a memorandum on January 21, 2009, that “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”

As Furchtgott-Roth notes, this would be yet another example of the executive branch stretching its authority to get an outcome it wants. It would transform McDonald's restaurants from small businesses into organizations that must negotiate with a union like a giant corporation. As Furchtgott-Roth notes, only one-half of one percent of all McDonald's restaurants have legitimate complaints - and Obama's NLRB is using that small gap to ram through a tank.

Matt Vespa - MRCTV: Jonathan Gruber For Secretary of Defense
Posted: 12/24/2014 2:15:00 PM EST

Of course, this is absurd. Jonathan Gruber is one of Obamacare’s architects, who recently got a tongue-lashing by the House Oversight Committee over comments he made about American voters–he called them stupid–and for saying that this, along with a lack of transparency, were essential to getting Obamacare passed. House Republicans had some questions about his comments on transparency when they became known after a series of videos, featuring the MIT professor, became public.

MRCTV’s Dan Joseph decided to see if Gruber’s insanely condescending attitude towards the American electorate is true. Earlier this month, he ventured onto the hallowed grounds of George Mason University to ask students to support his “petition” to make Jonathan Gruber our country’s next Secretary of Defense.

“It’s like magic when he talks; he’s great at convincing people of things,” said Joseph to a student willing to hear him out on this outlandish proposal.

Joseph did get some signatures for the “Gruber for SecDef” campaign, which is tragic to say the least.

Yet, I’m inclined not to think that the American people are stupid, especially when the media barely mentioned him in the news when “Grubergate” was at its height. 

Kevin Glass - "Soldier's Christmas": How a Rock Band Is Raising Awareness For Military Families This Season
Posted: 12/24/2014 12:39:00 PM EST
“Music with meaning.” It’s how rock band Madison Rising describes what they’re trying to accomplish, and this Christmas season, they’re putting their efforts to a good cause. They’ve released the song “Soldier’s Christmas,” which draws on lead singer David Bray’s experience as a member of the military and the band’s work with veterans’ groups to both raise awareness of what military families go through during the holidays and raise money directly for the families of the fallen.

“It’s to bring awareness to those families,” Bray tells Townhall, “to say that we are grateful for the sacrifice and what they’ve given. And not only that, but in a music form, it’s a way to get out to people who may not be affected by war, or who may not be in military families, for them to understand the amount of sacrifice people are putting into this.”

“It’s our war. It’s high time we, especially during the holiday season, we get around to these families and we really hold them close.”

Inspiration came for Bray from Karen Vaughn, whose son Aaron was a member of SEAL Team Six and was lost during “Extortion 17,” the bloodiest single event in the war in Afghanistan - when the Taliban attacked a helicopter and killed 30 Americans. The loss of Aaron Vaughn spurred the creation of Operation 300, a charity that supports children of fallen American soldiers. Proceeds from Madison Rising’s “Soldier’s Christmas” will go directly to benefit the children that Operation 300 supports.

“During our tour with Concerned Veterans for America, I’d watch Karen get up on stage and relive this painful memory to bring awareness to the real sacrifices at hand on a day-to-day basis,” Bray says. “After I finished writing the song, I took it to her and I said Karen, I want to write this song for the holidays and I want to do something special with it… I kind of needed her blessing. She is a gold star mother.”

“The reaction I got from her is that it’s a blessing. It’s the same reason she does what she does.”

The music video for the song was put together with the help of Operation 300 and Minus Red, Jim Hanon’s filmmaking outfit that also aims to bring important messages to the people. Madison Rising is also going to be continuing work with Operation 300 and Concerned Veterans for America in the coming months, hoping to bring awareness and raise money for important military causes. And the outreach they’ve received so far has been astonishing.

"We had a staff sergeant reach out the other day who was on the verge of suicide... she suffers from PTSD, horribly," Bray says. "She listened to this song, and one of her remarks was, 'I'm not sure you tried to do this or not, but this song has given me hope and given me reason to live, to continue on, because if I don't tell the story of what happened to my brothers and sisters who I've lost, then they're gone, and they're gone forever. And it's now my duty to go out and tell those stories.'"

"When you get a message like that from somebody, it'll drop your jaw," Bray says.

To learn more about Operation 300, click here. Bray says that Madison Rising will continue working with Operation 300 and Concerned Veterans for America in the future.

Watch the video here: