Monthly Archives: September 2014

China’s Navy Takes Aggressive Posture

China’s massive increase in the sophistication and reach of its military prowess extends throughout the oceans of the world, and will soon approach the very coastline of the United States.

In further evidence of the growing alliance between China, Russia, and Iran, the Associated Press reports that a Chinese destroyer has, for the first time, docked in Iran. According to Iranian officials, the Chinese and Iranian naval forces will engage in joint drills and share technology.

Previously, China and Russia have conducted large joint maneuvers. Russia has assisted Iran’s nuclear program.

The news comes as the China Daily Mail reports that China is planning to deploy nuclear submarines along the U.S. coast.

The Asian-based newspaper Nikkei notes that Beijing’s intentions can be gleaned from its officially sanctioned maps. The new, government-sanctioned versions illustrates indicate that government’s belief that the whole of the South China Sea, a vital international waterway, is within the jurisdiction of China.

The Nikkei quotes a Chinese government source stating that “Maps that show islands in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands (the Chinese name for the Senkaku Islands) in one picture were a sign that the Xi leadership will take an aggressive policy in nearby waters.”

China has clashed diplomatically with Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines over territorial matters, as well as making threatening military moves towards those nations.  It has also been aggressive against U.S. Naval aircraft in international waters.

Ignoring the Russian Threat

Recent incursions of Russian nuclear bombers over both the East and West coasts of North America in September clearly illustrate the dramatic threat from Moscow.

Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were quite explicit about their new direction in dealing with the Kremlin: they were going to “reset” relations with Russia.

They moved quickly and substantively:

  • The White House agreed to the New START treaty which left Moscow with a 10 to 1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons.
  • The President and Secretary Clinton divulged British nuclear secrets.
  • They reneged on an anti-ballistic missile treaty with Poland. They slashed the U.S. defense budget.
  • They encouraged the departure of experienced American military personnel.
  • American involvement in overseas military deployment was reduced.

President Obama promised that he would provide even more concessions after his re-election—and he did.

  • Earlier this year, all American tanks were withdrawn from Europe.
  • Despite the increase in threats from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, the White House continues to advocate unilateral cuts in the American nuclear arsenal.

The results of this extraordinary outreach have been devastatingly terrible.

Russia has moved quickly and substantially to enlarge and modernize both its conventional and nuclear forces. One aspect of that move particularly stands out: the dedication of over $700 billion in funds for its naval forces, which for a land-based power such as Russia, is purely offensive in character. Moscow has returned to Cold War bases in Latin America, and is expanding its influence in the region. It has formed an anti-U.S. alliance with China, and supplies Iran with nuclear technology.  It has moved battlefield nuclear weapons to its European border; it has invaded the Ukraine, and threatens to continue its advance into other Eastern European nations. Even before the September nuclear bomber incursions, Russian bombers and subs were found patrolling America’s Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts.

The White House response has been timid to the point of utter negligence, or worse. There have been no clear actions to provide appropriate funding to the armed forces. There has been no drive to expand drilling for energy resources on federal lands to allow our European allies to free themselves from dependency on Moscow. There has been no move to protect the U.S. mainland by fully funding an adequate anti-ballistic missile system or expanding the Air Force’s ability to intercept enemy bombers.

Instead, the opposite course has been taken, a clear rejection of the reality of the intense threat the nation faces. America is still dependent on Russian rocket engines for a variety of purposes. The nation is dependent on China for essential components of key weapons systems. The U.S. defense industrial base continues to shrink.  Only one plant, for example, in the entire nation produces tanks—and Mr. Obama has sought to close it on several occasions.

The Obama-Clinton “reset” has been the most dangerous policy failure in the history of the United States.  Despite the clear evidence of that failure, there is little indication of a substantive change in course from the Oval Office.

Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions Aided by ISIS Crisis

It may well be one of the most severe threats imposed by ISIS, but it is one the terror organization never intended.

The quest for additional support from the Islamic world to counter ISIS has led to yet another avenue for the White House, heavily influenced by Valerie Jarrett’s personal ties to Tehran, to soften its position on Iran’s Russian-assisted nuclear program. That attempt has been facilitated by Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s recent visit to the opening of the United Nations 69th General Assembly in New York. He spoke via phone to President Obama even as his nation’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hardened his stance on the Iranian nuclear program. Rowhani also met with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

Certainly, there is little sign of Iran changing its belligerent nature or the harsh treatment of its own citizenry. Iranian dissidents continue to be given substantial prison sentences.  There has been increased subjugation of the media, and renewed emphasis on depriving women of human rights.  The Aiarabiya news source reported on the arrest of 50 women merely for attempting to attend an international volleyball game.

The International Business Times reports that the Obama Administration is considering softening its position on the number of active centrifuges Iran would be permitted to operate, increasing the number from 1,500 to 4,500.  Iran is seeking to further that number to 9,400.

Iran has also sought to protect Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, from any harmful repercussions or personal danger from anti-ISIS bombing within his nation’s borders.

Allowing Iran to move ahead with its nuclear ambitions in return for some support, which may or not prove substantial, against ISIS, does not make sense.  While the terrorist organization is a significant threat that must be destroyed, Iran’s powerful armed forces, including a significant missile threat, in the final analysis present an even greater danger.

The Overdue Resignation Of Eric Holder

The resignation of Eric Holder  as the 82nd US Attorney General brings to a close one of the most curious chapters in American jurisprudence. He held the position since the start of the Obama Administration.

Mr. Holder had served as a Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton, after previous service as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

To some extent, the position of Attorney General is a political one, since the office is filled via a presidential appointment.  The same may be said for the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, who are also nominated by the President.  That august institution, however, has been notably independent of bias.  A prime example was the decision by the Court in the Affordable Care Act case, in which Obamacare was found constitutional thanks to the deciding vote of a Chief Justice who was a Republican appointee.

Many of Mr. Holder’s predecessors engaged in some actions which had political or ideological attributes.  However, his tenure was unique in that he warped this federal agency into little more than an arm of the left wing of the Democrat Party.  It was also distinguished in that, under his direction, it not only failed to enforce laws the President didn’t personally care for, it aggressively moved to fight law enforcement officials on the state and local level who simply performed their duty and who attempted to appropriately apply relevant laws not favored by the Oval Office.

The disturbing nature of the Department of Justice under Mr. Holder become evident almost immediately upon his taking office.  Despite blatant and clear evidence of voter intimidation against those who weren’t pro-Obama in Philadelphia, he chose to suppress what one former DOJ staffer described as the worst case of voter intimidation he had ever seen. Questionable use of the Department was also evident in attempts to halt state efforts to prevent illegal voting.

The partisan nature prevalent in Mr. Holder’s reign was manifest in numerous areas, including its hasty involvement in several cases that the White House chose to exploit in an effort to rouse its political base.

Mr. Holder has to date escaped prosecution for his actions as Attorney General due to the fact that he holds the reins of law enforcement, although the matter of his contempt of Congress charge will presumably go forward.  He may continue to evade penalties in the same way that he himself assisted in the prevention of another politico, Marc Rich, from facing liability, through facilitating a presidential pardon that could be expected at the end of the Obama term.

Americans Display Shocking Ignorance about their Government

In a worrisome survey of 1,416 adults recently conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center it was found that:

  • While little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one;
  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto; and
  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration.

The Annenberg Center also revealed that almost half of those surveyed couldn’t identify which party holds the majority in either house of Congress.

The Washington Post reports that “Civics Education Initiative” legislation will be introduced in Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah to require high school students to be tested on U.S. government at some  point during their high school careers. They will be required to demonstrate some proficiency it before receiving a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree.

Capitol quotes a statement by Arizona state legislator Steve Montenegro, a Republican, that “Civics and Social Studies and History are being boxed out of the classroom.”  He notes that “96% of a sample group of high schoolers in Arizona and Oklahoma failed to pass a basic test on citizenship issues.”

Still Lost in Space

Increasingly, NASA appears to be adrift, still capable of great individual deeds but without a clear direction.

Although it continues to get verbal support, the goal of placing American astronauts on Mars was for all practical purposes abandoned by the Obama Administration. So, too, was the Constellation program, which was supposed to be the successor for the Space Shuttle.  That decision also effectively ended U.S. plans to return to the Moon.

There is no current means for US citizens to reach space other than by hitching a ride on Russian craft, a severe humiliation for what was once the world’s preeminent space agency.

Advocates of manned space flight angrily point out that if the White House was intent on cancelling the follow-up to the Shuttle program, it could have kept the Shuttle program alive for several more years.

Other efforts are also threatened.  Recently, the General Accounting Office studied NASA plans for the next heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, and found that “NASA has not developed an executable business cased based on matching the program’s cost and schedule resources with the requirement  to develop the vehicle…”  Additionally, the GAO found that funding for the program was $400 million short of being on schedule for a 2017 test launch, even if the appropriate “business case” could be found.

NASA’s woes extend beyond manned space flight.  One of the most crucial endeavors the Space Agency is engaged in is cataloging interplanetary objects that could potentially strike the Earth with catastrophic consequences, producing results similar to that which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. A report just released by NASA’s Inspector General discloses that a lack of structure and resources threatens this mission which is, literally, a matter of life and death for the entire planet.

There is some good news, coming primarily from the private sector.  NASA has contracted  with Boeing and SpaceX to build a “Space Taxi” to take Americans to and from the Space Station, freeing the U.S. from dependence on the Russians.

Nasa, announcing the deal, stated in a press release that “U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts NASA announced Tuesday. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.”

UN Faces Key Challenges in New Session

The 69th session of the United Nations has opened in New York.  The organization faces the most serious collection of crises since its founding during the Second World War, and must contend with increasing doubts as to its viability to accomplish appropriate goals and live up to the principals set forth in its charter.

Part of the problem arises from its inclusiveness. Repressive nations such as Cuba, North Korea, and Iran are members.  For America and its allies, the participation of those states and others that engage in harsh repression of their own citizenry, deny women human rights, and have hostile relations with their neighbors is particularly troubling.

As the 69th session begins its work, it faces enormous challenges, and whether the preeminent global body has the will or integrity to face them remains in doubt. Militant Islam devastates world peace, threatens the safety of innocent civilians worldwide, and makes a mockery of the UN Charter’s guarantees of human rights for all. Russia has restarted the cold war. China, despite facing no military threat, continues to rapidly build a vast armed force that it clearly wields in a threatening manner against it neighbors and the United States. Numerous states continue to adhere to economic and social policies that result in poverty. Ebola appears on the verge of becoming a pandemic.

According to Uganda’s Sam Kutesa, who serves as the 69th Session’s General Assembly President, “the coming year will be a momentous time for the United Nations…To say we live in tumultuous times would seem to be an understatement.”  Kutesa emphasizes poverty, climate change, armed conflicts, and Ebola as key issues.

Don’t Use the Army to Fight Ebola

President Obama’s plan to send 3,000 troops to Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic places a serious risk to the U.S. military both at home and abroad.

According to the White House, “At the request of the Liberian government, we’re going to establish a military command center in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region…  It’s going to be commanded by Major General Darryl Williams, commander of our Army forces in Africa.  … our forces are going to bring their expertise in command and control, in logistics, in engineering.”

The Administration has failed to provide any information about what protective gear the troops would be issued, and what percentage of the three thousand would have at least basic training in dealing with epidemic outbreaks.

While experts maintain that Ebola is mainly transmitted through body to body contact, no epidemiologist is willing to guarantee that the disease will not mutate and become infectious through airborne means such as coughing or sneezing.  In fact, Ebola has been transmitted through airborne means in cases found in pigs and monkeys.

There is no practical means to ensure the safety of our servicemen and women. Add to that disturbing fact is the reality that symptoms of infection may not be evident for up to three weeks, according to the World Health Organization , which stresses: “No licensed vaccine for EVD is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use…”

There is little doubt that international aid is desperately required. The National Center for Communicable diseases  notes that “The scale of this outbreak is unprecedented and has not been brought under control, with all three affected countries reporting new cases and deaths. Of concern is the dramatic surge in new cases in all three affected countries, which reflects on going transmission of infection in the community and in healthcare facilities. This is likely due to inadequate treatment facilities, insufficient human resources and, in some areas, persistent community resistance to instituting preventive measures.”
But while trained medical professionals are urgently required, and perhaps some protective services to assist them, the provision of three thousand U.S. soldiers, as well as some British military personnel, may be providing more risk than reward.

Consider the possibility:  An individual soldier becomes contaminated. Troops deployed in the region live in close quarters, giving the disease a good chance of spreading.  Some will be rotated out of Africa or otherwise travel back home, providing a dangerously efficient means of spreading Ebola throughout both the U.S. military as well as the civilian population.

In an interview in the military newspaper States and Stripes,  Bruce Aylward, The World Health Organization’s assistant director, said “This health crisis we face is unparalleled in modern times. The gravity of the situation is difficult to get across with just a few numbers… With the number of cases, 4,985, and deaths, 2,461, doubling in the past 14 days, ‘you start to get a sense of the rapid escalation we’re seeing of the virus from what was a linear increase in cases to now an almost exponential increase,’ Scientists from Fort Detrick say the number of Ebola cases in West Africa is much larger than official estimates indicate.”

Unease with the White House move began to grow following a New York Times  article written by Michael Osteholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. According to Osterholm, “The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done. … virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air. …The current Ebola virus’s hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice.”

Redskins, Women, & the Media

The media’s coverage of sports events provides a fascinating insight into how those who report use the news for political ends.

Throughout sports history, a number of teams have honored or commemorated certain groups by adopting their names.  The fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Minnesota Vikings. Even the most renowned sports franchise, the New York Yankees, acknowledges the nickname used around the world for Americans. There are no sports clubs that take titles intentionally meant to be pejorative.  There are no teams entitled the “The skunks,” “The idiots,” or the like. So what is the weird ruckus over the Washington Redskins?

Adding to the strangeness of this nonissue is the fact that opponents of the title are extremely hard pressed to find actual Native Americans who are offended by it.

Before coming to a conclusion about what this debate is all about, consider another odd media choice related to both sports and the wider world.

There has been a great deal of attention devoted to the terrible incident in which a professional football player, Ray Rice, brutally and inexcusably assaulted his then fiancée and now wife.  The athlete has correctly been suspended from playing, and has also lost out on lucrative endorsement contracts.

However, precisely the same newspapers and television networks that have carried this story virtually nonstop since it came to light have tread very lightly on the far more serious issue of Islamic oppression of women. In Front Page magazine,  Robert Spencer and Phyllis Chester outline the wide range of ways in which females are deprived of basic rights and subjected to horrific treatment, from mutilation to rape and murder to mass enslavement Yet the major media, and even western Women’s rights groups, have devoted far less airtime to this overwhelming pattern of human rights abuses then they have to the single instance of one football player’s criminal act.

The Redskin debate is sheer nonsense. The Ray Rice issue is completely valid, but it is a single drop in an ocean of abuse that is consistently downplayed in the news. The reason for these journalistic decisions is unfortunately clear.

An unfortunately large portion of America’s media and political elite seeks to gain by emphasizing what divides Americans, rather than what unites them.  There are legitimate grievances endured by Native Americans, but a sports club’s use of a commonly used nickname isn’t one of them. Discussing it, however, does gain a great deal of publicity.  Criticizing the terrible acts of extremists overseas provides no political benefits to the divide and conquer crowd, so it is ignored.