Monthly Archives: November 2016

Crisis Level: America’s Dwindling Defense Capability

The New York Analysis begins a three part examination of the condition of the U.S. military at the end  of the Obama Administration.

Following eight years of reduced budgetary support for the U.S. military, at a time when threats have increased dramatically from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorists, the ability of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to defend the nation has reached a near-crisis level.

The warning signs have been apparent for some time. In 2015, General Martin Dempsey, who was serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the U.S. military, noted that funding for the armed forces was at the “lower ragged edge” of what was necessary to keep the nation safe. The latest assessments of American strength confirm that the ability of the nation to protect itself is only marginal. Even more troubling, according to another report, is that the infrastructure necessary to rebuild the military to a more acceptable level is itself below par.

At the start of the current year, Senator John McCain   displayed consternation at the inadequate budget proposed by President Obama.  “…the Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who said that he cannot recall a more diverse array of challenges and crises in his more than fifty years of service to the nation…at a time when U.S. military deployments are increasing to confront growing global threats, the President’s budget request is actually less, in real dollars, than what Congress enacted last year…rather than request an increase in defense spending that reflects what our military really needs, the President’s request [will cut] important defense needs – cutting 15,000 current Army soldiers and 4,000 sailors, reducing major modernization programs, and proposing a pay increase for service members much lower than what is needed to compete with private sector wages.”

Contrary to popular misconception, the U.S. defense budget, notes the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, is a relatively small percentage of the federal budget, and a minor part of America’s GDP. “…the FY 2017 Department of Defense budget [prepared as instructed by the Obama White House] … would be 3 percent of GDP, and 14.2 percent of overall federal spending. Overall, the share of defense spending as a percentage of GDP has declined steadily since the end of the Korean War. What makes the Obama drawdown of the Pentagon unique is that, unlike the aftermath of prior wars or the Cold War, the potential threat to the U.S. is rising, not diminishing.”

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) describes the state of U.S. defenses as “a force-planning construct that is woefully inadequate for the global and everyday demands of wartime and peacetime… Gone is any plan that foresees conflict taking longer than one year in duration or any contingency with a whiff of stability operations, long-term counterinsurgency or counter-insurrection, or nation building of the type seen in Iraq and Afghanistan… After six years of budget cuts and operational shifts, hard choices have in many cases turned into stupid or bad ones. Fewer resources and the lack of bipartisan consensus in favor of a strong defense have forced commanders and planners across services to accept previously unthinkable risks as they pick and choose which portions of the national defense strategy to implement… Unmentioned is that the risk to the force grows each passing year. It is now at crisis levels and promises unnecessarily longer wars, higher numbers of wounded or killed in action, and outright potential for mission failure.”

Defense One  notes that it’s not just manpower and hardware that’s the problem. America is losing its lead in technology as well.  “The Pentagon is worried that rivals are developing their capabilities faster than the U.S. is rolling out new ones. The edge is shrinking.”

The Heritage Foundation’s report on U.S. military strength presents a worrisome picture of an understrength military. “The common theme across the services and the U.S. nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity. While the military has been heavily engaged in operations, primarily in the Middle East but elsewhere as well, since September 11, 2001, experience is both ephemeral and context-sensitive. Valuable combat experience is lost over time as the service members who individually gained experience leave the force, and it maintains direct relevance only for future operations of a similar type (e.g., counterinsurgency operations in Iraq are fundamentally different from major conventional operations against a state like Iran or China). Thus, although the current Joint Force is experienced in some types of operations, it is still aged and shrinking in its capacity for operations.”

Tomorrow: The report breaks down the needs of each armed service branch. 

Journalism’s Missing Ethics

The interpretation of the news may be subjective, but the facts that comprise it are not.

For far too long, journalism, as well as statements by many key lawmakers, have not only concentrated more on opinion over fact, but actually falsified or wholly omitted facts.

The degree to which this occurred during the lead-up to the Obama presidency, and then during his administration, was unprecedented; but even that has been diminished by the stunning level of sheer falsehoods that have occurred in the aftermath of the 2016 elections.

The key issues affecting Americans have been incorrectly reported for far too long. Taken together, they represent not just sloppy journalism or negligent fact checking, but a whole scale attempt by far too many to turn the tide of public opinion in their favor by purposely misleading the public.

Consider just four examples:

The most significant economic story of the 21st century has been the Great Recession that began in 2007. A major contributing factor was bad legislation that was enacted during the Carter Administration, which mandated financial institutions to provide loans to those without the likely ability to pay them back. The concept was expanded during the Clinton presidency.  The obvious result was that these loans could not be paid back, the market was distorted, and financial institutions faced a crisis. Far too often, this central fact was ignored by politicians and pundits attempting to hide their support for a program that had no chance of succeeding in the real world.

Gun control is another area where sheer nonsense prevails in media and political statements. As noted in a Duke study: “No empirical study of the effectiveness of gun laws has shown any positive effect on crime. To the dismay of the prohibitionists, such studies have shown a negative effect. That is, in areas having greatest restrictions on private firearms ownership, crime rates are typically higher, because criminals are aware that their intended victims are less likely to have the means with which to defend themselves…Clearly, criminals do not bother with the niceties of obeying laws–for a criminal is, by definition, someone who disobeys laws. Those who enforce the law agree…In addition, restrictive gun laws create a ‘Catch-22’ for victims of violent crime. Under court decisions, the police have no legal obligation to protect any particular individual. This concept has been tested numerous times including cases as recent as 1993. In each case the courts have ruled that the police are responsible for protecting society as a whole, not any individual. This means that under restrictive gun laws, people may be unable to protect themselves or their family from violent criminals.”

Climate change has been transformed from a science into a religion, with those who dare to question the faith condemned as “deniers” who face the wrath of the true believers, which includes legal harassment. Yet there is a very legitimate discussion to be had. As noted by Breitbart  “Professor Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert… a retired geologist and data computation expert… has painstakingly examined and tabulated all NASA GISS’s temperature data series, taken from 1153 stations and going back to 1881. His conclusion: that if you look at the raw data, as opposed to NASA’s revisions, you’ll find that since 1940 the planet has been cooling, not warming. According to Günter Ederer, the German journalist who has reported on Ewert’s findings: ‘From the publicly available data, Ewert made an unbelievable discovery: Between the years 2010 and 2012 the data measured since 1881 were altered so that they showed a significant warming, especially after 1950. […] A comparison of the data from 2010 with the data of 2012 shows that NASA-GISS had altered its own datasets so that especially after WWII a clear warming appears – although it never existed.” Of course, there will be those that disagree with Ederer and others, but that’s the essence of finding the truth in both science and politics.  However, the press, as well as much of academia, have done all that they can to not only to allow the other side of the story to be heard, but to harass and intimidate anyone who seeks to include dissenting views in their articles and statements.

There is no area where the facts have been obscured or ignored more thoroughly than that of National Security. Outside of specialty journals and conservative news publications, the deadly reality of the massive arms buildup, aggressive actions, and expansionist plans of Russia and China have been given little emphasis. Combined with the extraordinary deterioration of American and allied armed forces, the extent of the danger to world peace and international order is unprecedented.

Even all of the above massive departures from journalistic and political ethics pale in comparison to the abandonment of factual reporting in the aftermath of the 2016 elections. The outrageous claims by politicians such as Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and numerous news organizations that the election of Donald Trump was tantamount to the rise of racism, jingoism, or warmongering was not only devoid of any supporting facts, but clearly an attempt to delegitimize a presidency fairly won in an election before it even had a chance to take office.  That’s not journalism or politics; that’s baseless propaganda.

The failure also to report that the demonstrations against the legitimate outcome of the 2016 election were neither spontaneous nor based on concerns regarding particular issues highlights the lack of honesty in reporting. These well-organized and financed events are populated in part by individuals paid to participate.

Disagreement and dissent are valuable parts of a free society. Dishonest journalism and false, inflammatory statements by politicians angered over their party’s defeat at the polls degrade the concept of a free society with a participatory citizenry. The solution is certainly not media control or restrictions on free speech, as some on the left have advocated against those in the center and on the right who expose them. The answer to dishonest reporting is, simply, depending on more honest sources.

Good Riddance to Fidel

Fidel Castro violated human rights in almost every way imaginable. He was a key sponsor of international terrorism. His secret police had informants on every block. He imprisoned an extraordinary numbers of people, some of whom are guilty of nothing more than disagreeing with his policies or simply seeking to leave.  Cuba has the distinction of incarcerating some of the world’s longest-serving political prisoners. He imprisoned homosexuals and transsexuals merely for their sexual preferences. His administration of the island nation was an economic and human rights disaster.

Of most importance to the United States was his alliance with the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.  When Washington sought to overthrow his oppressive regime, which followed Moscow’s philosophical leanings and tyrannical practices, he urged the U.S.S.R. to launch a nuclear strike against America.

President Obama’s odd response to the dictator’s death failed to mention his horrendous human rights record or his hatred for the United States:

“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba. Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

The statement  is in marked contrast to that of President-elect Donald Trump:

“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades…Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve… Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty…”

Mr. Obama’s refusal to acknowledge Fidel’s atrocities has been a consistent in his policy towards Cuba. Just one example: Before the U.S. President’s trip to the island, Newsweek  noted: “…his administration has looked to rewrite the history of the Castros’ worst crimes. An example of this was in 2014, when the Obama administration commuted the double life sentence of Gerardo Hernández. Hernández had been in jail for conspiracy to commit murder through his actions related to the 1996 downing of aircraft owned by the anti-Castro nonprofit ‘Brothers to the Rescue.’ Brothers to Rescue is a Miami based organization, formed by Cuban exiles, which advocates against the Castro dictatorship…The objective of the Castro Regime was to destroy relief organization while at the same time taking attention away from a crackdown on a national opposition gathering in Cuba…Hernández was set free by the Obama administration and was returned to Cuba the same day his sentence was commuted. Two days later, on December 19 2014, Obama sought to rewrite the history of the incident, stating in a press conference that “[i]t was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.”

Obama’s opening of relations with Havana without gaining any substantial concessions in human rights, at a time when Russian naval vessels are returning to Cuba, was a betrayal of American principles and national security concerns. No condolences need be sent to Castro’s family or supporters.  The world in general, and the Cuban and American people in particular, gain from the loss of this icon of tyranny.

Philippines Move Away From U.S., Towards China

The failure of the Obama Administration to respond to China’s aggression both in general and towards the Philippines in particular may have been a crucial factor in the alienation that took place between Washington and Manila.

The facts are harsh and undeniable. China is now in possession of almost every off shore Philippine oceanic economic claim, although following the recent anti-American statements by President Duterte it appears that some access has been allowed.  From the 2011 attack on Philippine fishing boats within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone and up to the present, America has essentially been missing in action in response to the aggression. Overall, the United States has barely lifted a finger to assist one of its oldest regional allies, failing even to lodge diplomatic protests at some of China’s most serious offenses.

Beijing’s actions have not been subtle. Chinese military vessels have threatened civilian Philippine fishing vessels.

While there have been past episodes of pique between Washington and Manila (in 1991, the U.S. was told to leave its naval base in Subic Bay) the current tilt towards China may prove to be the most serious split between the two nations. President Duterte has stated that he wants all U.S. troops to leave his nation within two years.  American armed forces currently reside within five Philippine-run camps.  They are rotated in the nation and are not considered permanently based there.

Speaking at a meeting in China’s Great Hall of the People, Duterte stated, according to the Malaya Business Insight publication, “Your honors, in this venue I announce my separation from the United States…So I will be dependent on you for all time…America has lost now…No more American influence. No more American [military] exercises. It’s time to say goodbye, my friend.”

According to the Russian news source RT Beijing and Manila discussed a number of measures, including joint access to the resource-rich offshore areas which the world court at the Hague belong to the Philippines but which China has illegally occupied. RT also reports that “The Philippines will pursue ‘independent’ foreign and military policies separate from US interests in the region, the country’s president said, announcing that in order to avoid any confrontations with China he would halt joint Filipino navy patrols with the US. The Asian country may now also look toward China and Russia in order to acquire new weapons so that it can improve its capabilities tackling insurgencies and terrorism in the country.

While disinviting U.S. troops is not unprecedented, the potential realignment with China is. It is particularly unusual in light of Beijing’s almost universally condemned aggression against the Philippines. However, during a recent state visit to Japan, Duterte assured Tokyo that he would not militarily align his nation with China.

There appears to be a specific element of anger involved in Duterte’s actions, aimed directly at President Obama.  He has frequently launched diatribe-filled statements at the White House.

It remains to be seen how real the split becomes. Despite Duterte’s rhetoric, notes the Wall Street Journal,  “Filipinos remain staunchly pro-American, with a recent Social Weather Stations survey finding 76% have ‘much trust’ in the U.S., versus 22% for China. Filipinos know about Beijing’s South China Sea abuses, and they know that when Typhoon Haiyan struck in 2013 the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier and $20 million in aid while China initially chipped in $100,000.” There is also a question whether he can fulfill his anti-U.S. military goal. There has been no move on Manila’s part to abandon the two nation’s 65-year-old mutual defense pact or the two-year-old agreement to rotate U.S. troops in local military facilities.”

The National Interest notes that “The Obama administration continues to equivocate on the question of whether the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty … covers Philippine-claimed land features in the South China Sea.” But technical interpretations of treaties are not the point in question.  There is a disturbing pattern in U.S. foreign policy during the Obama presidency and the tenure of both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry at the State Department, one that seems counter-intuitive to American interests.

Russia was given a beneficial nuclear arms treaty at the start of the Obama Administration, and only very weak sanctions were imposed when it invaded Ukraine.  No penalty has been attached for its violation of an intermediate-range nuclear missile pact. No action has been taken in response to Moscow’s militarization of the Arctic, or it’s turning Nicaragua into a landing base for its nuclear bombers.

Similarly, no action has been taken in response to China’s clearly illegal and aggressive actions, including those directly affecting U.S. allies.

Iran, despite its role as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has been given vast sums of cash.

More examples could be provided, but the point is already obvious:  The U.S., through the pacifism of the Obama Administration, is in danger of losing its allies, as the expansionist actions of Russia, China and Iran go unanswered.

President Duterte appears to be open to improving relations with Washington following the results of the 2016 U.S. election.

America’s Undersized Carrier Force

Aircraft carriers are America’s first line of defense, as well as the vital instrument used by Washington to protect allies and project influence across the globe. As Rep. Randy Forbes, (R-Virginia) notes, “When a crisis arises and American lives and interests are at risk, the first question decision makers ask is, ‘Where are the carriers?’ Our Navy’s aircraft carriers provide 4.5 acres of sovereign American territory and a mobile base of operations that reduces the need to deploy U.S. boots on the ground.  When ISIS blitzed through the Middle East last year, the strike fighters aboard the carrier George H.W. Bush were the only U.S. aircraft in position and ready to halt their advance.  It took 54 days for the United States to negotiate deals with allies in the region that allowed us to employ aircraft based on their territory.  In the months since, the carriers Carl Vinson and Theodore Roosevelt have rotated through the region, providing a constant American military presence, supporting ongoing operations against ISIS, and deterring aggression by Iran.  In other theaters, meanwhile, the presence of American carriers has deterred aggression, protected the free flow of goods, people, and information, and enabled the United States to extend a helping hand when natural disasters strike.

However, while threats across the planet multiply, the number of these vessels continues to be below what is clearly necessary. Rear Admiral Thomas Moore once said, “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.”  Federal statutes require a minimum of eleven carriers.

Unfortunately, the U.S. now has only a 10-carrier navy (An 11th, the new U.S.S. Gerald Ford, is not yet operational, and may not be fully ready for duty until 2021) and the world has become even more dangerous, as both China and Russia have expanded their sea power while America’s continues to contract. In 2015, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus warned that a “Carrier force structure below 11 would inject significant risk in the Fleet’s ability to comply with the Defense Strategic Guidance.”  The human element cannot be overlooked in all this. In an attempt to make up the difference, carrier deployments have increased in length from 5.5 months on average in 2008 to 9.5 months.  That’s difficult for both sailors and their families.  Further, it puts a great deal of stress on the ships themselves, delaying homeport maintenance.

As noted in Breaking defense,  “The Navy’s in a carrier crunch. US commanders around the world keep asking for carriers to cover trouble spots from SyriaIran, and Afghanistan to the Western Pacific and the South China Sea, but the Navy doesn’t have enough to go around.” President Obama sought to cut the carrier fleet to 10 in his 2015 budget. From the 1980s to 2002, the Navy went down from 14 carriers in the fleet to 12, of which at least two and more often three were deployed around the world at any given time. (The average wavered between 2.5 and 2.75). Since 2003, however, the Navy has shrunk from 12 carriers to 10.

There have some who have argued that aircraft carriers are increasingly vulnerable to enemy missile attack, and there is some element of truth to that.  In war, there will be casualties. That may sound harsh, but it reflects reality. However, that is not a reason to lose the vital advantage that carriers provide.

Further, dramatic improvements in U.S. defensive technology have taken place. Rear Admiral Edward Masso  discusses the vulnerability issue: “The U.S. Navy is greatly endangered by the global proliferation of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles. Some analysts, like Dennis Gormley, Andrew Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan at the National Defense University, say U.S. aircraft carriers in the western Pacific are sitting ducks for communist China’s missiles, especially their CM-400AKG Mach 5.5 Wrecker cruise missile and their DF-21 ballistic missile, dubbed ‘the carrier killer.’ They are wrong. Simply put, the ongoing improvement of missile defense systems on U.S. Navy warships is keeping pace with the development of new Chinese missiles and with others that are appearing in North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Innovative U.S. shipborne defenses with the capability to detect, track, destroy or deflect such advanced missiles are now being deployed, as they must be, if our warships and the world’s commercial vessels are to have access to the Persian Gulf, South China Sea, Sea of Japan, and the Eastern Mediterranean. The capabilities of China’s Wrecker and DF-21 missiles, for example, are far from being ignored… the navy [has] carried out sea trials of a new countermeasure to anti-ship missiles called Pandarra Fog. Slated to be deployed as part of a warship’s defensive armament, the Pandarra Fog system creates radar-absorbing carbon-fiber clouds that prevent a missile’s seeker from finding its target. It is a simple but effective means of blinding the radar target acquisition system of anti-ship supersonic cruise missiles and ballistic missiles like the Wrecker and the DF-21.”

While budgetary concerns limit the possibility of a return to a 15-carrier navy, there has been discussion about supplementing an 11-carrier force with a number of smaller carriers.

Tyler Rogoway, in a foxtrotalpha article, makes the case for this concept. “The Navy is experiencing serious operational shortfalls due to running its fleet of ten aircraft carriers hard in recent years, which is one short of the mandated 11. As such, it is time for the U.S. to build smaller aircraft carriers in greater numbers than what today’s one-size-fits-all super carrier strategy permits.”

Rogoway points out that two smaller carriers could be purchased for the price of one larger one.  The loss, he argues, in the capability of a larger version would be made up by other advantages. It would give the Navy additional flexibility in deployment. “By building smaller carriers, and more of them, Navy commanders will be able to better pair their available resources with the mission at hand. For instance, you do not need a super carrier for simply creating a strong presence in a region, or to support low-intensity warfare operations, or to train aircrews, or to execute good-will tours. In fact, smaller carriers would provide everything a super carrier could, although at diminished sortie rates. For missions where a super carrier’s capability is needed, and if none are available, two smaller carriers can be deployed in one’s place.”

The  Russian and Chinese navies, which have trained together during the past several years, are rapidly enhancing their strength, now exceeding the U.S. in numbers of submarines and very soon in overall fleet size. Expect questions about U.S. carriers to be a hot issue in 2017.

Older Americans Face Employment Discrimination

The recent and disturbing news that a lawsuit was brought against CVS  for engaging in heightened surveillance of elderly shoppers highlights a growing trend throughout the United States of disrespect to and discrimination against senior citizens. Much has been done during the course of the past eight years to harm senior citizens.  Largely unheralded by the usual voices who seem ready to easily detect discrimination for race or gender, the treatment of America’s older citizens has grown without much fanfare.

Age discrimination in the workplace is among the most serious of the challenges.One out of five U.S. workers is 55 or older, and many, perhaps the majority, are facing age-based job discrimination. According to the AARP,  64% have seen or experienced maltreatment simply because they are no longer young.

The AARP describes how the first signs of age discrimination on the job are detected: “The signs at first are disguised, then painfully apparent, they say. Solid performance reviews suddenly turn negative. Invitations to weekly and monthly meetings are no longer forthcoming. New demands and quotas seem harsh and unreasonable…”

For those workers who do lose their employment, getting rehired elsewhere is exceedingly difficult.

 A Time Money analysis  in September revealed that “Six years after the Great Recession ended, jobless older workers are the forgotten story … millions of older workers who want a job cannot find work. The economic data documenting the problem is clear. So is one of the most important causes: age discrimination.” The analysis stressed that if all factors are taken into consideration, “the 55-plus unemployment rate is a whopping 12 percent, a Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis shows. Looked at another way, 2.5 million older Americans want a job but do not have one.”

Writing in Forbes,Liz Ryan reports: “Age discrimination is everywhere. I hear more examples of age discrimination than I hear about sex discrimination, racial discrimination and every other kind put together.” The AARP notes: “Age discrimination in the workplace persists as a serious and pervasive problem.”

Economist Joanna Lahey, a noted expert on age discrimination, discussed the particular challenges faced by older women during a PBS interview.  She concentrated on the difficulties those individuals endure during a job search. “Older women are discriminated against in the workforce. We know this to be the case for entry-level jobs at least. I have two studies, one that’s a field experiment that I did during the last recession where I sent out about 8,000 resumes — 4,000 in Boston, Massachusetts and 4,000 in St. Petersburg, Florida. I found that younger workers were about 40 percent more likely to be called back for an interview for these entry-level jobs than older workers.”  Part of Lahey’s research was particularly startling.  Age discrimination, she found, can start as early as 35.

Lynn Stuart Parramore, writing for alternet, places the age where discrimination begins at 50.In every corner of America, millions of people are terrified of losing their jobs and falling into financial ruin. Men and women with impressive professional achievements and credentials are being let go, nudged out and pushed aside. They are pounding the pavement and scouring the job sites, but find themselves turned away even for the most basic retail jobs. Not because they aren’t competent. Not because they lack skills. But simply because they have a gray hair or two. This is not just a story of people in their 60s or 70s. Workers as young as 50 are shocked to find themselves suddenly tossed onto the employment rubbish heap, just when they felt on top of their game. They’re feeling stressed, angry and betrayed by a society that has benefited greatly from their contributions. As the global population grows older, age discrimination is on the rise… New research shows that age discrimination may be even more common than we thought and more prevalent than other forms of bias, like ethnic discrimination… Even academia, traditionally a place where older workers have enjoyed more protection, is becoming rife with age discrimination cases. A recent high-profile case involving long-time administrators at Rutgers University exhibits several of the hallmarks of unsavory practices involving older workers — employees with excellent records suddenly receiving negative reviews, decision-making processes conducted with unusual speed and opacity, and new management.”

A Reuters review found thatThe U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 20,588 charges of age discrimination in 2014, a rise from 17,837 a decade earlier… Although the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discrimination against people 40 and older, a 2013 survey of 1,502 adults by non-profit advocacy group AARP showed that two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 to 74 said they have seen or experienced ageism.”

U.S. Naval Supremacy in Pacific Ending

For a time span of approximately sixty years, the Pacific Ocean had been under the firm control of the United States, predominately due to the supremacy of its Navy.

But in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington adopted a belief that there were no great powers to challenge it.  The size of the fleet was reduced from 600 ships to 274 or less. Little attention was paid to the vast buildup on the other side of the vast Pacific, as China, buoyed by its enormous wealth, began its drive to become the largest naval power on the planet.

Under the Obama Administration, the reduced size of the American military was matched by a reluctance to employ U.S. armed strength or diplomatic muscle, as well as a reduction in funds to build for the future.

A vacuum was created, one which Beijing was all too eager to fill. A key turning point occurred when China’s navy illegally sailed into the Philippine-owned Scarborough Shoal. Despite American obligations to Manila and a subsequent World Court decision declaring the aggression unlawful, Washington failed to even lodge a diplomatic protest.

Within Washington, a sharp disagreement occurred. A majority of members of the relevant Congressional committees, joined by defense officials, began openly to worry about the danger. However, according to the Navy Times “The White House has barred Pentagon leaders from a key talking point when it comes to publicly describing the military challenges posed by China. In February, Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited the ‘return to great power of competition’ in the Asia-Pacific, ‘where China is rising.’ Similarly, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson characterized China and Russia as rivals in this “great power competition” in his maritime strategy.”

But the President’s National Security Council ordered Pentagon leaders to strike out that phrase and find something “less inflammatory.”

While the military could be ordered into silence, others could be more open.  The site notes: “…the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems….China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.

The English-language notes “…by around 2020, China will have both the largest (at 351 ships) navy in the world (by combatant, underway replenishment, and submarine ship count) and the second most capable “far seas” navy in the world. The PLA Navy will have: A well balanced fleet in terms of the full range of naval capabilities…More modern multi-mission frigates (FFG) (30-32) than any other navy;… [and] A “new far seas” navy; all warships built in 21st century.

2020 will arrive in just  few short years, but the threat to the U.S. Navy already exists. A review in the Diplomat warns that China has a whole host of options to harass American carriers in the Asia-Pacific. Even if such efforts do not deliver a mission kill against a carrier, they could “be so consumed with defending themselves that they would not be able to use significant numbers of their aircraft for defending Taiwan.” He notes that “carriers operating within about a thousand miles of China’s coast, for example, would also be subject to attack by land-based Chinese Su-30 and J-11B fighters, JH-7 supersonic fighter bombers, and H-6 bombers, all of which can be armed with anti-ship cruise missiles.” It seems that while American carriers are certainly prepared to defend themselves, the sheer amount of challenges they would face could prove fatal.”

That description, dire as it is, fails to include two facts. China already has more submarines than the U.S. Navy.  Beijing also has another extraordinary weapon unique to the Chinese arsenal: the Dong Feng-21 missile. Based on land, it could attack an aircraft carrier a thousand miles at sea.

Free Speech Succumbing to Pressure, Censorship

Free speech continues to take a beating both in the U.S. and especially abroad, and prospects for the future appear worrisome as control of the vital medium of the internet passes from U.S. hands to an international organization comprised of many members who believe in censorship.

In America, political correctness run amok poses a particular challenge both within social media managed by those with a leftist political bent who seek to manage news, and on college campuses, where Progressive orthodoxy prevails.

The latest incident involves the University of Virginia (UVA) where some professors are seeking to delete statements by Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the concept of free speech.

The Cavalier Daily reports that “Several groups on [campus] collaborated to write a letter to University President Teresa Sullivan against the inclusion of a Thomas Jefferson quote in her post-election email Nov. 9. In the email, Sullivan encouraged students to unite in the wake of contentious results, arguing that University students have the responsibility of creating the future they want for themselves. ‘Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students ‘are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes,’ Sullivan said in the email. ‘I encourage today’s U.V.A. students to embrace that responsibility.”

Across the face of the globe, freedom on the web is rapidly losing ground. Freedom House has released its latest report, showing a decline in free speech on the internet for the sixth straight year. 65 nations were assessed, and 34 were found to have reduced free speech since June of 2015.

According to the study, “Two-thirds of all internet users – 67 percent – live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship. Social media users face unprecedented penalties, as authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year. Globally, 27 percent of all internet users live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely ‘liking’ content on Facebook. Governments are increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which can spread information quickly and securely. Internet freedom has declined for the sixth consecutive year, with more governments than ever before targeting social media and communication apps as a means of halting the rapid dissemination of information, particularly during anti-government protests. Public-facing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been subject to growing censorship for several years, but in a new trend, governments increasingly target voice communication and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. These services are able to spread information and connect users quickly and securely, making it more difficult for authorities to control the information landscape or conduct surveillance…”

Freedom House noted that “The increased controls show the importance of social media and online communication for advancing political freedom and social justice. It is no coincidence that the tools at the center of the current crackdown have been widely used to hold governments accountable and facilitate uncensored conversations. Authorities in several countries have even resorted to shutting down all internet access at politically contentious times, solely to prevent users from disseminating information through social media and communication apps, with untold social, commercial, and humanitarian consequences.

“In addition to restricting access to social media and communication apps, state authorities more frequently imprison users for their posts and the content of their messages, creating a chilling effect among others who write on controversial topics. Users in some countries were put behind bars for simply “liking” offending material on Facebook, or for not denouncing critical messages sent to them by others. Offenses that led to arrests ranged from mocking the king’s pet dog in Thailand to “spreading atheism” in Saudi Arabia. The number of countries where such arrests occur has increased by over 50 percent since 2013.

The study found that only 24% of the world’s nations allowed free speech, 29% allowed partial free speech, 35% were rated as not free, and the remainder 12% were not assessed. Turkey and Brazil were downgraded in their internet freedom status.

Freedom House noted that “The increased controls show the importance of social media and online communication for advancing political freedom and social justice. It is no coincidence that the tools at the center of the current crackdown have been widely used to hold governments accountable and facilitate uncensored conversations. Authorities in several countries have even resorted to shutting down all internet access at politically contentious times, solely to prevent users from disseminating information through social media and communication apps, with untold social, commercial, and humanitarian consequences.”

China was found to be the worst offender.

Democrats Poised to Repeat Mistakes

The Democrats are considering a move that may provide their Republican rivals further success in the 2018 elections.

The Democrat National Committee (DNC) will name a new chair in March, who will strive to clean up the Party’s image after their drubbing in the 2016 election, which provided Republicans with solid control of the White House, both houses of Congress, and a significant majority of state governorships and legislatures. The new president will also name the new Supreme Court Justice, which will assure a more conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

In addition to losses at the ballot box, the last chair of the DNC, Florida’s Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, left in disgrace following revelations that she essentially tilted the primary process in favor of Hillary Clinton. Her successor, Donna Brazile, now serving as interim chair, also faces ethical issues following reports that she inappropriately alerted the Clinton campaign of presidential debate questions scheduled to be asked.

Rep. Keith Maurice Ellison, (D-Minnesota), was first elected in 2007. He serves as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Ellison is a left-wing lawyer, a convert to Islam, with ties to the radical Nation of Islam. He is considered a leading candidate to serve as the next head of the Democrat National Committee. Former Maryland Governor Mike O’Malley, former DNC Chair Howard Dean, are also being considered, as is DNC Vice-Chair Ray Buckley, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, ex- Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.  The new chair will not be named until March.

He has, notes Fox News, equated George W. Bush to Hitler, and called for the impeachment of former Vice President Dick Cheney. He refuses to answer faxes for “environmental reasons.” He has been associated with the anti-Semitic leanings of Farrakhan, And he has compared the 9/11 attacks as “America’s Reichstag fire,” a reference to the Nazi burning of the German government building which they blamed on their opponents, and used it as an excuse to round them up. A Washington Post article notes that Ellison “called affirmative action a ‘sneaky’ form of compensation for slavery, suggesting instead that white Americans pay reparations to blacks.

He later renounced some of his earlier positions when they became politically inconvenient.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have backed his candidacy. He is also said to have the support of top Senate Democrat Charles Schumer, the New York Senator who called for limiting the First Amendment, and outgoing Senate minority leader Harry Reid, who has drawn extensive criticism for his inflammatory statements about the character of the President-elect.

Democrat support for Ellison largely centers on his opposition to Clintons’ reliance on Wall Street donors, and his stated preference for concentrating more on the support of working and middle class voters.

While he may have correctly identified voter distrust of the big-money ties and the pay for play politics of the Clinton wing of his party, his emphasis on racial divides, climate extremism, class strife, his history of affiliation with religious bigotry and the progressive economic policies that have severely impacted working Americans doesn’t inspire confidence in his ability to lead Democrats to victory in 2018. The GOP may have gained support from its drive to fight voter fraud; Ellison has been an active and vocal opponent of good-government measures such as voter ID. As the military threat from the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, and radical Islamists grows rapidly, he continues his call for large cuts in defense spending.

There continues to be an apparent disconnect between real-world issues and the Democrat leadership. Progressive policies, especially forcing lending institutions to provide loans to those incapable of repayment, caused the Great Recession of 2007-2008.  The Obama Administration’s leftist economics failed to provide the growth necessary for the U.S. economy to grow, or to provide financial health for the middle class. Its cuts to defense spending left America in the most precarious national security position since the end of WW2. Climate extremism, based on unproven statistics, endangered the success of family farms and helped continue the major drop in manufacturing and mining employment. Obamacare is collapsing under the weight of its own financial misconceptions. The voters, in several successive elections, have registered their distaste for the elitism of Progressive Democrats (best symbolized by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that Americans would have to wait until the Affordable Care Act was passed before they see what was in it) which replaced top level politics and executive orders for honest public debate and open votes in Congress.

The Democrats appear poised to double down on the very traits that have caused them to become an increasingly dwindling part of government at both the federal and state levels.