Paris Climate Accord Challenged

The underpinnings of the radical plan to alter the western economies based on charges of human-made climate change are beginning to disintegrate.

The data employed to foster the manmade change theory has been shown to be seriously flawed. When “change” advocates generally cited records only a few hundred years old, they ignored, intentionally, vital and relevant information. From the 10th to the 14th centuries, the planet’s temperature was warmer  than that of our time. This period was followed by an era now known as “the Little Ice Age.”  Changes continued, not tied to human activity, and continue still.

There is increasing skepticism over politically altered data from government agencies and universities. Concern exists about the significant negative impact of environmental extremists on scientific objectivity. In response, challenges are being issued to attempts to address allegations of human-made climate change with economic proposals that seem more in line with age-old attempts to replace capitalism with failed socialist practices.

The chief engine of the drive to use the climate change theory to pursue a wealth redistribution program has been the Paris Climate Accord. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. State Department’s (State) refusal to act on a series of CEI Freedom of Information Act requests for more information regarding State’s backstage work on the Paris Climate Agreement. The think tank, which during the Obama Administration was targeted for harassment, is seeking documents related to State’s use of outside individuals and groups, called “validators,” to promote the Paris climate treaty under the Obama Administration, and State’s use of an encrypted instant messaging service during the November 2017 Bonn conference on the UN’s climate change framework convention.

According to CEI, “Documents and other information we have regarding our unprocessed requests strongly suggest the State Department has something serious to hide regarding its attempts to grease the skids for the energy-crippling climate plan that President Trump has rejected.”

There has been a great of criticism over the unprecedented and expensive proposals agreed to as part of the Paris Climate Accord. An  review notes that even if climate change was as dire as advocates maintain, the economy-busting Paris Climate Accord would have little impact.  “According to the latest annual UN report on the ‘emissions gap,’ the Paris agreement will provide only a third of the cuts in greenhouse gas that environmentalists claim is needed to prevent catastrophic warming. If every country involved in those accords abides by their pledges between now and 2030 — which is a dubious proposition — temperatures will still rise by 3 degrees C by 2100. The goal of the Paris agreement was to keep the global temperature increase to under 2 degrees.”

The American Enterprise Institute questions the viability of the Paris Climate Accord proposals. “If we apply the EPA climate model under a set of assumptions that strongly exaggerate the effectiveness of international emissions reductions, the Paris emissions cuts, if achieved by 2030 and maintained fully on an international basis through 2100, would reduce temperatures by that year by 0.17 of a degree. The US contribution to that dubious achievement—the Obama climate action plan—would be 0.015 of a degree. Add another 0.01 of a degree if you believe that the Obama pseudo-agreement with China is meaningful. (It is not.) This effort to reduce GHG emissions would impose costs of at least 1 percent of global GDP, or roughly $600 billion to $750 billion or more per year, inflicted disproportionately upon the world’s poor. Would those arguing that the US should preserve the Paris status quo please explain how it can be justified simply as a straightforward exercise in benefit-cost analysis?

Climate changeis also being used by some state officials as an excuse to raise taxes, taking advantage of, and essentially eliminating within their jurisdictions, the impact of the Trump tax cuts.  Sterling Burnett, writing for Heartland,  reports: “The governors of Washington and Oregon and Democrat members of Congress are pushing bills to raise the price of energy through a tax on carbon dioxide emissions or by establishing a cap on carbon dioxide emissions and forcing industry and businesses to buy allowances to emit carbon. Capping carbon dioxide emissions and selling allowances to emit certain amounts of carbon dioxide is just a carbon (dioxide) tax by another name. These tax schemes penalize the use of the cheap, abundant energy sources which built the modern, prosperous economy and are largely responsible for pulling the United States out of 2008 recession.”

U.S. Faces Dangerous Challenges in Pacific


Gen, Dunford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs, meets with Admiral Harris (DoD Photo)

How dangerous are the challenges facing the U.S. in the Pacific? America has committed 375,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and Coast Guard personnel to the region. Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of America’s Pacific Command, (PACOM) recently testified before the House of Representatives’ Armed Service Committee. We provide the key excerpts from his comments.

One of the principal problems we face in the [Pacific] region is overcoming the perception that the U.S. is a declining power; a fully resourced defense budget, leading into long-term budget stability, will send a strong signal to our allies and partners – and all potential adversaries – that the U.S. is fully committed to preserving a free and open order in the Indo-Pacific.

The United States has an enduring national interest in the Indo-Pacific.  America’s security and economic prosperity are indelibly linked to this critical region, which remains at a precarious crossroad where tangible opportunity meets significant challenge.  Here we face a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory.

Rogue regimes like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea persist in taking outlaw actions that threaten regional and even global stability.  This past year has seen rapid and comprehensive improvement in the DPRK’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities, despite broad international condemnation and the imposition of additional United Nations Security Council Resolutions.  This includes the detonation of its largest nuclear device, first-ever launches of two different intercontinental ballistic missiles, and six launches of an intermediate-range ballistic missile – all of which Pyongyang emphatically states will target the United States and Guam.

While some might dispute both the reliability and quantity of the North’s strategic weapons, it is indisputable that KJU is rapidly closing the gap between rhetoric and capability.  The Republic of Korea and Japan have been living under the shadow of the DPRK’s threats for years; now, the shadow looms over the American homeland.

Nobody seeks or desires conflict with the DPRK, but the U.S. and our allies must prepare for the full range of contingency scenarios.

Meanwhile, China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific to their advantage.  While some view China’s actions in the East and South China Seas as opportunistic, I do not.  I view them as coordinated, methodical, and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order.

China’s aggression in the South China Sea moves along unabated, despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s tribunal ruling that invalidated China’s 9-dash line claim and unprecedented land reclamation in 2016.  And China is attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features by further militarizing its man-made bases to this very day.

China’s impressive military buildup could soon challenge the U.S. across almost every domain.  Key advancements include fielding significant improvements in missile systems, developing 5th generation fighter aircraft capabilities, and growing the size and capability of the Chinese navy, to include their first-ever overseas base in the port of Djibouti.  They are also heavily investing into the next wave of military technologies, including hypersonic missiles, advanced space and cyber capabilities, and artificial intelligence.  If the U.S. does not keep pace, PACOM will struggle to compete with the People’s Liberation Army on future battlefields.

China’s ongoing military buildup, advancement, and modernization are core elements of their strategy to supplant the U.S. as the security partner of choice for countries in the Indo-Pacific, but China also holds clear global ambitions.  But don’t take my word for it.  Just listen to what China says itself:  At the 19th Party Congress, President Xi stated he wanted China to develop a “world class” military and become a “global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence.”

China’s intent is crystal clear.  We ignore it at our peril.

These types of aspirational goals could be appropriate for a nation of China’s stature, but judging by China’s regional behavior, I’m concerned China will now work to undermine the rules-based international order – not just in the Indo-Pacific, but on a global scale – as China expands is presence in Central Asia, the Arctic, Africa, South America, and Europe.

This increasingly competitive environment necessitates continued dialogue between the U.S. and Chinese militaries to improve understanding and reduce risk.  For PACOM, my goal remains to convince China that its best future comes from peaceful cooperation and meaningful participation in the current free and open international order and honoring its international commitments.  After all, the Chinese economic miracle could not have happened without the rules-based order the region has long supported.  But I’ve also been loud and clear that we won’t allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally, so we’ll cooperate where we can, but remain ready to confront where we must.

Russian operations and engagements throughout the Indo-Pacific continue to rise, both to advance their own strategic interests and to undermine U.S. interests.  Russia intends to impose additional costs on the U.S. whenever and wherever possible by playing the role of spoiler, especially with respect to the DPRK.  Russia also sees economic opportunities to not only build markets for energy exports, but also to build – or in some cases rebuild – arms sales relationships in the region.

Of particular note are Russian efforts to build presence and influence in the high north.  Russia has more bases north of the Arctic Circle than all other countries combined, and is building more with distinctly military capabilities.

In the PACOM AOR, one event dominated the counterterrorism fight in 2017: the siege by ISIS in the Philippines and recapture by government forces of the Philippine city of Marawi.  It was both symbolic of the larger struggle against violent extremism and also an anomaly characterized by unique circumstances and opportunities.

Marawi underscores two important themes with regard to defeating ISIS in the Indo-Pacific.  First, localized threats can quickly transform into international causes.  An early and effective response is vital to control the fight and own the narrative.

Second, counterterrorism operations are extremely challenging and most regional forces are poorly equipped for such fights.  Our engagement strategy and capacity-building efforts have remained – and will continue to remain – focused on enabling regional counterterrorism forces to win whatever fights they face.  Through multinational collaboration, we can eliminate ISIS before it spreads further in the area.

Every day, our allies and partners join us in addressing these global challenges to defend freedom, deter war, and maintain the rules which underwrite a free and open international order.  These mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships provide a durable, asymmetric strategic advantage that no competitor or rival can match.

In the Indo-Pacific, our alliance with Australia continues to anchor peace and stability in the region with increased collaboration in counterterrorism, space, cyber, integrated air/missile defense, and regional capacity building.  Our alliance with South Korea is ironclad and our alliance with Japan has never been stronger.  The attack on Marawi City served as a reminder of the value of our alliance to Philippine security and stability.  And we’ve reinvigorated our alliance with Thailand through continued engagement with military leadership to promote regional security and healthy civil-military relations.

We’ve also advanced our partnerships with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and many others who are dedicated to the principles of longstanding, customary international law.

While U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific are real and enduring, the growing challenges to our interests are daunting and cannot be overstated.  In order to deter conflict initiated by revisionist powers, rogue states, and transnational threats, we must continue to acquire and field critical capabilities.  Our evolving force posture must decrease our vulnerabilities, increase our resilience, and reassure our allies and partners.

America’s resolve is strong, and it is imperative we continue to show our commitment to the region in the years to come.  I ask this committee to continue its support for these future capabilities that maintain our edge and prevent would-be challengers from gaining the upper hand.


Vatican Surrenders to China, Part 2

Photo by Vatican

Pope Francis has reportedly reached an agreement with Beijing allowing the Communist government to appoint bishops.  What are the implications for religious freedom across globe?

Catholicism has survived across two millennia. It endured attempts at eradication by Roman emperors. It outlived a regrettable period when the Vatican functioned as secular state.

The Papacy has arguably emerged as the world’s most respected religious institution because modern Popes understand that the Vatican’s role is to lead in moral matters, not temporal ones.  In that respect, they are directly following the example of Jesus himself.

Christ was born into a particularly troubling time.  According to the New Testament, he was on occasion urged to take a stand on the political issues of the day, particularly the Roman occupation of the Jewish homeland. Jesus refused, and set an example of moral leadership that an extraordinary percentage of the world’s population considers to be the guiding light of all mankind.

It appears that Pope Francis has taken a different course than Jesus did. He has espoused views on matters of science, economics, and international affairs. In doing so, his opinions must be judged not as those of a religious figure, but as a political one.

While the Pontiff has been a breath of fresh air in his attempts to reform the administration of the Catholic Religion, his political views are tired, old, and frankly discredited. His immediate predecessors rejected the “Liberation Theology” which describes Pope Francis’s perspective.

Clearly this Pontiff, who has displayed brilliance in his analysis of the course the Vatican must take to restore a connection with estranged Catholics, has not demonstrated a similar mastery of the political issues he has chosen to discuss. There is little evidence that he consulted data, studies, or experts who have views contrary to his that are so much a product of his background.

In his 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis spoke of the need for compassion to immigrants. Has he not reflected on the reality that no nation is currently taking in more immigrants, nor treating them better, than the United States?  Shouldn’t he spend more time lecturing the governments that immigrants are freeing from, rather than the governments they are fleeing to?

The Pope has displayed great and justifiable concern for the poor. It appears that he singles out capitalism for criticism. But here his lack of adequate research is manifest. Capitalism has been the most successful system to reduce the number of people in poverty, while redistributionist regimes have failed to do so.  Need examples? Compare the former nations of East and West Germany. Compare North Korea with South Korea. It wasn’t the economy of capitalist America that collapsed, it was the Soviet Union’s.

The Pope is clearly worried about the health of the environment.  There are key areas, deforestation in his home continent of South America being a prime example, that are undeniably vital to the health of the planet.  Rather than concentrate on that, however, he places his trust on increasingly suspect studies about man-made global warming. He has failed to mention that the “solutions” to this unproven issue would devastate the poor that he properly displays so much care for.

Pope Francis is correctly concerned about the dignity of each human life.  What, then, compelled him to visit with the harsh totalitarian leadership of Cuba, but not with the heroic dissidents of that oppressed island nation?  Why did he consent to speak in the shadow of a memorial to Che Guevara, a vicious murderer?

Indeed, in an era when stunning acts of aggression, repression and atrocity are increasing with frightening intensity as a result of the acts of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorist forces, the Pontiff seems to inexplicably concentrate far more on his preconceived notions of the shortcomings of largely peaceful and open democratic western nations.

His surrender to the authoritarian regime of Beijing is an error of historical proportions.

Vatican Surrenders to China

Photo by Vatican 

It appears that Pope Francis, the most political pope in modern history, is close to coming to an agreement with Beijing over the appointment of bishops in China. In doing so, he upends over two thousand years of Catholic tradition, and betrays the steadfast loyalty of his faith’s 10 million adherents in that nation.

The government wants Roman Catholics in China to attend only state-sanctioned churches, ruled over by bishops designated by the Communist dictatorship. Underground churches in that country, who brave oppression, continue the religion’s ancient practice of allegiance to the Pontiff, seen as the heir, in an unbroken line stretching back to Peter the Apostle, who was, according to the New Testament, appointed head of the church by Christ himself.

The BBC reports that there are about 100 bishops in the world’s most populous nation, some appointed by the Vatican, others by Beijing. Following four meetings since 2016, an agreement to provide joint authority in the designation of bishops appears to be potentially completed within months.

The LA Times has revealed that a further dramatic reversal of church doctrine was emphasized by Bishop Sanchez Sorondo, a close adviser described as “confident” of Pope Francis. Sorondo stated that the Communist giant “is implementing the social doctrine of the catholic Church.”

The move would be an even more significant change to Catholicism’s power structure than that which occurred in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. For the first time in the two thousand year-old history of the Church, the Vatican would cede the power to appoint clergy leaders to an atheist entity. It would also be seen by Christians as a betrayal of  martyrs who gave all for the integrity of Christianity.

Surrendering to Beijing’s demands to have the right to appoint bishops has in the past been severely criticized by some Church leaders, particularly in Asia. The Catholic Herald reports that “ Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Chinese Catholic, has said a possible deal between China and the Vatican would ‘betray Jesus Christ’.

In a past interview with The Guardian, Cardinal Zen stated “Maybe the Pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China…The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands. Chinese Catholics are free to go to mass and attend government-sanctioned churches, but barred from proselytizing. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association controls the church and appoints bishops, currently without any input from the Vatican.An “underground” Catholic church exists, with some estimates saying it is larger than the official one, and its members and clergy have faced persecution by authorities. Protestant Christians also face similar challenges…”

As the planet’s most influential religious leader, a surrender by Pope Francis on the issue of the independence of faith groups to appoint their own governing clergy would impact every denomination in every nation.

Many of Pope Francis’ statements have raised serious questions about whether his worldview is sufficiently informed. A U.S. News analysis noted that the Pontiff has not watched television since 1990.

Commentator Wayne Allyn Root  has written that “This pope neither seems to understand, nor care that his views on issues…often put him in bed with atheists and socialists, who don’t believe in God, mock religion and think the Bible is a work of fiction. He crusades for social justice, yet chose to embrace the Castro brothers – evil murderers who have imprisoned, tortured and murdered generations of Cubans for expressing their opinions and questioning the authority of a tyrant…He chose not to visit or even be seen with Cubans imprisoned because of their political views.”

Pope Francis’ lack of a more thorough and well-rounded understanding of the world is leading to exactly the opposite of the goals he, with all good intentions, advocates.

When the Pope ventures into areas beyond his theological expertise, that can cause problems.  Damien Thompson, writing in Spectator writes: “What should worry Francis is that moderate conservative Catholics are losing confidence in him. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who is no one’s idea of an extremist, believes that ‘this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him’. Cristina Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald, says that ‘Francis achieved miracles with his compassionate, off-the-cuff comments that detoxified the Catholic brand. He personifies optimism — but when he tries to turn this into policy he isn’t in command of the procedures or the details. The result is confusion.’”

The Report Continues Tomorrow

Indictments Should End Trump Collusion Charge

Russian government photo

The recent indictment handed down by Robert Mueller exposes the fallacy of the collusion charge against President Trump, and confirms that Moscow is continuing its policy, initiated at the very start of the Russian Revolution over a century ago, to vigorously but inappropriately meddle in the politics of western democracies.

The key portion of the Indictment states that:

Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC (“ORGANIZATION”) is a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes. Defendants MIKHAIL IVANOVICH BYSTROV, MIKHAIL LEONIDOVICH BURCHIK, ALEKSANDRA YURYEVNA KRYLOVA, ANNA VLADISLAVOVNA BOGACHEVA, SERGEY PAVLOVICH POLOZOV, MARIA ANATOLYEVNA BOVDA, ROBERT SERGEYEVICH BOVDA, DZHEYKHUN NASIMI OGLY ASLANOV, VADIM VLADIMIROVICH PODKOPAEV, GLEB IGOREVICH VASILCHENKO, IRINA VIKTOROVNA KAVERZINA, and VLADIMIR VENKOV worked in various capacities to carry out Defendant ORGANIZATION’s interference operations targeting the United States. From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to Case 1:18-cr-00032-DLF Document 1 Filed 02/16/18 Page 2 of 37 2 Case 1:18-cr-00032-DLF Document 1 Filed 02/16/18 Page 3 of 37 the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016. 3. Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendant ORGANIZATION received funding for its operations from Defendant YEVGENIY VIKTOROVICH PRIGOZHIN and companies he controlled, including Defendants CONCORD MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING LLC and CONCORD CATERING (collectively “CONCORD”). Defendants CONCORD and PRIGOZHIN spent significant funds to further the ORGANIZATION’s operations and to pay the remaining Defendants, along with other uncharged ORGANIZATION employees, salaries and bonuses for their work at the ORGANIZATION. 4. Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and pages, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to post on ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts.

 Robert Barnes, writing for Law and Crime, asks “Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted foreign citizens for trying to influence the American public about an election because those citizens did not register as a foreign agent nor record their financial expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. By that theory, when will Mueller indict Christopher Steele, FusionGPS, PerkinsCoie, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign?… , if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make the Clinton Campaign a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its funding of payments to Steele laundered through a law firm as a ‘legal expense.’ Don’t expect such an indictment. Mueller chose his targets because he knows they will never appear in court, never contest the charges, and cannot be arrested or extradited as Russian citizens.”

The fact that Russia’s latest meddling attempt began in 2014, before the start of the primary season, is highly significant.  When added to the common-sense fact that there is no reason why Putin would want a candidate, such as Trump, who promised to increase the American military and increase U.S. energy production (a major blow to Russia’s dependence on sales of its oil and gas assets for its economic stability) it becomes increasingly evident that the collusion charges were, essentially, little more than the actions of Clinton partisans both within government and the media.  Major news outlets who concentrated heavily but unquestioningly on the charges never analyzed why Putin would prefer Trump to Clinton, who, as part of the Obama Administration, allowed Russia to take the lead in nuclear arms for the first time in history, slashed Pentagon funding, sold 20% of American uranium to Russian interests, and failed to take any substantive response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Serious questions have been raised concerning media coverage of the Russian collusion story.

Lee Smith, writing for The Federalist reports that “Half the country wants to know why the press won’t cover the growing scandal now implicating the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, and threatening to reach the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and perhaps even the Obama White House. After all, the release last week of a less-redacted version of Sens. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham’s January 4 letter showed that the FBI secured a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to search the communications of a Trump campaign adviser based on a piece of opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Fourth Amendment rights of an American citizen were violated to allow one political party to spy on another. If the press did its job and reported the facts, the argument goes, then it wouldn’t just be Republicans and Trump supporters demanding accountability and justice. Americans across the political spectrum would understand the nature and extent of the abuses and crimes touching not just on one political party and its presidential candidate but the rights of every American.”  It’s Smith’s belief that  “The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story Because They Helped Create It. The press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.”

Adding to the growing observation that media reporting, and indeed, advocating, the unsubstantiated allegations against the Trump campaign was both biased and unprofessional is the near-total amnesia about Moscow’s long history of serious meddling in western politics.

In 1983,  John Vinocur wrote in the New York Times: “Over the last two years, the Danish and Swiss governments have exposed attempts by ostensible Soviet diplomats, actually K.G.B. officers, to influence or buy their way into groups trying to block deployment of new medium-range missiles in Western Europe. The cases are the best evidence offered by Western counterintelligence officers who believe that the Soviet espionage agency’s highest priorities in Western Europe include attempts to exploit the disarmament movement…Beyond domestic political sensitivities, another problem acknowledged by counterespionage officials is the fuzziness of Soviet involvement in what the K.G.B. calls ”active measures” -operations to create a political effect abroad, as opposed to collection of information on weapons, politics and technology. Last year in Congressional testimony, the United States Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged its difficulties and echoed those of other Western intelligence services…The C.I.A. has described the World Peace Council, a Soviet front, as receiving over half the $63 million it estimates Moscow provided in 1980 to ‘its 13 major international fronts.’”

A CIA study by Vladimir Bukovsky released to the public in 2008 cites an even older example, documenting Moscow’s well-financed efforts to influence western politics through left-wing organizations in the 1950’s and onward.


Should National Security be a Bargaining Chip? Part 2

Should national security be a bargaining chip in budget negotiations?  The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its examination of this debate.

Writing in Questia, Lawrence P. Farrell Jr. noted: “…any debate about defense spending must address the strategy issue. An assessment of needed military capabilities flows from the national military strategy…Most pundits ignore this critical link, and much of the discussion that takes place in the media fails to note that analysts, in some very significant ways, redefine strategy for the purposes of their arguments. In some cases, this is explicitly defined, but in others, it is implicit and one wonders if the pundits are even aware of the difference between their analyses and the official national strategy.”

A 2015 Heritage analysis by Justin T. Johnson explained: “Instead of arguing the merits of a particular military spending level, much of the debate [revolves] around Democratic opposition to increasing defense spending without proportional increases to non-defense spending. The usual arguments for cutting defense spending will likely pop up as well. But what’s really needed is a more thoughtful debate… The first step is determining the vital interests of the United States. What must we, as a country, protect?…The next step is figuring out what threatens these vital interests…The third step is figuring out how to protect America’s vital interests from both the threats of today and those of the future.

“Once you have a strategy, you need to develop the tools to implement that strategy. For the military, this means figuring out the capabilities and the capacity needed to execute the strategy…Answering questions of capability and capacity will lead directly to a defense budget… [However] Since the imposition of the Budget Control Act in 2011, the base defense budget (excluding war costs) has gone down by 15 percent in real terms, while the threats to U.S. vital interests have, if anything, increased.”

“The prior administration, Congressional Democrats, and Republican budgets hawks adopted the sequester which effectively cut defense spending. The results were disastrous.  When President Obama prematurely withdrew American forces from Iraq, it allowed ISIS to become a regional power. The former president gave in to Moscow’s demands on anti-ballistic missile defense, and Putin increased nuclear weaponry. Obama refused to confront either Russia or China over aggressive acts in Europe and the Pacific, and these U.S. enemies dramatically ramped up their threats worldwide and expanded their armed presence throughout the planet. Obama withdrew, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, American tanks from Europe, and Putin proceeded to invade and threaten his neighbors.”

President Obama hoped to “Reset” Russian American relations by essentially ceding the lead in military power to Moscow.  His New START treaty gave the Kremlin, for the first time in history, a more powerful nuclear arsenal than Washington. He dramatically weakened the U.S. military presence in Europe.

President Obama’s attempt to “Reset” relations with Russia was actually the centerpiece of his foreign and defense policies.

Writing in the Moscow Times, Sergei Karagonov opined on what he believes was the flawed concept of Mr. Obama’s reset, even from the Russian perspective: (the perspective of American critics is that it gave too much to Russia without gaining anything substantive in return) “…the U.S. proposed nuclear weapons reductions as the primary mechanism of the diplomatic reset…But progress soon stalled with Russia rejecting U.S. proposals…In the hope of breaking the deadlock, Obama signaled his willingness to compromise.  But Putin had little reason to reciprocate, not least because agreement on the issue would have opened the door to further nuclear arms reductions. Moreover, members of Russia’s military and political elite hoped to use some of the country’s oil revenues to deploy a new generation of ICBMs…By focusing on nuclear disarmament and new START, Obama’s reset strategy remilitarized the U.S.-Russia relationship while marginalizing issues that could have reoriented bilateral ties toward the future.  In this sense, the initiative was doomed from the start, and the whole world has suffered as a result.”

What was manifestly evident was Mr. Obama’s desire to downsize of the U.S. military, regardless of external factors. Indeed, despite the reduction of U.S. defense spending as a percent of the GDP and the federal budget to historic low points, and rising, dangerous threats from abroad, the U.S. military was forced absorb massive new cuts.

During the Obama Administration, in 2014, former Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.)  outlined how deeply American forces had been cut.  The U.S. Navy was reduced from 546 ships to 285; The U.S. Army was reduced from 76 brigades to 45; and The USAF lost about half of its fighter and bomber squadrons.  Remember, in the intervening years since then, U.S. armed forces have become older, absorbed more years of use, and endured further inadequate budgets.

The bleeding continues, as American aircraft and naval vessels become increasingly unsafe due to a lack of parts and maintenance, and our personnel become exhausted from excessive workloads mandated by the reduced numbers of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Meanwhile,  the threats from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorists increase.

Should National Security be a Bargaining Chip?

The provision of an adequate defense budget for America’s diminished armed forces in the face of rapidly growing international threats has been held hostage to political issues including immigration, increased domestic programs, and spending caps. It is a dangerous act, the governmental equivalent of a family refusing to fix a collapsed roof in their home until they can also afford a new big-screen television.

The current flashpoint is the tactic by Senator Schumer (Dem-NY) and Rep. Pelosi (D-Ca.)  to withhold necessary defense spending  unless Republicans surrender on immigration issues.

it’s not the first time this tact has been taken. In the past few years, the Obama Administration withheld urgently needed budgetary support for the armed services unless Congress authorized increases in domestic spending, despite the former president’s increase of over 40% in some entitlement programs, his $780 billion stimulus program, and other costly (and, some would argue, unsuccessful) domestic initiatives.

In 2016, the Washington Examiner reported, after Democrats had blocked a defense spending bill for the third time, that “The Obama administration reportedly put together a five-page memo about blocking increases for the Pentagon unless they are accompanied by increases on other programs…It is one thing to insist on fiscal probity within the Pentagon, quite another to prevent proper national defense until the majority party caves in and allows further federal overspending on domestic programs.”

The strategy continued into 2017, reports Elana Schor in Politico, when “All but four of the Senate’s 48 Democrats [in December] warned congressional GOP leaders against pursuing a government funding plan that would boost defense spending for the rest of the fiscal year while leaving domestic priorities at current levels…Some Senate Democrats began pushing back… as House conservatives pitched Republican leaders on a full-year hike for the Pentagon paired with a continuing resolution for domestic programs.”

There is a profound difference between the pragmatic worldview of those seeking to provide necessary funds for the Pentagon, and those who view defense as just one more Washington program. The Hill  reported that “Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said he opposes the administration’s push to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal because ‘we can’t afford it.’… the congressman argued for ‘a national security strategy that realistically reflects the amount of money that we’re going to have.’”

Rep. Smith’s position fails to pass a logic test.  The world of threats facing America will not respond to Washington’s internecine debates.  The threats are real, not political. Further, it was proven quite rigorously during the Obama Administration that when the U.S. reduces the strength of its military or its military commitments, military dangers increase.

The latest pushback on this extraordinarily hazardous practice came from Speaker Paul Ryan, in a January address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies  :

“…the federal government has a lot of responsibilities, but its first and its foremost responsibility is our national defense… We have to be clear-eyed in laying out for the American people why so much is at stake. Rebuilding our military is essential to confronting the threats we face, threats that are evolving at an alarmingly rapid pace. North Korea is working to build ballistic missiles capable of hitting the continental United States. Iran is marching forward with its quest for regional hegemony by backing terrorism across the globe. And what is left of ISIS is trying to figure out how to expand and influence terrorism in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, and into the West, including by inspiring attacks right here at home…Then there are those countries that want to remake the world order in their authoritarian image…Russia is trying to drive holes through NATO, while threatening some of our closest allies in Eastern Europe; while the Chinese aggression continues to stir instability in the South China Sea. And these threats are particularly serious, because allowing Russia and China to upend the post-Cold War order first and foremost affects us right here at home… We have simply pushed our military past the breaking point. Instead of upgrading our hardware, we have let our equipment age. Instead of equipping our troops for tomorrow’s fight, we have let them become woefully underequipped. Funding for modernizing the Army has been cut in half in the past eight years. Navy sailors are putting in 100-hour work weeks, and less than half of their aircraft are capable of flying. So we’re pushing our sailors to 100-hour work weeks and half of their planes can fly. Roughly 80 percent of the Marine Corps aviation units lack the minimum number of ready basic aircraft. The Air Force is the smallest size in our nation’s history, and the average age of their aircraft is 27 years old. The cost of these readiness deficiencies are really dire, and this is literally costing us lives. Here’s the statistic that gets me the most. In total, we lost 80 lives due to training accidents in 2017 alone. That is four times as many were killed in combat. Four times were lost last year in training accidents versus combat…”

The Report Concludes Tomorrow

Civil Defense Neglected

The utter confusion and ill-preparedness that was evident in the aftermath of Hawaii’s mistaken alert about an incoming North Korean missile highlighted the irresponsible and dangerous abandonment of civil defense preparedness throughout the nation.

Americans who grew up during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s recall civil defense drills that were geared towards protecting citizens from a nuclear assault. Today, despite increased danger from the combined threats from Russia, China and North Korea, those and other preparations have been largely ignored. Much of the federal literature on the topic speaks about dealing with the threat of a terrorist atomic weapon rather than an assault by another nation-state.

The educational and public informational foundations on how to survive an atomic assault have largely been neglected. A New York Post article notes that “Relics from the Cold War, the aging shelters that once numbered in the thousands in schools, courthouses and churches haven’t been maintained.”  It would seem that more Americans have considered what to do about a mythical Zombie Apocalypse than the very real prospect of nuclear war.

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Centers for Disease Control have begun to reemphasize some aspects of civil defense, but on a scale that is inadequate to the growing threat. One former DHS staffer told the New York Analysis of Policy and Government that over the years, FEMA, which is the umbrella organization for disasters, just didn’t concentrate enough on nuclear war-related civil defense.

Compared to America’s adversaries, our preparations are almost absurdly inadequate. Bill Gertz, writing in the Free Beacon  in 2013, stated that “China recently upgraded its subway system in Beijing and revealed that its mass transit was hardened to withstand nuclear blasts or chemical gas attacks in a future war…, the subway can ‘withstand a nuclear or poison gas attack.’A U.S. official said the disclosure of the subway’s capabilities to withstand attack is unusual since it highlights Beijing’s strategic nuclear modernization program, something normally kept secret from state-controlled media. The strategic nuclear buildup includes the expansion of offensive nuclear forces, missile defenses, and anti-satellite arms…”

In 2016, reports the Russian news source RT, Russian authorities conducted a massive civil defense training involving 40 million people nationwide. The four-day exercise included 200,000 rescue professionals and 50, 000 vehicles. Five years ago,  Free Beacon notes,  that “Moscow announced it is also constructing some 5,000 underground bomb shelters in Russia’s capital in anticipation of a possible future nuclear conflict. By contrast, the U.S. government has done little to bolster civil defense measures, preferring the largely outdated concept of mutual assured destruction that leaves populations vulnerable to attack and building only limited missile defenses that the Obama administration has said are not designed to counter Chinese or Russian nuclear strikes.”

Some nongovernmental sources, reviving interest largely lost after the cold war, have begun to suggest preparations. Jim Benson, writing in Backwoodshomes,  states that “The consequences of continued denial of the dangers facing us could be catastrophic. Except for a period of about 25 years during and following World War II, Americans have never had a significant Civil Defense program… Efforts to protect the US civilian population from large-scale nuclear attack …began to decline, until by the late1990s, federal, state and local government efforts toward this end had all but ceased to exist, with most of the government disaster management activities becoming oriented toward protecting the US civilian population from more localized natural and human-caused disruptions… During eight years of the Clinton administration, wrote Joseph Farah in a recent article titled, “Bring Back Civil Defense” in, ‘FEMA’s meager efforts to maintain equipment needed for saving lives in a future nuclear war were cut from the budget. The equipment was destroyed, lost, sold or abandoned.”

The Multi-Faceted Latino Vote

Have Democrats, in their concentration on protecting illegal immigrants, overlooked key areas of concern to the Latino/Hispanic community, which makes up 17% of the U.S. population?

Party leaders have made an important political calculation. They are gambling  that the way to gain the support of the vital and growing numbers of Latino-American voters is to take an absolutist stand on immigration issues. Approximately 340 mostly Democrat-controlled states and localities support sanctuary policies that even protect illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders pledged to provide illegals a path to legal status.

That approach may not prove successful, not with the majority of voters, and perhaps not with the Latino community itself. The viability of that approach heavily depends on the assumption that illegal immigration is an issue that Latino-American voters consider paramount, by no means a sure thing.

A key example of a major Latino issue which Democrats ignored in their emphasis on illegal immigration is the extraordinary plight of Puerto Rico. Despite a $780 billion “stimulus” package, President Obama failed totally to address major problems affecting the island, most notably, its woefully deficient electric grid. It is baffling how, despite the urgent need to improve that critical infrastructure issue, the former administration somehow believed there weren’t sufficient “shovel ready” jobs to concentrate on.

The inadequacy of the island’s fragile and antiquated electrical system was made abundantly clear in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. It should not have come as a surprise, since the grid’s shortcomings have been long known.  538 notes that Electricity is generally a reliable service in the United States. Data from 2015 shows that, on average, Americans could expect a little more than three hours a year in which their electricity wasn’t working properly. But Puerto Rico is a different story. There, the 2015 goal was to have no more than 9.6 hours of outage per customer, and the utility still wasn’t able to meet that goal.  At the same time, Puerto Ricans pay higher prices for electricity than almost everyone else in the U.S. — nearly 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential customers, compared with a U.S. average of about 13 cents per hour. In July, only three states paid more.”

Only 3% of Obama’s stimulus funds actually went to infrastructure.

According to a 2016 Pew Hispanic analysis of its standing with the Latino-American community. “Latino registered voters have long said the Democratic Party has more concern for Latinos or Hispanics than the Republican Party, with Democrats losing some ground on this measure since 2012. Over the same period, Democrats have not made significant gains in party affiliation, with 64% of Latino voters identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party in 2016, a similar share to 2012 when 70% said the same… There are some differences in the views of the political parties among demographic subgroups of Hispanics in 2016. For example, older Hispanics are more likely than younger Hispanics to say the Democratic Party has more concern for Hispanics than the Republican Party. Among registered voters, nearly six-in-ten (59%) non-Millennial Hispanics (ages 36 and older) say Democrats have more concern, compared with 48% of Hispanic Millennials (ages 18 to 35). At the same time, Hispanic Millennial voters are more likely than Hispanic non-Millennial voters to say there is no difference between the parties, 38% compared with 21%. (Roughly equal shares of Hispanic Millennial voters and Hispanic non-Millennial voters – about one-in-ten – say Republicans have more concern for Hispanics.) There are also differences on this issue by gender, with 60% of Hispanic women voters saying Democrats have more concern for Hispanic than Republicans, compared with 48% of Hispanic men who are registered to vote.

Pew’s analysis makes it clear that Democrats concentration on immigration issues has resonated with one sub-group of Latino voters: not surprisingly, immigrants. “Among Latino voters who are foreign born, 70% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic and 18% identify as Republican or lean toward the GOP. By comparison, 62% of U.S.-born Latino voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic and 26% identify as Republican or lean toward the GOP.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens notes that Latino-Americans “care about the issues that affect their friends, families, and neighborhoods. Yet, if we look at the way media, politicians, and the general public portrays Latinos, you would think that the only thing Latinos care about is immigration reform. This is simply not true. Like any other demographic in America, Latinos are deeply concerned with other issues. In fact, when determining their presidential candidate, 33% of Latino chose “jobs and the economy” as the top issue to consider. Only 17% believed immigration was the most important issue. Education and healthcare were also two other major issues. Of course immigration is still important to Latinos, as the immigrant and Latino experience, at some level, are tied to one another. However, the problem of simply focusing in on this one issue is that it polarizes immigration to be, almost exclusively, a Latino issue. It is time that politicians recognize that Latinos are not single-issue voters. We are diverse in the problems we care about just as we are diverse in our cultures, backgrounds, and stories.”

Oceans Under Siege

Part of the problem with the excessive and scientifically unsupported claims of environmental extremists is that very real and very substantive challenges facing the planet receive less attention than they truly deserve. One of the most significant of these is the pollution of the oceans.

The Oceanic Society reports that “Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to ocean health worldwide…between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year, enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet. And that amount is expected to more than double in the next 10 years…In the ocean, plastic pollution impacts sea turtleswhalesseabirdsfishcoral reefs, and countless other marine species and habitats. It also mars otherwise beautiful beaches, coastlines, and snorkel and dive sites worldwide, even in remote areas such as Midway Atoll. One of the reasons that plastic pollution is such a problem is that it doesn’t go away: “plastics are forever.” Instead, plastic debris simply breaks down into ever-smaller particles, known as microplastics, whose environmental impacts are still being determined.”

The scientific journal Plos one  estimated in 2014 that “at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are currently floating at sea… Our estimates suggest that the two Northern Hemisphere ocean regions contain 55.6% of particles and 56.8% of plastic mass compared to the Southern Hemisphere, with the North Pacific containing 37.9% and 35.8% by particle count and mass, respectively. In the Southern Hemisphere the Indian Ocean appears to have a greater particle count and weight than the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans combined…”

The Center for Biological Diversity notes that “Plastic never goes away. And it’s increasingly finding its way into our oceans and onto our beaches. In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments — like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles — are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day. Today billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. Most ocean pollution starts out on land and is carried by wind and rain to the sea. Once in the water, there is a near-continuous accumulation of waste. Plastic is so durable that the EPA reports “every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”  Due to its low density, plastic waste is readily transported long distances from source areas and concentrates in gyres, systems of rotating ocean currents. All five of the Earth’s major ocean gyres are inundated with plastic pollution. But it’s not limited to the gyres; studies estimate there are 15–51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans — from the equator to the poles, from Arctic ice sheets to the sea floor. Emerging research suggests that not one square mile of surface ocean anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution.”

A Scientific American/Reuters article by Will Dunham  states that “China was responsible for the most ocean plastic pollution per year with an estimated 2.4 million tons, about 30 percent of the global total, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria and Bangladesh. The United States was the only rich industrialized nation in the top 20, and it ranked No. 20. Coastal EU nations combined would rank 18th.”

Ecowatch notes that:

  • At least 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. That’s similar to emptying a garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute;
  • There is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way;
  •  322 million tons of plastic were produced in 2015—the same weight as 900 Empire State Buildings (which is made of granite and steel);
  • 60-90 percent of marine litter is plastic-based;
  • More than 50 percent of sea turtles have consumed plastic;
  • The average U.S. citizen consumes 167 plastic water bottles each year, but recycles just 25 percent of them;
  • The amount of plastic in the world’s oceans could increase by a factor of 10 in the next decade.