U.S. Reviews Russian Military Power

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has just issued its report on Russian military Power.  The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has examined the report, and summarizes key points in today and tomorrow’s articles.

U.S. REVIEW OF RUSSIAN MILITARY POWER

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has released its 2017 report on Russian military power .  The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has reviewed the document, and presents key excerpts.

Russia Resurgent

The resurgence of Russia on the world stage—seizing the Crimean Peninsula, destabilizing eastern Ukraine, intervening on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and shaping the information environment to suit its interests—poses a major challenge to the United States.

Moscow will continue to aggressively pursue its foreign policy and security objectives by employing the full spectrum of the state’s capabilities. Its powerful military, coupled with the actual or perceived threat of intervention, allows its whole-of-government efforts to resonate widely. Russia continues to modernize its extensive nuclear forces and is developing long range precision-guided conventional weapons systems. It is manipulating the global information environment, employing tools of indirect action against countries on its periphery and using its military for power projection and expeditionary force deployments far outside its borders. Its ultimate deterrent is a robust nuclear force capable of conducting a massed nuclear strike on targets in the United States within minutes.

Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge.

DEFENSE BUDGET

Russian government spending on national defense has generally grown over the last decade and in 2016 reached a post-Soviet record. This increase in defense spending was enabled by both a general increase in the size of Russia’s GDP and a political decision to increase the defense burden—the share of national wealth devoted to defense. The 2016 budget is 4.5% defense burden on GDP. [U.S. spends approximately 3.5%.]

Russia’s commitment to building its military is demonstrated by its retention of the draft. All Russian males are required to register for the draft at 17 years of age and all men between the ages of 18 and 27 are obligated by law to perform one year of military service.

CORE RUSSIAN MILITARY CAPABILITIES

Nuclear Weapons

Moscow plans to spend about $28 billion by 2020 to upgrade the capacity of its strategic nuclear triad.

Russia continues to retain a sizable nuclear stockpile even after several decades of arms reduction treaties. Russia has a large nuclear weapons infrastructure and a production base capable of producing large numbers of new nuclear weapons annually.

According to Russia’s New START Treaty data provided on 1 April 2017, Russia declared 1,765 warheads on 523 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.215 Russia currently has an active stockpile of approximately 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons. These include air-to-surface missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs, and depth charges for medium-range bombers, tactical bombers, and naval aviation, as well as anti-ship, anti-submarine, and anti-aircraft missiles, and torpedoes for sur – face ships and submarines. There may also be warheads remaining for surface-to-air and other aerospace defense missile systems.

Biological & Chemical Weapons

In 1992, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin admitted having an offensive biological weapons program and publicly committed to its termination. Subsequently, the Russian government reversed itself and now claims neither the Soviet Union nor Russia has ever pursued an offensive biological weapons program. In 1997, Moscow declared the world’s largest stockpile of chemical agents and munitions—40,000 metric tons of agents—under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The declared inventory consisted of a comprehensive array of traditional chemical warfare agents filled in munitions such as artillery, bombs, and missile warheads, as well as stored in bulk.

As a state party to the CWC, Russia is obligated to destroy its chemical weapon stockpile. As of January 2017, Russia had destroyed 96.4% of its declared chemical weapons stockpile, according to press reporting.  Russia intends to complete destruction of its remaining declared stockpile by 2020. Moscow has completed destruction activities and closed the facilities in Gornyy, Kambarka, Maradykovskiy, Leonidovka, Schchuch’ye, and Pochep and continues destruction of its remaining chemical weapons stockpile at a facility in Kizner. Russia used chemical incapacitants to resolve the Dubrovka Theater hostage situation in 2002 and may consider using them in other counterterrorism actions.

Information Operations

Information operations are seen as a critical capability to achieve decisive results in the initial period of conflict with a focus on control of the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battle space. Authors often cite the need in modern warfare to control information—sometimes termed “information blockade” or “information dominance”—and to seize the initiative early and deny an adversary use of the information space in a campaign so as to set the conditions needed for “decisive success.” Russia continues to emphasize electronic warfare and other information warfare capabilities, including denial and deception as part of its approach to all aspects of warfare including Anti-access/area denial (A2/AD.)

Strategic Air Operations

Russian doctrine continues to emphasize that strategic objectives can be achieved with mass aerospace strikes early in a conflict with victory achieved without the seizure and occupation of territory by forces.

Russian doctrine places a great deal of emphasis on aerospace defense as a key component in its overall A2/AD strategy. Though still in development, Russia’s 21st century integrated air defense system will be designed to integrate future and existing systems around a central command structure that is designed to promote the interaction of all air defense forces and weapons. Capabilities optimized against cruise missiles are key to this defense component, not just those optimized to target aircraft.

Russia continues to develop a variety of sea and aerospace-based programs that offer a variety of offensive and defensive capabilities that could enable the implementation of its integrated A2/AD strategy. These include the continued production and deployment of coastal defense cruise missiles, air/surface/ sub-surface-launched anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs),249 submarine-launched torpedoes, and naval mines, along with Russian fighter, bomber, and surface-to-air missile capability.

Precision Strike

Russia was unable to achieve real progress in the development of precision strike until the first decade of the 21st century, when it was able to create a viable state armaments program that allowed prioritization of certain key components of 21st-century warfare. Between 2010 and 2015, Russia’s strategic forces, space and aerospace defense platforms, and precision-guided munitions such as ISKANDER, KALIBR, or KH-101 were defined as priorities, and system development, production, and testing occurred. The effectiveness of precision-guided munitions are being tested in a variety of settings, as well as operationally against targets in Syria beginning in 2015.

The Report concludes tomorrow.

What Destroyed America’s Middle Class Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government concludes its review of the policies and trends that have severely harmed America’s middle class

A substantial portion of the downturn in the middle class has been the loss of steady, well-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector.

According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing “Over 63,000 factories have closed since 2001, and 5.1 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000. President Bill Clinton dramatic alteration in trade relations with China bears a great deal of responsibility for the manufacturing employment exodus. His “U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000” granted permanent normal trade relations with China…It is reasonable to ask why Clinton advocated a measure that clearly would harm industrial workers.”

Michael Bargo, Jr., writing in the American Thinker  believes the problem began early in the Clinton presidency, on May 28, 1993, he issued Executive Order 12850, which “illegally shifted the decision-making role [about China’s trade status] to the Secretary of State… Clinton’s Executive Order was issued at a time when the U.S.-China trade deficit was only $18 billion a year. In 2015 the deficit was $367 billion.”

Bargo provides a suggested motive for the odd move: “just as the Clinton Foundation has been linked to relationships Hillary had to her speech payers and donors, Bill Clinton’s decision to send jobs to China by permanently controlling its MFN status has been linked to campaign donations. Boeing Company wanted the EO. Boeing was the parent company of the Loral Corporation, which donated $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee in June, 1994, according to a Washington Post report at the time. A nice reward to Clinton for his MFN status change. The Loral Corporation is a major developer of missile flight control software and at the time they wanted to launch satellites from China. Boeing also owned McDonnell-Douglas which in 1994 made an agreement with China to open a parts factory in Beijing. If this all seems oddly similar to the deals Hillary made with foundation campaign donors, well, that’s because it is.”

There is some slight cause for optimism, though.  AP  reported in May that American industry expanded production last month at the fastest pace in more than three years. President Trump’s emphasis on U.S. manufacturing, and his rejection of extremist environmental policies, particularly regarding coal, are bright spots.

Another factor detrimentally affecting the middle class is America’s high corporate tax rate, which has chased jobs offshore. The Daily Signal  notes that “The U.S. corporate tax rate is the highest in the developed world—by a long shot. At 39.1 percent (35 percent federal rate plus the average of state rates), it remains substantially higher than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average of 25 percent. Combined with the ‘worldwide” tax system’ employed by the U.S. (where companies’ overseas income is taxed when they return it to this country) the excessively high corporate tax rate poses serious problems for the American economy.”

The final nail in the middle class coffin came courtesy of Obamacare.

Alexander Hendrie, writing for The Hill explained that “ObamaCare imposed a long list of taxes that directly hit middle class families. Further, the ACA legislation increased medical costs overall for middle class Americans.  It also harmed middle class-owned businesses. “the 3.8 percent net investment income tax on capital gains and dividends…hits many small businesses organized as pass-through entities that file as individuals, increasing their top federal rate to almost 45 percent.”

Zero Hedge  reports that “Per the Wall Street Journal, since 2007 middle class families have been forced to increase the share of their overall spending on healthcare by nearly 25% while cutting back massively on other necessities to cover the difference.”

This month, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Thanks to the ACA, hiring the 50th full-time employee effectively costs another $70,000 a year on top of the normal salary and benefits. Many business owners have described how this penalty prevents them from hiring and has caused them to reduce work hours to below the full-time threshold…Many businesses, when they do not offer coverage, keep their payrolls just below 50 full-time employees and thereby narrowly escape the ACA’s penalty…. the businesses employing just fewer than 50 often said the ACA caused them to hire less and cut hours below the full-time threshold. The penalty caused payrolls to shrink or prevented them from growing. Nationwide, we estimate the ACA-inspired practice of keeping payrolls below 50 has cost roughly 250,000 jobs. This does not count jobs lost when businesses close … or shrink because of other ACA incentives.”

What Destroyed America’s Middle Class

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government reviews, in two parts, the policies and trends that have severely harmed America’s middle class

At first glance, the U.S. economy seems to be doing quite well. The June report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics  indicated that America’s businesses added 222,000 jobs last month, a four month high. In May, the unemployment rate reached a phenomenal 16 year low. Another encouraging sign, though a small one: The job participation rate ticked slightly upwards as well. Those who had left the labor force entirely jumped back in greater numbers than at any time since 1990.

But dig a bit deeper, and troublesome indicators appear. Average hourly pay growth is anemic, and that backbone of the economy, middle income jobs, remains at seriously depressed levels. This is not the result of any cyclical downturn, or even the lingering effects of the 2007 recession. Rather, it is due to bad policy decisions over the past 18 years, as well as the impact of technology.

Bloomberg News puts in this way:  “A strange thing seems to be happening to the U.S. economy. On surveys, businesspeople and consumers say the future looks bright. But recent economic activity hasn’t appeared very robust…The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers show confidence at the highest levels they’ve been since before the crisis…But again, some hard numbers tell a different story. Retail sales fell in May, and have been relatively lackluster for the entire year. Auto sales are falling as well. Since cars are expensive, long-term purchases, consumers often signal lack of optimism by holding back on the purchase of a new car, choosing instead to drive their old model for a little while longer. So this is another data point that belies rosy consumer confidence numbers. Pending home sales provide a third spot of weakness.”

Middle Class Loses Ground

The reality is, middle income Americans are losing ground. In December, 2015, Pew Social Trends  reported “…middle-income Americans have fallen further behind financially in the new century. In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than in 2000. Moreover, because of the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-09, their median wealth (assets minus debts) fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013.”

In a subsequent report, Pew Social Trends noted that “The American middle class is losing ground in metropolitan areas across the country, affecting communities from Boston to Seattle and from Dallas to Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The decrease in the middle-class share was often substantial, measuring 6 percentage points or more in 53 metropolitan areas, compared with a 4-point drop nationally.”

In a 2011Forbes article, Jenna Goudreau reports:  “Are stable, well-paying middle-class jobs an endangered species? Economists say: Sort of. ‘The idea that one can have a single-earner family, get a good job, keep it for life and have a comfortable living is all but gone,’ says Kevin Hallock, professor of labor economics and director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University. ‘Long-term job stability is declining, … Generally, jobs are disappearing where there’s been a technological advance …or a change in the way that organizations function, says Hallock. And not only are old-fashioned assembly line jobs on the decline, several white-collar office positions are also in jeopardy. ‘There has been some long-term decline in middle-income jobs,’ says Harry Holzer, Georgetown University economist and co-author of Where Are All The Good Jobs Going. ‘Specifically, it’s good-paying production and clerical jobs that are disappearing.’ …Because over 20 million people count on clerical work, the vanishing act is a major blow to the middle, but there are other more niche positions that are also on the chopping block. Internet travel sites have essentially erased the need for travel agents, an occupation which declined by 14% and 12,500 jobs in the last five years for which data is available. Similarly, proofreaders—generally highly skilled workers with a four-year college degree—were once vital to publications and communications departments. These positions shriveled by 31%, likely due to advanced software, Holzer says.”

Bipartisan Recognition

The plight of the middle class has been recognized by both those on the right, who agree with President Trump’s drive to protect U.S. manufacturing and stop illegal immigration, and those on the left, who are emphasize the need for ‘living wage’jobs.

In 2016, Common Dreams, a progressive publication, notes: “Our middle-income jobs are disappearing…the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery…research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls ‘some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years,’a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that ‘many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed.”

The Report concludes tomorrow.

The Descent of American Journalism, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government concludes its look at the latest challenges to journalistic ethics.

The collapse of objectivity in journalism has been noted by respected members and observers of the media who are not engaged in the worrisome trend.

In her significant book, The Silencing, journalist Kristen Powers discusses how the media has purged those who disagree with left-wing bias.

“The vast majority of people who work in the mainstream media are left of center….and some prominent journalists have openly confessed it…Daniel Okrent…conceded in July 2004, when he was editor of the New York Times, that on social issues…’if you think the Times plays it down the middle…you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.’ Similarly, at the Washington Post in 2005, one of the paper’s editors, Marie Arana, wrote “The elephant in the room is our narrowness.  Too often, we wear liberalism on our sleeve and are intolerant of other lifestyles and opinions…if you work here, you must be one of us. You must be libweral, progressive, a Democrat.”

The American Press Institute has discussed the “The lost meaning of ‘objectivity.”

“Journalists who select sources to express what is really their own point of view, and then use the neutral voice to make it seem objective, are engaged in a form of deception. This damages the credibility of the craft by making it seem unprincipled, dishonest, and biased.”

Michael Goodwin, in a landmark speech at Hillsdale College reported in Imprimis, said that

“I’ve been a journalist for a long time. Long enough to know that it wasn’t always like this… last year’s election gave us the gobsmacking revelation that most of the mainstream media puts both thumbs on the scale—that most of what you read, watch, and listen to is distorted by intentional bias and hostility. I have never seen anything like it. Not even close.

“It’s not exactly breaking news that most journalists lean left…But I was still shocked at what happened…This was a whole new approach to politics. No one in modern times had seen anything like it…The evidence was on the front page, the back page, the culture pages, even the sports pages. It was at the top of the broadcast and at the bottom of the broadcast…We were watching the total collapse of standards, with fairness and balance tossed overboard. Every story was an opinion masquerading as news…For the most part, I blame The New York Times and The Washington Post for causing this breakdown…They set the tone, and most of the rest of the media followed like lemmings…

“…the papers dropped the pretense of fairness and jumped headlong into the tank for one candidate over the other. …What happened to fairness? What happened to standards?

…If I haven’t made it clear, let me do so now. The behavior of much of the media, but especially The New York Times, was a disgrace. I don’t believe it ever will recover the public trust it squandered…

“Free speech is under assault, most obviously on many college campuses, but also in the news media, which presents a conformist view to its audience and gets a politically segregated audience in return.”

Goodwin believes that advances in technology may be the savior of free speech, despite censorship attempts by Facebook and Google.

Long the subject of criticism for left-wing bias, the 2016 campaign brought into clear focus the extraordinary extent of journalism’s’ lost standards.

On election day, Kelly Riddell, reporting for the Washington Times  noted: “There’s one thing I’m certain about going into Wednesday: The mainstream media is going to need to go through a serious readjustment period after this presidential election. The collusion between reporters and the Clinton campaign, revealed by WikiLeaks, have laid bare to the American public the left-leaning bias of the press. The American public thinks the media wants Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to win by an almost 10-to-1 margin, according to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll released late last month. It mirrors an Associated Press/GkF poll showing 56 percent of likely voters, including 87 percent of Donald Trump’s supporters, believe the media is against him. The mainstream media has let the American public down in serving their own interests.”

The Descent of American Journalism

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government takes a two-part look at the latest reduction in journalistic ethics.

The descent of American journalism continues, as the last vestiges of objectivity from the most well-known news sources continue to be reduced. The traditional leaders in the field have chosen to become partisan advocates, rather than reporters.

The problem was highlighted in May, when the New York Times decided to eliminate the position of “public editor,” which was held at the time by Liz Spayd. The public editor was charged with keeping the Times honest.  The publication had suffered substantial damage to its reputation over the past decade as charges of both plagiarism and bias were levied and authenticated.

In doing so, the Times joins the nation’s other best-known newspaper, the Washington Post, in doing away with personnel charged with retaining journalistic standards. In 2013, the Washington Post (which, ironically has as its motto “Democracy dies in Darkness,”) announced that it would no longer have an ombudsman to insure the quality of its reporting, ending a 43-year old practice.

Will Oremus, who was not particularly complimentary towards Spayd, nevertheless wrote in Slate magazine,  that the Times’ first public editor, Daniel Okrent, had “challenged the paper to introspect more honestly…he took a thoughtful look at the Times’ reliance on anonymous sources—as urgent a topic today as it was then.”

A publication that is as conservative as Slate is leftist, the National Review,  blasted the Times’ move.

“Now the Times has joined the WaPo [Washington Post] in dumping its designated internal soul-searcher …Spayd, who said upon her appointment last summer that “I’m not here to make friends,” was apparently a little too good at not making them… Spayd… said that journalists shouldn’t ‘apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidate.”

One of Spayds’ moves that apparently infuriated her employers was discussing bias (in favor of Clinton, and against Trump) in the 2016 campaign.  Kyle Smith, writing for the National Review, reports that “After Spayd told Tucker Carlson that some tweets by professionally neutral Times news reporters that displayed open contempt for and hostility to Donald Trump were ‘outrageous’ and ‘over the line’ and should face ‘some kind of consequence,’ the blue-checkmark battalions rose up to denounce Spayd, calling her ‘the worst possible public editor for the Trump era’ and ‘a disgrace,’ adding that the Times had ‘embarrassed itself’ by hiring her.”

The Times decision came at roughly the same time as another major embarrassment to journalism was revealed.

On June 27, Project Veritas  released a video of CNN Producer John Bonifield, captured via one of the organization’s hidden cameras,  stating  that there is no proof to CNN’s ongoing claim about a Trump-Russian collusion. The video shows Bonifield stating, concerning the story, “I mean, it’s mostly b******t right now…Like, we don’t have any giant proof …I haven’t seen any good enough evidence to show that the President committed a crime. I just feel like they don’t really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the President is probably right to say, like, look you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof.”

Project Veritas describes Bonifield asserting that the instructions came from CNN CEO Jeff Zucker: “Just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords and for a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN (Jeff Zucker) said in our internal meeting, he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we’re done with that, let’s get back to Russia.”

CNN has retracted parts of its Russian story. In the aftermath, three of its key editorial personnel resigned. A CNN Money article stated: “Three CNN journalists, including the executive editor in charge of a new investigative unit, have resigned after the publication of a Russia-related article that was retracted. Thomas Frank, who wrote the story in question; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, have all left CNN. ‘In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a spokesman said…. An internal investigation by CNN management found that some standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published, people briefed on the results of the investigation said. The story, which reported that Congress was investigating a ‘Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,’ cited a single anonymous source.”

CNN has sought to make those three the token sacrifice for its corporate-wide mishandling of the news. Retracting a single story has not remedied the overall problem of CNNs’ exceptionally biased leftist reporting, which prompted it to gain the nickname “Clinton News Network” during the 2016 campaign.

A Rasmussen poll released in January found that “Among those who tune in to cable news networks at least occasionally, 42% say Fox News is the channel they generally watch, compared to 35% who turn to CNN and 19% who prefer MSNBC. These findings, too, are little changed from last year. Among cable news network viewers who watch Fox News most often, 50% say they trust the political news they are getting. That compares to 43% of MSNBC viewers and just 33% who tune in mostly to CNN.”

The Report concludes tomorrow.

Time to Punish Incompetent, Arrogant Politicians

One of the most infuriating traits of government officials, both those appointed and those elected, is the absolute refusal to admit making a mistake, or owning up to wrongdoing.

Sometimes, it is illustrative to see this on a purely local level, rather than on a nationwide scale. Nowhere is this more clear than in the traffic patterns of New York City, and especially in the Throggs Neck community, a quiet semi-suburban area.

For over half decade, local community groups continuously warned city officials that the new shopping centers and other developments being planned would produce a dramatic increase in traffic.

Those warnings were ignored.  Indeed, even without the input of community boards, local associations, and individual citizens, which were numerous, those charged with overseeing transportation and planning should have made plans to address the matter.  Local groups were diligent in discussing the matter, and bringing it to the attention of appropriate officials.  But the City’s bureaucrats were apparently asleep for at least five years.

Certainly, the areas’ local officials—all Democrats, in one of the most Democrat-heavy states in America, and in a city totally dominated by the Democrat Party– had the clout and power to address the challenge.  The local representative to the city government actually served as chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee. The region’s state senator was one of the most powerful men in the state capital. The local Congressman serves as chair of the House Democrat Caucus.

Local residents have been burdened by the enormous increase in local traffic. On certain hours, local roads in what was once a quiet, semi-suburban neighborhood, the congestion is similar to that seen in the main business district of Manhattan.

When finally called to explain their negligence before community organizations, the City’s asleep-at-the switch personnel responded in an arrogant and dismissive manner.

The situation is actually far worse than negligence or incompetence.  In what has all the earmarks of a revenge hit for the criticism belatedly levied at them, the City’s bureaucrats emplaced a new traffic pattern on an important local roadway that is manifestly dangerous.  Once again, when the plan was presented to the community, the deadly traffic pattern was widely condemned.  The bureaucrats and the elected officials, however, ignored the very citizens who pay their salaries, and went ahead with their viciously incompetent plan.

Throughout the entire phase of planning for the new commerce centers, those who should have been protecting the interests of the area’s residents accomplished nothing.  Some of the conversations, which included area elected officials as well as appointees of both the current and prior mayoral administrations, were absolutely surreal.  The former mayor’s bizarre traffic commissioner, infamous for clearing off bike lanes before roads in a major snowstorm, responded to one such inquiry by stating that bicycle lanes would be developed.

The bicycle lane mania is an excellent example of the arrogant attitude city leaders in many states have towards commuters.  At a time when traffic is over-congested and public transportation is clearly inadequate, these lanes exacerbate an already bad situation.

Incompetence in traffic planning is nothing new to New York City. One reason that the metropolis’ streets are so clogged is the lack of freight-carrying rail lines, a problem the local transportation commission, the Port Authority, was long-ago formed to address.  In the nearly one hundred years since its inception, nothing viable to address the freight issue has been done.  NYC still has less freight rail access than it did in the past. One major freight line has actually been turned into a public park.

Similarly, expanding the city’s public transportation system has been largely overlooked.

Rather than solve problems, city and state officials seem to concentrate only on penalizing those desperately trying to navigate the region. Rather than respond to the need for expanded public transportation access from the boroughs to Manhattan, much discussion centers on levying new or higher tolls.

On that note, beware of the new “stopless” toll technology now being emplaced in many parts of the United States.  It won’t be long before that concept is used to place new and higher tolls everywhere. Commuters see congestion as a problem to be solved; politicians, elected and appointed, see congestion as a way to wrench ever-increasing tolls from them.

Negligent bureaucrats and arrogant elected officials frequently claim the infrastructure problems are too expensive or difficult to resolve.  Nonsense. There are numerous cost-effective approaches. However, the funds that should have financed them, and used to repair America’s decaying bridges and roads, were diverted by the Obama Administration to political allies who, in many cases, simply took the money and accomplished nothing, Solyndra being a prime example.

While addressing actual infrastructure and traffic problems is the heart of the matter, exposing and punishing the negligence and arrogance of the nation’s elected leaders, particularly those from the prior White House Administration, is a necessary first step. The over $800 billion that was spent by President Obama, which produced no appreciable gain for the American people, constitutes the greatest case of governmental malfeasance in history. The nation’s taxpayers deserve restitution–and justice.

The Campaign Against Free Speech

There is a specific and clear message that many elite journalists, internet giants, academics, and politicians are delivering to the American people: “You are too stupid to understand objective reporting or use free speech the right way, so we will decide for you what can and cannot be reported or said. The First Amendment no longer applies to you!”

The message comes from a variety of sources. On CNN, which has become infamous for slanting its reporting in so extreme a manner during the past several years and especially during the 2016 presidential campaign that detractors have nicknamed it the “Clinton News Network,” celebrated reporter Carl Bernstein, reports RealClearPolitics, stated that President Trump was a “Malignant” president and that “reporters needed to change the way they cover him…It calls on our journalists to do a different kind of reporting, a different kind of dealing with this presidency and the president of the United States.”

CNN has also reported that it “outed” the Reddit user that put together the “gif” of Trump wrestling that network’s image, who subsequently “apologized” for his exercise in free speech not approved by the media elites. CNN has apparently taken lessons from totalitarian states that gleefully force dissenters to recant.

Perhaps CNN derives its contempt for free speech from the nation’s academic institutions, where American history is barely taught, perhaps because the concepts enshrined in the Bill of Rights are just too dangerous for elites who wish to rule without interference.

That contempt is leading to lawsuits, Campus Reform reports. Three students at Kellogg Community College in Michigan were arrested for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution. “The manager of Student Life, Drew Hutchinson, asked them to stop because they might “obstruct the student’s ability to get an education…this was…too much for school administrators who insisted the three were in violation of the school’s draconian solicitation policies. They called the Kalamazoo police and the Chief of Police himself came to arrest the activists for trespassing. Now, Brandon Withers… who was with the activists that afternoon, is suing the college. A press release from his lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom says: ‘The problem is that KCC’s speech policy, what they call a ‘Solicitation Policy,’ regulates a wide variety of student expression. Things such as leafleting, assemblies, speeches, and circulating petitions are all greatly restricted, but they also happen to be protected by the First Amendment.”

Kellogg University’s actions are not an isolated incident within higher education. The University of California is being sued for First Amendment violations for its actions in blocking conservative-minded speakers from appearing on campus. There are numerous other examples throughout academia—and not only at the university level.

The growing opposition to free speech on the part of the Progressive left is increasingly organized and well-funded.

The Washington Examiner reports that “The former chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, [FEC] who famously eyed regulating the politics of conservative outlets like the Drudge Report, has joined an advocacy group funded by George Soros and run by his son. Ann Ravel is the first fellow listed with the California advocacy group New America. Her fellowship began in March and pays a $30,000 stipend…Since leaving the FEC, Ravel has continued to speak out for more election regulation, especially on the internet where she sees political advertising shifting to in the next presidential contest. She has applauded calls for regulating political speech and spending on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and this week endorsed tracing the funding of online ads and regulating individual Twitter accounts.”

During President Obama’s tenure in office, there were numerous attempts to use the FEC and various campaign regulatory statutes as a stealth attack on free speech.  Many of the moves were brazen, such as that by New York Senator Charles Schumer’s proposed legislation that would begin the process of weakening First Amendment protections regarding paid political speech.  Democrat members of the FEC have also sought to bring certain web sites under its jurisdiction.

During the prior eight years, significant attacks on free speech included:

  • The Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to place federal monitors in newsrooms;
  • openly considered criminal prosecution of anyone disagreeing with Obama’s views on climate change;
  • placing the internet under international control (which would permit censorship,);
  • Using Internal Revenue Service has been used a bludgeon against groups opposing White House policies; and
  • The Justice Department seized telephone records of Fox news reporters.

In 2014, the Society of Professional Journalists  protested in a letter to the Obama White House about “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations…Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow… Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis. In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.”

The attack on free speech also occurs in more subtle ways, especially in that increasingly vital marketplace of ideas, the internet. Search engines giants have tailored their search results to omit results or obscure or delete comments that do not conform to leftist orthodoxy.  The internet research organization Can I Rank found that  “top search results were almost 40% more likely to contain pages with a “Left” or “Far Left” slant than they were pages from the right. Moreover, 16% of political keywords contained no right-leaning pages at all within the first page of results. Our analysis of the algorithmic metrics underpinning those rankings suggests that factors within the Google algorithm itself may make it easier for sites with a left-leaning or centrist viewpoint to rank higher in Google search results compared to sites with a politically conservative viewpoint.” The study found that 16% of political keyword searches yielded no conservative-oriented pages within the initial search results.

The U.S. nearing a dangerous turning point, in which not only is free speech endangered, but also the very means to generate free speech is endangered. From academia’s relentless drive to indoctrinate students against the nation’s founding principles, to the establishment media’s actions in warping its reporting, to the actions by bureaucrats and elected officials alike to regulate and intimidate against the exercise of First Amendment rights, America’s most cherished freedom has become an endangered species.

Why Americans are Angry

It has become commonplace for Americans to wonder why the level of political discourse has turned so hostile, and why we have become so divided as a nation.

There are a number of factors involved, including a dramatically changed news landscape that allows each individual to tailor his information intake exclusively to those sources that bolster his or her pre-existing beliefs.  There has also been a tendency (almost exclusively on the left) to politicize everything, including the most mundane entertainment venues. Additionally, academic curriculum, from grammar school straight through university, is increasingly utilized to deliver progressive viewpoints, and ignore objective educational goals.

But as disturbing and dangerous as those trends are, the most recent irritant—the outright willingness, predominately observed in left-leaning news sources and politicians, to unblushingly and blatantly lie, has caused the national mood to sour to levels not seen since the Civil War era.

To be clear, politicians of all parties have not generally been known to share a reputation for absolute veracity, and news reporters had, in the past, on occasion abused their position for partisan purposes. But over the past decade or so, the extent of this unfortunate trait has risen dramatically, again mostly on the left. The progressive media has engaged in a militant and unbridled drive to use their platform as a key element of the left’s political and policy ambitions.  This has occurred, far too often, to the exclusion of an emphasis on actual reporting.

Both of the nation’s premier newspapers, the Washington Post and the New York Times, have fired their own internal watchdogs whose responsibility it was to insure honest reporting. Within the past several weeks, CNN, AP and the New York Times have had to admit partisan wrongdoing after other sources made it clear that they published information which was clearly inaccurate.

The news media’s offenses exist in misreporting facts, making up facts tied to no truth whatsoever, and in failing to report at all news which compromises their partisan biases. The growth in the depth and number of these journalistic misdeeds began to grow exponentially in 2008, and have continued to accelerate thereafter.

Some observers have claimed that much of the partisan misdeeds of the media are merely a reaction to its intense dislike of President Trump’s brash style.  Trump has been a significant target of the media for several reasons.  Unlike his predecessors, the 45th President of the United States doesn’t even pretend to kowtow to the news establishment, and commits what to it is the unpardonable sin of speaking directly to the American people without the filter of the Washington press corps.  Of course, Ronald Reagan and  Franklin D. Roosevelt did much the same, but before existence of the internet and social media, the 32nd and the 40th presidents had only a limited ability to do so.  President Trump’s press staff have become famous for calling out the self-serving comments of the establishment media at White House briefings, further alienating a group that had become accustomed to being catered to, not challenged.

The growing division of the American electorate was accelerated by the growth of news sources that allowed the inherent left-wing biases and cover-ups of the major media to be exposed. This ability has given voice to a large spectrum of the public that has been deeply concerned about the dramatic loss of the middle class’s financial stability, the frequently warped curriculum offered in grammar and high schools and universities, and the nation’s sharply decreased national security, much of which occurred during the eight years of the Obama presidency, which the left-wing media unfailingly supported.

While the nation’s divisions had been growing for some time, 2012 may be seen as the dividing line between what was a simmering discontent and the outright fury that has characterized the years since. Two salient events that year caused the fault line between the majority of the American people and the journalistic/academic/political elites to finally erupt, and the volcanic results have yet to subside.

The 2012 attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi followed the as-yet unexplained moves by the Obama Administration to bring down regimes in Libya and Egypt that essentially shared the West’s opposition to Islamic extremism. The Clinton State Department had been warned by its own personnel in the field that an attack was probable.  Again, for reasons that remained unexplained, not only did Obama and Clinton fail to heed the warnings, they actually reduced the level of protection.  In the aftermath of the tragic event which resulted in the death of several Americans including Ambassador Stevens, Secretary Clinton, President Obama, and their respective staffs lied to the American public  about the causes of the incident, their negligent failure to provide a proper defense, and their bizarre refusal to attempt a rescue.

Throughout this entire matter, the media, desperate to preserve the reputations of both Obama and Clinton, assisted the government in covering up its misdeeds by first failing to report on the obvious lies and later by ignoring the whole incident to the extent possible. However, the increasingly mature alternative media outlets prevented that obfuscation from being successful. The doubt many Americans had about the integrity of the establishment media and the political philosophy it had prostituted itself to turned into open contempt.

That anger was further inflamed by the media’s role in the 2012 presidential debates, in which media moderators, especially CNN’s Candy Crowley, became partisans on behalf of the Obama candidacy. By the election of 2016, the news establishment had essentially dropped all but the slightest pretense of objectivity and essentially served as an adjunct of the Clinton campaign.

Moderate and conservative Americans, already enduring tough times due to failed leftist policies, faced an environment in which media, education. political and entertainment moguls worked against middle class interests, U.S. national security, and traditional U.S. values.  Those moderates and conservatives watched with growing anger as those opposed to the growing progressive monopoly were banned from newsrooms, chased off college campuses, and defamed by Hollywood.

Their fury continues to grow.

NASA’s Mission to Protect Humanity

This week will mark the 48th anniversary of the historic first landing on the moon, what has been to now NASA’s greatest accomplishment. But what the space agency is engaged in now may be of even greater significance.

For decades, those with little concept of the future economic, scientific and national security needs of the U.S. have questioned support for NASA. Now that it is clear that humanity may need the space agency to literally save it from extinction, perhaps some of those opponents of the space agency will reassess their perspective.

Mariette Le Roux, writing for the Phys.Org site, notes that “Throughout its 4.5-billion-year history, Earth has been repeatedly pummeled by space rocks that have caused anything from an innocuous splash in the ocean to species annihilation. When the next big impact will be, nobody knows…‘Sooner or later we will get… a minor or major impact,’ Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany [said.] …the risk that Earth will get hit in a devastating event one day is very high… the next impact could well ring in the end of human civilization.”

Max Wehner, writing for BGR, notes that even something less than an extinction-level event, such as that which wiped out the Dinosaurs, would be catastrophic. “Asteroids are the most clear and present threat that our Solar System poses to us, and you only need to look at the scars on the Earth, our moon, and other planets in our neighborhood to see exactly how real that danger is… a Queen’s University Belfast researcher is warning that the Earth is definitely going to be hit, it’s just a matter of when.The expert, Alan Fitzsimmons, points out that an event similar to that of the 1908 meteoroid explosion over the Tunguska region in Russia’s Siberia — which leveled a forest and damaged buildings but didn’t result in any human deaths — could happen again, and if it did happen over a major city, the results would be devastating.”

NASA has taken up the issue. Its’ JPL division asked last October, “What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact Earth?…” that was the high-consequence scenario discussed by attendees at a NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise. The third in a series of exercises hosted jointly by NASA and FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the simulation was designed to strengthen the collaboration between the two agencies, which have Administration direction to lead the U.S. response. “It’s not a matter of if — but when — we will deal with such a situation,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.”

Now, NASA is attempting to take significant steps to defend the planet from that very real threat, and is testing means to protect Earth from an asteroid impact. A key early step is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission. According to the space agency . “The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment  mission concept is an international collaboration among the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, Observatoire de la Côte d´Azur (OCA), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL).

“AIDA will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impact technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. AIDA is a dual-mission concept, involving two independent spacecraft – NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), and ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM). The DART mission is in Formulation Phase A, led by JHU/APL and managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.  AIM, managed by ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) is in Preliminary Definition Phase B1.

“AIDA’s primary objective is to demonstrate, and to measure the effects of, a kinetic impact on a small asteroid. Its target is the binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos, which consists of a primary body approximately 800 meters across, and a secondary body (or “moonlet”) whose 150-meter size is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose a more common hazard to Earth.

“The DART spacecraft will achieve the kinetic impact by deliberately crashing itself into the moonlet at a speed of approximately 6 km/s, with the aid of an onboard camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software. The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, enough to be measured using telescopes on Earth. By targeting the small moonlet in a binary system, the AIDA mission plan makes these precise measurements possible and ensures that there is no chance the impact could inadvertently create a hazard to Earth.”

In an effort to enhance NASA’s role and invigorate America’s bid to return to space leadership, President Trump issued an executive order on June 30 re-establishing the National Space Council, to be led by Vice President Mike Pence.