Monthly Archives: May 2014

U.S. GDP hits recession level

The economic news from the latest report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis  (BEA)   is extremely worrisome.

America’s Real Gross Domestic Product—the yardstick by which the health of the economy is measured—decreased at an annual rate of 1% in the first quarter of 2014, despite increased  federal government civilian expenditures and gross investment.

At the same time, inflation increased 1.3%, and that doesn’t even include increased food and energy prices, the two greatest concerns of most Americans.

In an additional troubling note for the faltering U.S. economy, the downturn primarily reflected a decrease in exports, and a larger decrease in private inventory investment.

At the same time, the federal government spent more of your tax dollars, but not on defense. Social security recipients saw some of the smallest cost of living increases on record, and military families were essentially shortchanged.  Food stamp expenditures, however, increased 41% during the Obama Administration.

Real exports of goods and services decreased 6.0 percent in the first quarter.  Real imports of goods and services increased 0.7 percent.

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased 0.7% percent in the first quarter but national defense decreased 2.4 percent.  Nondefense spending increased 5.9 percent.

All this means that the entire economic framework of the Obama Administration’s economic policy —increased federal spending, more regulation, more funds committed to big government programs other than defense, has failed.

What is Washington’s Role?

It’s a question that underlies most of the key debates raging in America today: what is the role of the federal government in our daily lives, and in areas traditionally the jurisdiction of state and local governments?

The controversy over schools lunches is symbolic of the sharp divide in the national outlook.

The Obama Administration’s school lunch program began in 2012, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture was directed by the White House to release new rules designed to boost the nutritional quality of the meals. Schools would be reimbursed an additional 6 cents per meal.

The program has not been popular.  Students have, by a large measure, objected to the menu items, and waste has become widespread.  Schools complain that they are losing money. Michelle Obama, the architect of the program, has fought to continue it despite its failings.

But to many, the issue is not whether the program succeeds or fails.  It is whether the federal government should be involved in a matter so far removed from its traditional role, and certainly one which directly affects the autonomy of state and local governments.

The American economy continues to flounder. Unemployment remains unacceptably high. The national transportation infrastructure is crumbling. Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have dramatically ramped up their militaries, as the U.S. armed forces drop to levels that encourage aggression. Terrorism is spreading to new and fertile ground, and al Qaeda controls more land than ever in the middle east. The most salient example of American high technology, the space program, can no longer put astronauts in orbit. The Air Force depends on Russian rocket engines to launch payloads.

Given these vast and urgent concerns, many believe that concentration on matters such as school lunches are not and should not be the business of the federal government.

The difference in outlook on the role of the federal government is one of the sharpest divides in U.S. history.  It opens up fundamental questions about the role of the Constitution—which clearly did not envision Washington getting involved in matters traditionally left to state and local governments or within families.

Populist politicians point to issues such as school lunches or healthcare and claim that structures developed centuries ago are not relevant. They frequently propose looser interpretations of the Constitution, ignoring it altogether, or making radical changes. President Obama has vocally chafed at restrictions imposed by the concept of separation of powers enshrined in the document.

If the Constitution is ignored on these and other issues, the entire process of the American government is called into question. The position of one side—those that believe the Constitution should be strictly followed—is clear, and has a proven record of success.

But opponents of a consistent adherence to the Constitution have been less clear in what would replace what has been described as the most successful governing system ever devised. There is a legitimate concern that it opens the door to an increasingly powerful system, based on responding to the will of the leadership rather than adherence to the law.

THE GROWING EMP THREAT

Congress is beginning to pay significant attention to the potential–some would say likely–threat of an electromagnetic pulse devastating the economy, health, and safety of the United States.

 WHAT IS EMP?

 The Congressional Research Service describes Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) as “an instantaneous, intense energy field that can overload or disrupt at a distance numerous electrical systems and high technology microcircuits, which are especially sensitive to power surges. A large scale EMP effect can be produced by a single nuclear explosion detonated high in the atmosphere. This method is referred to as High-Altitude EMP (HEMP). A similar, smaller-scale EMP effect can be created using non-nuclear devices with powerful batteries or reactive chemicals. This method is called High Power Microwave (HPM). Several nations, including reported sponsors of terrorism, may currently have a capability to use EMP as a weapon for cyber warfare or cyber terrorism to disrupt communications and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure. Also, some equipment and weapons used by the U.S. military may be vulnerable to the effects of EMP. The threat of an EMP attack against the United States is hard to assess, but some observers indicate that it is growing along with worldwide access to newer technologies and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

 The impact of EMPs was noticed during the 1960’s, when both the Soviet Union and the United States conducted above ground nuclear tests.

  An EMP can also come from unusual solar activity, as recently reported in aNational Geographic report. A very modest version of EMP-type issues occurred last February, when a solar flare interfered with GPS signals and radio communications.

  In the past, however, more significant solar activity has occurred which would, if it happened today, significantly damage or destroy much of our modern infrastructure. According to the National Geographic Report,

  “The biggest solar storm on record happened in 1859. That storm has been dubbed the Carrington Event, after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the megaflare and was the first to realize the link between activity on the sun and geomagnetic disturbances on Earth… the geomagnetic disturbances were strong enough that U.S. telegraph operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment.

 “In 1859, such reports were mostly curiosities. But if something similar happened today, the world’s high-tech infrastructure could grind to a halt…What’s at stake are the advanced technologies that underlie virtually every aspect of our lives.”

 WND analysis provides a further example: “Even as far back as 1921, solar flares interfered with man’s technology.At 7:04 a.m. on May 15, 1921, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th Street shut down due to a ‘solar event.’ At the same time in Sweden, a telephone station was ‘burned out,’ and the solar storm interfered with telephone, telegraph and cable traffic over most of Europe.”

  The nuclear weapon scenario is becoming increasingly likely, particularly since the cuts to the anti-ballistic missile program instituted by the Obama Administration. The devastation doesn’t have to come from a full-scale nuclear attack.  A single well placed weapon, delivered by a smaller national source such as Iran or North Korea, or even a terrorist organization such as al Qaeda, could produce a devastating result.

 THE EFFECTS OF EMP

 Consider the effects of both the electrical grid and portable electronics being shattered until wholly new equipment could be manufactured and emplaced:

  •   Reservoirs would be incapable of pumping water.
  • Planes, trains, trucks and autos, all of which now depend upon electronics, would be incapable moving.
  • Deliveries of food and medicine would cease.
  • Emergency vehicles, police cars, and even military equipment would be rendered harmless.
  • Hospitals would be incapable of servicing patients beyond a few primitive functions.
  • Heating and cooling systems would be inoperable.
  • Communications by radio, television, and telephone would be eliminated.

According to a Washington Free Beacon study quoting Dr. Peter Pry of the Congressional EMP Commission and Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, “an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population.”

 In response to the threat, Rep. Trent Franks,(R-AZ), who has introduced H.R. 3410, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act:

  “The threat of an electromagnetic pulse weapon represents the single greatest asymmetric capability that could fall into the hands of America’s enemies. Should a nuclear weapon from a rogue state such as Iran be detonated in Earth’s atmosphere at a sufficient height above the continental United States, the blast of electromagnetic energy could immediately cripple America’s electric power grid. Currently, the vast majority of the United States’ infrastructure is unsecured and exposed.

 “According to some experts, just one properly placed EMP blast could disable so large a swath of American technology that between 70-90% of the United States’ population could become unsustainable.

 “The danger posed by electromagnetic pulse weapons, as well as naturally occurring electromagnetic pulses, has received increased attention over recent years from organizations including NASA, the National Association of Scientists, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

 On May 8, The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Infrastructure Protection  held a hearing to discuss the potential crisis.  Rep. Franks testified that “catastrophic civilian casualties” could be caused by an EMP.

  At a NASA forum held in 2010, Dr. William Fortschen stressed that an “EMP event could result in a civilian casualty rate of upwards of 90% within year due to the breakdown of water, sanitation, medical and food distribution systems, along with the breakdown of social order, law enforcement, and command and control.”

 The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack notes:

 “Several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the

United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication.

 “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of

catastrophic consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society, as well as to the ability of the United States and Western nations to project influence and military power.

“The common element that can produce such an impact from EMP is primarily

electronics, so pervasive in all aspects of our society and military, coupled through critical infrastructures. Our vulnerability is increasing daily as our use of and dependence on electronics continues to grow. The impact of EMP is asymmetric in relation to potential protagonists who are not as dependent on modern electronics. The current vulnerability of our critical infrastructures can both invite and reward attack if not corrected. Correction is feasible and well within the Nation’s means and resources to accomplish.”

 

 Following an EMP attack, water from reservoir’s could not be transported to population centers

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

 The Center for Security Policy has extensively reviewed numerous governmental studies discussing EMP.  In its recent publication entitled “Guilty knowledge: what the U.S. government knows about the vulnerability of the electrical grid, but refuses to fix” it quotes the Final Report of the Congressional Committee on the strategic posture of the United States:

 “The United States should take steps to reduce the vulnerability of the nation and its military to attacks with weapons designed to produce electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects…From a technical perspective, it is possible that such attacks could have catastrophic consequences…Prior commissions have investigated U.S. vulnerabilities and found little activity under way to address them.  Some limited defensive measures have been ordered by the Department of Defense to give some protection to important operational communications.  But EMP vulnerabilities have not yet been addressed effectively by the Department of Homeland Security.  Doing so could take several years.  The EMP Commission has recommended numerous measures that would mitigate the damage that might be wrought by an EMP attack.”

State governments could play a role in EMP hardening within their borders, but most have not.  According to a Heritage Foundation  report,

 “…state and local governments remain poorly prepared for an EMP attack. A 2007 survey of state adjutant generals, the officials responsible for overseeing National Guard units, found that few states were prepared for an EMP attack. The survey, conducted by the Institute of the North in conjunction with the Claremont Institute, found that although 96 percent of adjutant generals surveyed indicated that they were concerned with the threat posed by an EMP attack, few had analyzed the actual impact details of an EMP attack. Furthermore, few of the adjutant generals surveyed indicated that they had made preparations, such as training, EMP hardening of systems, and the creation of formal emergency response plans for an EMP attack. Overall, most states have not taken action to address vulnerabilities to EMP attacks.”

 The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack has made the following recommendations:

   “It will not be possible to reduce the incentives for an EMP attack to an acceptable level of risk through defensive protection measures alone.  It is possible to achieve an acceptable level of risk and reduced invitation to an EMP attack with a strategy of:

 Pursuing intelligence, interdiction, and deterrence to discourage EMP attack against the US and its interests;

 Protecting critical components of the infrastructure, with particular emphasis on those that, if damaged, would require long periods of time to repair or replace;

 Maintaining the capability to monitor and evaluate the condition of critical infrastructures;

 Recognizing an EMP attack and understanding how it effects differ from other forms of infrastructure disruption and damage;

 Planning and carrying out a systematic recovery of critical infrastructures training, evaluating ‘red teaming,’ and periodically reporting to Congress;

 Defining the federal governments responsibility and authority to act, and conducting research to better understand infrastructure system effects and developing cost-effective solutions to manage these effects.

 “The cost for such improved security … is modest by any standard-and extremely so in relation to both the war on terror and the value of the national infrastructures involved. Costs at later times may be adjusted to deal with the then-apparent threat and future levels of effort required.”

 CONCLUSION

 According to various estimates, the price tag cost to protect the nation’s entire electrical grid would be $1 billion to $2 billion; some estimates indicate that protecting  all of the nation’s essential resources could cost $100 billion.  When one considers that President Obama’s Stimulus package cost over $700 billion, that is an affordable figure to counter so vast a threat.

Scientists Object to White House Climate Plans

The White House released its Climate Change report earlier this month, and will unveil its greenhouse emissions plan within the next few days. Those favoring the concept that human activity has substantially altered the planetary temperature are joined by those eager to use that belief to expand the federal role in the national economy. The Obama Administration and its supporters maintain that the science behind the issue is a settled fact.

Opposing the President’s proposals are numerous scientists who note that their research and findings, (which are contrary to the conclusions espoused by supporters of the human effect on the global temperature theory) have been wholly ignored. They are joined by those concerned that what they describe as faulty or incomplete evidence is being employed to use global warming as an excuse to enhance governmental authority, establish a more centralized economy, and enrich special interests. Some, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cite the astounding cost of the White House’s preferences, estimated at $50 billion annually, as an independent reason to oppose the plan.

With both the President and the media favoring the views of the climate change adherents, relatively little unbiased information has been made available to the public.  But there are crucial objections that should be noted.

31,072 American scientists, including 9,029 with PH.D’s, have signed a petition  opposing the views of those who claim human factors have altered the climate. P

Even some advocates of global warming have objected to governmental intervention. Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, quoted in infowars.com,  notes that the changes due to global warming are too small to account for.  He stated that in the January 2014 article that  “Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. The opportunities for taxation, for policies, for control, for crony capitalism are just immense, you can see their eyes bulge.”

The President has advocated major policy moves which could substantially and detrimentally impact the American economy and the cost of energy.  Major geopolitical implications will result as non-U.S. providers of  energy sources, such as Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and others benefit from it.

White House Silence on National Security Issues Reaches Crisis Levels

The extraordinary incompetence of the Obama Administration continues to further jeopardize the safety of the nation and those that serve it.

The startling news that the White House itself released the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan was a blow to America’s intelligence gathering capabilities in that region, the homeland of al Qaeda that launched the 9/11 attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and killed Americans in the air and on the ground.

There is a direct connection between the failure of the White House to adequately respond to the assault on the US facility in Benghazi and this latest example.  Both incidents demonstrate unprecedented levels of naiveté and disregard in global and national security matters, as well as an apparent lack of attention from the President himself.

The importance of the unanswered questions—the subject of forthcoming Congressional investigations—about Benghazi have been magnified by this latest security mistake.

Did the President review the Afghanistan information before it was given to the public? If not, why not?  Has Mr. Obama begun attending national security briefings, and even if he has, why did he fail to do so for so long?

These questions are similar to those still extant concerning Benghazi.  Why was the President not in the situation room when that crisis was ongoing?  What role did he, as well as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, play in the decision making?There are other existing national security issues that require answers, as well.  Why did the President agree to an arms treaty with Moscow that left Russia with a ten to one advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, and that completely ignored the growing nuclear arsenal of China? Why has the White House strenuously advocated the softening of sanctions with Iran despite Tehran’s blatant actions in furtherance of its nuclear goals? Why have all American tanks been withdrawn from Europe, at the same time that the White House is seeking to kill the Air Force’s tank killing planes? Why hasn’t the President allowed federal lands to be used for energy exploitation in order to soften Moscow’s iron grip on Europe’s energy supply?

The list of vitally important national security questions continues to grow, and the Obama Administration remains silent.

Conyers Decision Reinforces Unfair Advantages of Incumbnents

Despite failing to meet the signature requirements to run for re-election, a federal judge has ordered Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) restored to the ballot.

Michigan’s Secretary of State had ordered Conyers name removed because he failed to collect the appropriate number of petition signatures.  The Conyers campaign used collectors who were not registered voters, and the signatures collected were not valid according to Michigan law.

But Conyers has been in office for 49 years, and received consideration that his challenger clearly would not have been given.

A growing trend towards enhancing the already considerable advantages of incumbents, whether they be president of the United States or a local town legislator, has virtually stagnated the American governing process.  Ironically, many of the approaches advertised as levelling the playing field such as campaign finance regulations, have served only to enhance incumbents’ power due to the fact that challengers rarely have the experience or the resources to comply with complex and onerous regulations and filing requirements.

A study by Politico notes that 90% of House members and 91% of senators who sought re-election in 2012 were successful, as was President Obama.  The rate is difficult to explain beyond the power of incumbency, since there was widespread dissatisfaction with both federal legislators and the White House.

Beyond special treatment by Boards of Election and gimmicks such as campaign regulations that favor incumbents, a media that largely under-reports challengers also plays a significant role.

Limiting the role of spending, often advertised as a means of levelling the playing field, tends to help incumbents.  Challengers, with less name recognition and less access to media attention, generally need to spend more to be competitive.

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day, while marking the start of the summer season, is also the most solemn day of the American calendar, a time set aside to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country’s freedom and its way of life.

Yet the treatment of those who survived past and current conflicts with serious injuries is little less than disgraceful. Making the situation even worse is the continuous pattern of deceit coming from both the Veterans Administration and the White House itself about this crisis.

Today, politicians will make speeches filled with statements of gratitude towards those who served.  But a more concrete expression of thanks would be making America so strong that no enemy would dare attack it or its allies again, and providing support for wounded veterans so thorough that no one has to question the quality of their care.

The very same government that has found the assets to increase food stamps by 41% over the past five years somehow can’t find the resources to give veterans adequate health care, provide decent benefits to active service members, provide fair cost of living adjustments to the social security payments of our “Greatest Generation” retirees, or keep its military competitive with the growing threats from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

The worldview of the current Executive Branch is nothing less than stunningly upside down. Its appointees subscribe to the insulting and wholly warped view that returning veterans are more of a threat than al Qaeda.  This concept was first enunciated in 2009 by a Department of Homeland Security report under former Secretary Janet Napolitano. That irrational idea continues, and has been used as an excuse for providing war fighting equipment to civilian federal agencies. This despicable concept has been filtering down to lower levels of government, as well. A recent televised report from Morgan County, Indiana quotes local police officials stating that they need armored vehicles “partly to deal with returning veterans.”

This Memorial Day should be about more than just political speeches.

Russia, China Enhance Military Cooperation

The growing and increasingly dangerous military alliance between Russia and China, two totalitarian superpowers, is becoming increasingly apparent.

A startling report in the Russian publication Pravda.ru,  entitled “American Eagle, Russian Bear, and Chinese Dragon: One Will Have to go” was an example of Moscow’s paranoia about Washington’s past relationship with Beijing, and its determination to turn the tables going forward.

China’s President Xi recently noted that China and Russia share an “unshakeable determination” to face joint security challenges. Similarly, President Putin stated his hope that Chinese and Russian militaries can strengthen cooperation.

The military web site Spacewar.com notes that each year over the past three years the Chinese and Russians have conducted joint naval exercises. China’s President called Putin “my old friend” and emphasized that building a strategic partnership was a necessary.

President Putin is seeking to increase Russo-Chinese trade in key military industrial sectors such as aviation, aerospace, manufacturing, and energy, and signed agreements to that end.

It is vital that Americans recognize the danger posed by this alliance.  Individually, each of these two nations are more than a match for the sharply reduced U.S. military.  Together, they are a devastatingly powerful adversary.  And they are not alone.  Iran and North Korea frequently work in tandem with the military goals of Moscow and Beijing.

Ignoring the Constitution

Recently, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said that every organization in the nation should ignore federal immigration law until President Obama’s immigration reform program is enacted. That worrisome statement by an elected official encapsulates the growing disdain for the law and the Constitution itself by those on the political left.

It’s a question so basic that it seems odd that it has to be asked at all: shouldn’t the Constitution and other laws be followed by our elected officials?

Over the past five years, the basic document governing the United States, acknowledged worldwide as the greatest political achievement of humanity, has been increasingly ignored.  The President says he can’t wait for the mandated legislative role of Congress, and will use Executive Orders instead of the legislative process mandated by the Constitution. “I have a pen and a phone and I intend to use them,” he has proclaimed.

One by one, Constitutional protections have lately been ignored. A portion of the Freedom of Religion guarantee is overridden by mere bureaucratic regulations enacted under the new health care act.  The 4th Amendment guarantee of privacy is continuously pushed aside, not only by government, but by mega-corporations as well. The ninth and tenth amendments, which clearly state that the powers not expressly granted to the federal government are reserved to the people or the states, is wholly overlooked.

It’s not just Washington that has forgotten the Bill of Rights.  Numerous municipalities completely violate the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms with impunity.  Many also effectively nullify federal law by proclaiming themselves “sanctuary cities” where immigration laws will not be enforced.

Once the process of ignoring the Constitution and other laws is begun,  the rise of an oppressive government that rejects all the rights of its citizenship will soon follow.