Monthly Archives: August 2017

Returning to The Moon

While the Obama Administration was redirecting NASA’s space efforts away from human spaceflight, China, Russia and others were moving ahead with ambitious plans, including   a manned landing on the moon. Other nations and private interests have followed suit.

Only America has actually landed humans on the Moon so far.

Reports from across the globe describe Beijing’s ambitious lunar exploration plans. In June, reports the Telegraph, Yang Liwei, deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency, announced China “is making preliminary preparations for a manned lunar mission.”

China belongs to the exclusive club, consisting only of the U.S., Russia, and itself that has placed its citizens in space aboard its own rockets.

China’s unmanned 2013 Chang’e3 mission, seen as preparation for an eventual manned landing, placed a lunar rover, called Yutu, onto the moon’s surface. It had multiple cameras, as well as an ultraviolet telescope. The six-wheeled vehicle, powered by solar cells, was lowered onto the moon’s surface from a ramp following the spacecraft’s successful soft landing.

The Planetary Society reports that this year, “China will launch one of its most complex and exciting missions so far, when its Chang’s-5 spacecraft attempts to land on and collect samples from the Moon and then deliver them to Earth…the mission will be an engineering feat and result in some significant science, but it also has some interesting subplots…the fact that the Chang’e-5 will be carrying out a difficult lunar orbit rendezvous rather than a simpler direct return is an indication that the mission is also a small step towards putting [its] astronauts on the Moon.”

Following that success, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), reports Popular Mechanics, “is developing a new crewed spacecraft capable of …landing taikonauts  [Chin’a term for astronauts] on the moon, according to the Associated Press. The state-run newspaper Science and Technology Daily cited CNSA engineer Zhang Bainian as saying the new spacecraft would accommodate multiple taikonauts and be similar in design to the Orion spacecraft currently under development by NASA and ESA.  China also has some of the most extensive and ambitious unmanned plans to explore the moon in the near future. A sample return mission is planned for this year. CNSA is developing a rover to explore the far side of the moon next year (which would make China the first country land on the far side of the moon), and ultimately land Taikonauts …”

The Popular Mechanics review noted that the Chinese space agency is also developing plans to construct a manned base on the moon, according to Zhang Yuhua, deputy general director and deputy general designer of the Chang’e-3 probe system. “Right now China is actively at work on the critical technology required to conduct a manned landing on the Moon’…’In addition to manned lunar landing technology, we are also working on the construction of a lunar base, which will be used for new energy development and living space expansion,’ said Zhang at a speech at the Shanghai Science Communication Forum.”

Those plans were confirmed by a Spacedaily  article. That report noted that “According to Wu Yansheng, general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China is working on an idea for manned lunar landing. The mission will consist of a manned spaceship, a propulsion vehicle and a lunar lander. The manned spaceship and the lunar lander will be sent into circumlunar orbit separately. Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, said that China is in the preliminary stage of its manned lunar program.”

Russia, too, has commenced planning to put its citizens on the lunar surface.

Endgadget reports that “Russia’s Space Agency (Roscosmos) has begun planning for its first manned lunar landing, starting with a recruitment drive for potential cosmonauts. The agency is looking for six to eight trainees with a background in engineering or aviation, or those who already have experience working in the space industry. All interested candidates will go through several stages of psychological, physical and medical tests during the selection process. The chosen eight will have to undergo some intense training until four remain. Those who get the job will pilot Russia’s next-gen reusable manned spacecraft Federatsiya.”

NASA’s emphasis on human spaceflight had been downgraded by the Obama Administration, and is only now returning to a major emphasis on its human spaceflight roots.  A number of private concerns took up the slack imposed by the prior White House. The initial stages, from companies around the world, involve unmanned landings.

National Geographic  describes the private enterrise competition. “Nearly 50 years after the culmination of the first major race to the moon, in which the United States and the Soviet Union spent fantastic amounts of public money in a bid to land the first humans on the lunar surface, an intriguing new race to our nearest neighbor in space is unfolding—this one largely involving private capital and dramatically lower costs. The most immediate reward, the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize (or GLXP) will be awarded to one of five finalist teams from around the world. They’re the first ever privately funded teams to attempt landing a traveling vehicle on the moon that can transmit high-quality imagery back to Earth… Can someone actually make money venturing out into the great beyond? To a demonstrably wide range of entrepreneurs, scientists, visionaries, evangelists, dreamers, eccentrics, and possible crackpots involved in the burgeoning space industry, the answer is an enthusiastic yes.”

Moon Express  seeks to move rapidly ahead. Its’ Lunar Scout expedition is scheduled for this year. Company officials, seeking the LunarXPrize, believe it will be the first commercial voyage to the Moon, and note that “This historic expedition will demonstrate the cost effectiveness of entrepreneurial approaches to space exploration, carrying a diverse manifest of payloads.”

Obama,Clinton Foreign Policy Errors Affect Korean Crisis

The foreign policy failures of the Obama and Clinton presidencies are affecting the crises currently facing the nation.

The United States is seen by opponents such as North Korea as a government that has a weakened military, a lack of resolve to follow through on demands, and, perhaps most importantly, possessing a strange propensity towards punishing its friends and helping its enemies.

Examine the last item first.  For reasons that have yet to be explained, the Obama Administration, generally reluctant to engage in armed conflict, played a key role in forcibly removing Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi from power.  Gaddafi had surrendered his nuclear program, ended his association with terrorism, and was essentially on the same side as the West in opposing radical Islam. Obama also encouraged the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who also sided with the U.S. against radicalism. From Kim Jung-un’s perspective, it makes far more sense to be an enemy rather than a friend of Washington.

And, of course, there is Iran.  With the exception of North Korea, no nation has uttered more threatening statements against the United States than Iran. Rallies are regularly conducted by its leadership calling for the destruction of America, its ships and planes regularly threaten the U.S. Navy, and Tehran sponsors terrorist movements aimed at U.S. interests and allies. The result? A nuclear deal in which the Iranians gained billions of dollars (in cash for easy transfer to terrorists) all in return for nothing more than an agreement to simply delay its nuclear weapons program.

Militarily, the United States is in a far lesser position than it was eight years ago. Thanks to the sequester budget agreement, America’s armed forces have lost experienced personnel, as well as enduring years of inadequate training, especially for Naval and Marine Corps aviators. As this article was being prepared, the Marines had temporarily grounded all of its planes for a maintenance issue.

Spare parts are in short supply.  The U.S. homeland itself is in a less secure position, thanks to Obama’s tacit acceptance of the Russian Navy’s return to Cuba, the acceptance of Russian military influence in Nicaragua, and the vastly strengthened Russian military presence in the Arctic.  America’s major military rivals, Russia and China, have dramatically built up their forces while the U.S. diminished its own.  For the first time in history, Russia has a more powerful nuclear force. China’s navy and the sophistication of all its forces have been dramatically strengthened.

Added to those hard facts is an important psychological component.  There is a significant element within the U.S. political and punditry class that, fundamentally and against all logic, tacitly agrees with the most strident anti-American beliefs of the nations’ opponents. The Washington Free Beacon has recently reported that the vice-chair of the Democrat National committee, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has stated that “Kim Jong-un is acting more responsibly than Trump.” Those adhering to this philosophy dissent against reasonable efforts to deal appropriately with foreign threats.  As North Korea’s Kim Jung-un rapidly developed the ability to strike the American mainland with nuclear weapons and issued clear statements that he fully intends to do so, they reserved their condemnation not for him, but against President Trump’s firm rhetorical response to it.

This peculiar, but not uncommon, attitude was well illustrated in a USA Today article by Jim Michaels, which examined the recommendations by several analysts. Despite the fact that the North Korean leader has presided over one of the most nightmarish regimes in history, has engaged in numerous domestic and international atrocities, belongs to a ruling family that has broken one arms agreement after another, regularly states that it has plans to devastate the U.S. and is in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution, their criticism is aimed at President Trump’s statements that the U.S. would defend itself with great force—“fury and fire”– if the regime continues on its current path.

The recommendations of those analysts clearly reveal that, in their eyes, only an abject surrender of U.S. interests and national security, would comply with their politics. As Pyongyang explicitly describes their plans to launch attacks, Jenny Town, assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies essentially subscribes to a moral equivalence concept by urging both sides to simply cool their rhetoric.  How does this solve the underlying issue of North Koreas’ nuclear belligerence?

She is not alone. Michaels’ column quotes David Maxwell, Georgetown University’s associate director of its Center for Strategic Studies.  His contribution is to suggest that America acknowledge North Korea’s status as a nuclear power.

Other suggestions include easing sanctions, and suspending joint exercises with South Korea.

These approaches have failed miserably and repeatedly in the past, and offer Pyongyang a hefty reward for nothing much in return.  Conceptually, it is deeply similar to President Obama’s provision of financial rewards and sanctions suspensions to Tehran in return for nothing more than a delay in Iran’s nuclear weapons development—a fact which Kim Jung-un clearly understand and is absolutely betting on. It should also be remembered that the appeasement route was thoroughly tried by President Clinton in the 1990’s, when he both gave food aid and nuclear assistance to Pyongyang in return for a mere promise, completely broken, that in return the regime would not pursue nuclear weapons.

Why would Kim even consider pulling back, when history clearly instructs him that America punishes those that change their ways to satisfy Western interests but rewards those that continue to threaten the U.S.? The North Korean dictator may be portrayed as an immature despot, but it is clear that he has shrewdly examined the history of the recent past and has adopted a course which may be evil but is also quite logical.

 

Confederate Statues are not the Real Target, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its two part look at the hidden motives surrounding the protests over Confederate statues.

The American progressive-left movement loudly, and justifiably, talks about the horrors of racism and slavery, but only when it fits their larger motives.  They ignore the horrors of the holocaust, the repression of human rights in many current governments throughout the globe, and the suppression of religious freedom throughout many nations (the existence of faith doesn’t fit into their worldview.) They say nothing of substance about the massive rates of murder in left-wing led cities such as Chicago, where the chances of a young black man being killed by violence are greater than a combat soldier in Afghanistan.  They ignore and even condone the repression of Communist and socialist regimes, because that is the form of government they aspire to.

But heroes of the left are exempt from criticism.  Left wing policies, following the end of segregation, have been more of a roadblock than an aide to blacks moving into the economic mainstream—but don’t expect to hear about that. As the left embraces anti-Semitism, including the elevation of noted anti-Semite Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) to the position of vice-chair of the Democrat Party, don’t expect to be reminded of the very long and very current practice of slavery that is condoned and even encouraged by radical Islam.

Rod Dreher, writing in the American Conservative describes how Jonathan Brown, a tenured Georgetown professor and holder of the Al-Waleed bin Talal Chair in Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University, has delivered a lecture defending slavery and  non-consensual sex. Umar Lee, a Muslim who heard the lecture and was offended by it, posted about it here. He wrote: “While the lecture was supposed to be about slavery in Islam Brown spent the majority of the lecture talking about slavery in the United States, the United Kingdom and China. When discussing slavery in these societies Brown painted slavery as brutal and violent (which it certainly was). When the conversation would briefly flip to historic slavery in the Arab and Turkish world slavery was described by Brown in glowing terms.”

To bring about their collectivist dystopia, however, the American left must first sweep away roadblocks such as freedom of speech, (even for those one disagrees with) honest and unbiased journalism, education as opposed to indoctrination of students, and the recognition of the results of free elections (The hysteria with which they continue to react to the election of Trump is no different than the machinations of Venezuela’s Maduro government’s schemes to eliminate the power of its political opposition, or Putin’s assassination of rivals, or the imprisonment of Chinese dissidents.)

It doesn’t take a great deal of courage to protest against the existence of slavery on U.S. soil, which was abolished over a century and a half ago, or even segregation, outlawed 50 years ago, particularly when dealing with a media that is all too willing to turn a blind eye to hidden motives.

The real targets of the current protests are both the U.S. Constitution, and western concepts of human rights.

David Harsanyil, writing in the Federalist, reports:  “Not long ago, I met up with a progressive writer from a well-known liberal outlet to discuss democracy. At one point, he told me that while the Constitution contained some superb ideas, it was an impractical and antiquated document unworthy of 21st century America. The Second Amendment, he argued, was a violent relic, and the Constitution’s penchant for diffusing direct democracy an affront to equality. I don’t think we’re far away from this being a common view on the Left. It might already be so. It’s not exactly surprising that Democrats and the media have transformed an Islamic terror attack into another finger-wagging national conversation about Christian ‘homophobia’ and the NRA. Gotta keep the focus on the real enemy, after all. What is surprising is how boldly illiberal many Democrats have become in trying to achieve their objectives. It’s not just some Rolling Stone writer calling for gun confiscation or Vox calling on the president to discard the Constitution unilaterally; it’s West Virginia’s Joe Manchin openly arguing that due process is what’s really ‘killing us.’ A senator, sworn to uphold the Constitution, actually said this.

Just as Barack Obama ran roughshod over religious conscience rights, the current leadership of those seeking to eliminate key figures from America’s past will also attempt—have already attempted– to denigrate the foundational figures of western civilization’s great religions.  After all, Jesus didn’t lead an anti-slavery movement; he just pointedly noted that all people are God’s children.  Moses led the Jewish slaves out of Egypt, but didn’t abolish the actual practice of slavery.  Neither had the practical ability to do so—just as Jefferson, despite his opposition to slavery, couldn’t get the southern delegates to outlaw slavery in the new nation.

But Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Lincoln, Jesus and Moses did provide the framework for the greatest advances in human liberty.  Those advances are anathema to the collectivist left, which believes that individual rights are roadblocks to communal advancement.

Confederate Statues are not the Real Target

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government takes a two part look at the hidden motives surrounding the protests over Confederate statues.

Are Confederate monuments the real target of the recent protests, or is there something vastly more far-reaching involved?

It’s easy to understand the passion by some against the existence of statues to figures such as Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis.  But it is becoming increasingly clear that a much larger goal is at stake, one that has nothing to do with revulsion over the horrible existence of slavery in Americas’, and the worlds’, past.

Less publicized than the campaign against southern Civil War figures is the progressive drive to remove the words and remembrances of the nation’s founding fathers, men such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison from the public square. Don’t be surprised when Jesus and Moses join the list of potential outcasts. Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator” himself, is on the list, as well.

Tabitha Sawyer, writing in The Tab, discusses how Mya Berry has started a petition asking for the renaming of her high school, James Madison Memorial High, on the basis that James Madison himself owned slaves. Madison is considered the father of the U.S. Constitution.

A National Review article describes how Al Sharpton, a figure who has made his living and career by encouraging racial animosity, has advocated defunding the much-beloved memorial to Thomas Jefferson in Washington.

A monument to Lincoln was torched in Chicago as this article was being prepared. Doug Ernst, writing for the Washington times describes how the act was actually applauded on Facebook. The Washington Times  describes Chicago Bishop James E. Dukes’ demand: “Please read my letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and The Chicago Park District,’ Mr. Dukes wrote on Facebook Tuesday night. ‘I’m calling on them to change the names of Washington and Jackson Park. Slave owners do not deserve the honor of our children playing in parks named after them.” Frighteningly, Dukes Facebook post received a number of ‘likes.”

Manisha Sinha, the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, describes in the Washington Post  how author Fred Kaplan discusses, in his view, “Lincoln’s shortcomings and his allegedly unchanging conservatism on slavery and race…places Lincoln not at the head of a great anti-slavery movement but as a lifelong proponent of a lily-white America.”

Conspicuously absent from the list of alleged villains are icons of the left, including the slavery-condoning practices of radical Islam and the racism of progressive idols such as Margaret Sanger.

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Nicole Russell notes: “Protesters and counter-protesters from two extremist groups on the Left and Right collided this weekend in Charlottesville, Va. Now, one side is calling on the other to tear down all symbols of white supremacy. If we’re going to obliterate our nation’s controversial history, ridding it of the pockmarks and scars of its racist ways, shouldn’t we, you know, treat all white supremacy efforts with the same disdain? I’d hate to obliterate historical Confederate symbols and gloss over Planned Parenthood, whose founder, Margaret Sanger, was an avid eugenicist and racist. In The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger called African-Americans and immigrants “human weeds [and] reckless breeders, spawning… human beings who never should have been born.” In Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger, author David Kennedy wrote that in a 1923 speech, Sanger said couples who chose sterilization for the purpose of racial “purification” should be rewarded. One of Sanger’s more infamous quotes is her admittance that she wants to “exterminate the Negro population.”

The reason for the selective outrage is clear.

The real goal is not anger at men like Jefferson, Washington, and Madison, who, despite their monumental achievements in advancing human freedom, failed to overcome the biases of their time and region. It’s the overall concepts—individual liberty, human dignity, American independence, and constitutionally guaranteed rights (despite, in some cases, their awful blind-spots about racism) that they played so great a part in achieving.

The Report Concludes Tomorrow.

The Left’s History of Supporting the Enemy

Rep. Keith Ellison, The Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, recently stated that “Kim Jong-un is acting more responsibly than Trump.”

It would be easy to dismiss, as many are, that outrageous comment as merely a hyperbolic and partisan remark.  The reality, however, is that the American Left has an uncomfortable history of verbal support for some of the planet’s most despicable governments, as long as those governments are anti-American. The left has received substantive support, in return.

New York’s extreme-progressive mayor has long supported the placement of Russian military power in Nicaragua. Writing in PJ Media,  Ron Radosh discussed how, during the Cold War, the “Left…supported the Soviet bloc and all of its policies, and argued that America was in the process of becoming a nascent facist state…operating in the United States, Britain and France, the western left takes the opportunity to speak freely in the democracies in which they live, to openly support and express their solidarity with democracies most fervent enemies.”

That propensity of verbally supporting the enemy has come into clearer focus in the glare of the attempt by many of the left to gain traction based on the charge that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

As Moscow’s massive military buildup continues, its belligerence towards its neighbors progresses, and Putin’s despotism grows, the embarrassed and pro-Russian (and before that, pro-Soviet) left has sought to execute a bit of public relations Ju-Jitsu by casting its opponents as the ones who are pro-Russia.

Despite a clear lack of substantive evidence, an entire press and prosecutorial industry has been developed based on claiming that the damning evidence provided by Julian Assange and others about the corrupt Clinton machine and the machinations of the Democrat Party to deny primary rival Bernie Sanders a fair chance to compete with her in the 2016 primary season was provided by Russian agents in an attempt to promote a Trump victory.

Moscow certainly would be guilty of abject stupidity if that were true.  As the New York Analysis of Policy and Government has previously noted, the Trump Administration has been the most anti-Russian presidency since Reagan, pursuing policies of strengthening U.S. armed forces and, particularly, ramping up domestic energy production, a move which dramatically threatens Moscow’s financial stability.

Some liberal sources have now begun to realize how embarrassingly wrong the charges against Trump are. The Nation recently published a review of the matter, and its evidence and its conclusions (remember, this is from a source predisposed to dislike Trump) are that there was no collusion. The publication notes that “A great edifice has been erected has been erected…President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused…half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed…Lost…is the absence of any credible evidence of what happened…and who was responsible…we are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception.”

The absurd charges and the resulting investigation have had the desired effect, however. As the Nation notes, “The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled…”

Camouflaging its pro-Communist tendency has been a constant of leftists.  Far too often, they have masked their unpopular foreign policy preferences and unsavory association with anti-American regimes with a veneer of naïve causes. Testimony given to Congress in 1982 revealed that Moscow provided extraordinary sums of money and energy on the nuclear freeze movement. Unquestioned support for, and the acceptance of support from, Communist regimes has been a hallmark of the left.  Even during the worst of the inhuman and outrageous depredations of the Stalin government, the American left maintained its enthusiasm for him. Of course, even to mention that reality produces a rote charge of “McCarthyism,” a reference to the Congressman who fostered intensive probes into the influence of Moscow’s agents within the U.S. entertainment industry.

The “America is always wrong” ideology reached its height during the prior administration. President Obama and Secretary Clinton rapidly agreed to a nuclear deal with Moscow that ended American leadership in atomic arms. They gave into much of Russia’s demands about preventing the advance of American anti-ballistic missile defenses, a policy error keenly felt as North Korea continues to threaten an atomic attack. Bizarrely, as the Russian navy returned to Cuba and the Castro regime continued its repression of its people, Obama opened relations with that nation for no discernable return.

Matthew Continetti, writing in National Review, noted that: “Objectively…the result of Obama’s foreign policy [was] to empower America’s adversaries…”

Despite the long and unsavory history of the left’s infatuation with totalitarian Communist regimes, it is its flirtation with radical Islam that demonstrates the depth of its “America is always wrong” ideology.  The Obama Administration’s infamous apology tour in the middle east, its opposition to pro-American Arab governments, its utter failure to respond to the Benghazi attack, and, most notably, its irrational appeasement of Iran’s obsessively anti-U.S. leadership demonstrate how thoroughly ingrained the left’s disdain for their own nation’s interests are.

 

 

Opposition to University Censorship Grows, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government concludes its examination of the opposition to campus censorship.

The growing opposition to campus censorship is giving rise to legislative action.

State legislators are acting on a legislative proposal written by Stanley Kurtz, James Manley and Jonathon Butcher for the Goldwater Institute. The authors have developed model legislation designed to ensure free expression at America’s public university systems. They reported that “Surveys show that student support for restrictive speech codes and speaker bans is at historic heights. As both a deeply held commitment and a living tradition, freedom of speech is dying on our college campuses, and is increasingly imperiled in society at large. Nowhere is the need for open debate more important than on America’s college campuses. Students maturing from teenagers into adults must be confronted with new ideas, especially ideas with which they disagree, if they are to become informed and responsible members of a free society.”

The report cited worrisome problems. One example: In November 2016, campus police at Grand Valley State University in Michigan threatened to arrest students for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.

The proposed measure:

  • creates an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
  •  It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
  •  It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
  • It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
  •  It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
  • It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
  • It authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

In June, Campus Reform reported that “At least 13 states have now proposed or implemented legislation designed to protect free speech on college campuses. While Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, and Arizona have already passed bills that would crack down on disruptive university demonstrators and so-called ‘free speech zones,’ legislators from California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin are attempting to push similar bills through their own state chambers.”

There is movement on the federal level as well. In May, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) introduced H.Res. 307,  which seeks to reinforce First Amendment rights on college campuses. This resolution is designed express a sense of Congress that institutions of higher education should facilitate and recommit themselves to protecting and promoting the free and open exchange of ideas, and that free speech zones and codes are inherently at odds with the First Amendment. “Today,” notes Rep. Roe,  “we are seeing more and more frequently a vocal minority of dissenters essentially be allowed to drown out or block alternative viewpoints or thoughts from even being shared. With this bipartisan resolution, we can send a strong message that Congress expects universities to protect and foster the free and open exchange of ideas.”

The Newseum study maintains that more than legislation is needed, and that the problem on campuses should be addressed at grammar and high schools:

“Elementary and secondary schools must educate students on the First Amendment, how far the right of free expression extends, and the opportunities it affords to those who want to change society. Students carry attitudes with them to college so we must address young people when their views on free speech are first being formed. Colleges and universities must make an absolutist case for speech to a generation of students who have more complicated views.Critically, we must continually make the case that free speech particularly helps minorities and those who are alienated. The failure to understand the precise challenge to free speech has caused, to some degree, the debate over expression to become politically polarized.Colleges and universities will have to become much more deliberate about encouraging advocates of free expression. In particular, we must find ways for students to become the advocates for free speech for their generation.”

 

 

Opposition to University Censorship Grows

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government examines the opposition to campus censorship in this two-part series.

The movement to oppose the harsh anti-free speech measures prevalent on American campuses has begun to gain traction.

Tom Lindsay, writing in Forbes, notes that “By now, everyone who’s been watching higher education knows that a growing number of American universities have jettisoned objective scholarship, open debate, and free speech in favor of advancing a left-wing political agenda. Having thrust themselves into the political fray, some of these schools may now begin paying the price for turning their institutions into ideological boot camps.”

Writing for the Philanthropy Round Table, Greg Lukianoff explains that “Freedom of expression is under serious threat on campuses, and has been for some time. You may have heard of the phenomenon of free speech zones at colleges. These are tiny areas, such as a 20-foot-wide gazebo, which students are told are the only places they can exercise their free speech rights. About a fifth of universities maintain such restrictions… Why are college administrators trampling on free expression? One reason is federal overreach. The U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration…made things much worse. It provided a new definition of harassment that is completely stripped of the safeguards the U.S. Supreme Court had earlier put in place to protect freedom of speech. Instead of a standard of harassment being a pattern of discriminatory behavior that is ‘severe, persistent, and pervasive,’ the Department of Education bureaucrats decided to define harassment as any unwelcome verbal conduct or speech. And the department explicitly got rid of the longstanding ‘reasonable person’ standard, meaning that anyone who subjectively experienced ‘unwelcome’ speech has been harassed. That opens the door to miscarriages of justice.”

A Newseum white paper authored by the organization’s CEO Jeffrey Herbst found that “the real problem of free expression on college campuses is much deeper than episodic moments of censorship: With little comment, an alternate understanding of the First Amendment has emerged among young people that can be called ‘the right to non-offensive speech’…The crisis is not one of the very occasional speaker thrown off campus, however regrettable that is; rather, it is a generation that increasingly censors itself and others, largely silently but sometimes through active protest…”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) maintains that “A culture of censorship has taken root and permeated universities, in part due to some students’ unfamiliarity or disinterest in their rights. A likely culprit, in my opinion, is deficient civic education in secondary schools across the nation. In the absence of engaging civics instruction and classroom debate, some students fail to grasp the content or significance of their First Amendment freedoms, allowing those rights to fall victim to restrictions on campus…”

The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal  reports that “Student intolerance and opposition to free speech have been gaining momentum. What began as isolated incidents at the University of Missouri and Yale University in fall 2015 quickly spread to other universities, leading to individuals being targeted for simply expressing their opinions… The good news is that state legislators have taken notice. Across the country… proposals have been introduced that would protect free speech on public university campuses. They would abolish unconstitutional barriers to free expression that many universities have erected under the guise of inclusion and safety. The need for such protections is pressing. A 2015 survey conducted by Yale University’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program revealed that more than half of U.S. college students are in favor of their school having codes that regulate student and faculty speech. This new, illiberal campus culture is unhealthy for students and for higher education’s purpose—the search for truth. If there is no pushback against these irrational tactics of the Left, they will only encourage others to replace factual arguments with emotional tantrums, and to treat with contempt those who hold divergent views.

“But the problem runs deeper than students’ attitudes; riots, protests, and other activities designed to suppress non-conforming speech often are enabled by university policies. Many universities are unreliable protectors of the marketplace of ideas and even students’ most basic rights. A recent survey of 440 American universities indicates that nearly half of them have adopted policies that infringe on the First Amendment rights of students. Also, many schools are willing to fire dissenting employees and create “free speech zones” for the sake of maintaining their public image and avoiding controversy. And in some cases a double standard has been established, where controversial expression is tolerated so long as it has a ‘liberal’ slant.”

The Report concludes tomorrow.

Overheated Rhetoric and Partisanship Harms America

Media and political leaders should engage in a serious gut-check over the language they are using, and the passions they are inflaming. The extreme nature of the comments that have been made concerning President Trump have little precedent, save those directed against Abraham Lincoln following his first election. (No, we are not comparing Trump to Lincoln.)

One does not have to be a Republican or a Trump-supporter to be dismayed at the tenor of the remarks, and the actions of unelected bureaucrats whose actions amount to an attempted dismantling of the 2016 election. Consider just a few of the latest examples:

RealClearPolitics reports that on July 22, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said the President is a “major criminal” and that his party will “eliminate” his presidency.

ZeroHedge notes that former CIA Director John Brennan advises government officials to refuse the President’s lawful orders, if the White House dismisses special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Washington Free Beacon  has found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is disobeying the President in relation to trade with Iran.

That publication also found that the U.S. State Department’s lawyers are engaging in policies in contradiction to the President’s position on describing ISIS’s treatment of Christians and Yazidis.

As the New York Analysis of Policy and Government has described in several prior articles, various judges of the Ninth Circuit have ignored Constitutional provisions, the United States Code, and legal precedent to impose restrictions on President Trump’s lawful exercise of executive powers regarding travel from nations that present a terrorist threat—nations, incidentally, that were also named by President Obama, with nary a word of complaint from the judiciary.

Numerous publications and media outlets have described the statements by actors such as Johnny Depp and others suggesting that President Trump be assassinated, and in some cases, actually portraying acts of violence, including beheading.

The particulars of any of these policy areas are not the issue. And, of course, anyone is free to express disagreement with the President, and respond by introducing legislation or engaging in appropriate legal action to determine if the law is on their side, or by supporting candidates with differing views in upcoming elections.

But that is not what is happening. How creepy is it that a former CIA director is essentially suggesting federal employees engage in a slow-motion coup? How troubling is it that judges have issued rulings based on their personal, partisan beliefs rather than the Constitution, the US Code, or case law?  Does it not rise to the level of threat when a sitting member of Congress vows to “eliminate” a president? Should we not pay attention when public figures openly discuss assassination? Shouldn’t Americans have the right to hear what evidence of laws being broken exist before entire investigatory procedures are carried out?

The important point is that unelected U.S. government officials and former spymasters are using language urging government officials to willfully defy the duly elected head of the federal government, without any legal, constitutional, or precedential justification.

In Washington, on the days leading up to Trump’s inauguration, numerous protestors “demanded” that the president-elect be impeached—even before he was sworn in, a true legal impossibility. Since Trump is not an extreme ideologue pushing any unprecedented positions (enforcing existing immigration rules, or taking steps to preserve middle-class jobs with tariffs or other measures is hardly a new idea, whether one agrees with those positions or not) he seemed to be an unlikely spark for such exceptional outrage.

President Obama pursued concepts that outraged his detractors, who truly howled with fury and urged that those ideas (and his re-election) be defeated. Many harsh comments were made.  But responsible figures did not engage in continual threats of assassination, or encourage acts of disobedience by government officials.

The Republican-appointed Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the GOP position on Obamacare, because he believed that’s what the Constitution and the law warranted—a far cry from the ultra-partisan Ninth Circuit judges who ignored the Constitution and the law in their travel ban decision.

President Trump has engaged in the unpardonable offense of defeating an establishment candidate. He fails to pay homage to traditional power brokers, and is not conciliatory (or eloquent) in his rather blunt statements. Therefore, he pays a heavy price. Politics is a rough endeavor, but there are no real precedents for the treatment being meted out to the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Are we entering into a new era, in which the will of the electorate is subject to the approval or veto of government bureaucrats and media moguls? Should we ignore a former CIA director who encourages a coup, or a Congressmen who threatens to “eliminate” an elected administration?

America is reaching a precipice, and the time for pulling back is growing increasingly short.

Ignoring the Issues That Matter, Part 2

What are the most important challenges and issues facing America—and why do politicians and pundits ignore them? We  concludes our review this vital topic.

Consistently, the most important challenges facing the American people are covered inadequately  by most media sources. Yesterday, we examined inaccurate coverage of national defense. Today’s report looks at Social Security, Medicare, health care, education, and the problems facing the middle class. 

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. Social Security and Medicare are frequently and mistakenly called “entitlements,” lumping them in with a variety of assistance programs.  That is incorrect.  Working Americans pay for these benefits throughout their working lives, and depend on them when they reach their senior years. But all those dollars taken from paychecks are not put into an account with the workers name on them.  They are simply mingled with all other government income. And, both programs are going broke.

A Time Money report reports: “How worried should you be over Social Security’s future? According to the most recent Annual Report of the Board of the Social Security Trustees…After 2019, Treasury will start spending down the fund; its reserves are estimated to be depleted by 2035.”

Much the same can be said about Medicare. Modern Health Care reports that  “The Medicare trust fund will be insolvent by 2028, according to the 2016 Medicare trustees’ report released [in 2016].”

The fiscal health of both of those programs are vital, but far too many politicians are frightened of doing anything to remedy the problem.

MIDDLE CLASS DESPERATION. As the New York Analysis of Policy and Government recently reported, 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.” Pew Social Trends also reported that “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.”

THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS. America’s health care system was demonstrably superior to those of other nations, but it did have flaws. Obamacare, advertised as a means to address those flaws, actually made matters worse. Examples:

  1. Lost plans. Sen. Ben Sasse released a report about Obamacare’s effects on competition among insurers, concluding that outcomes have worsened for most Americans, in terms of choice of insurers and plans. Over the past year, the number of insurers offering plans in exchanges has dropped by nearly 6%.Many states have lost more than 80% of their insurers: Alabama went from 23 to 3, Arkansas went from 24 to 4, and Wyoming from 21 to 1, just to name a few. Only New York did not lose over half of its insurers, going from 28 to 15 insurers, a 46% decline.
  2. Higher premiums. report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust found that, since 2008, average employer family premiums have climbed a total of $4,865. From 2015 to 2016 the most popular exchange family plan, Family Silver, saw a 10% average increase in its premiums. In some states, premiums rose by nearly 40%.In 2015 the average annual family premium was $17,545 per year, and the average premium for a single policy was $6,251. Young men were particularly hard-hit. Average premiums rose by 49% from 2013 to 2014, the year Obamacare was supposed to go into effect.
  3. Higher deductibles. The New York Times, long a cheerleader for Obamacare, reported that many people can’t afford to use the health insurance that they have purchased because of the deductibles .New York Times reporter Robert Pear wrote that the median deductible in Miami was $5,000 in 2015. It was $5,500 in Jackson, Miss., and $4,000 in Phoenix. One Chicago family of four paid $1,200 monthly for coverage yet had an annual deductible of $12,700.
  4. High costs. The Office of the Actuary of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has projected that Obamacare will result in an additional $274 billion in administrative costs alone over the period of 2014 through 2022.

Obamacare is collapsing in a whirlpool of skyrocketing premium costs, vanishing choices, and deductibles so high as to make the coverage more an illusion than a reality.

EDUCATION. Despite spending more pupil than just about every other nation, America’s students have fallen behind their international peers. U.S. employers find that far too many are ill-prepared for the job market. Their lack of knowledge in the basics of science, math, American history and civics bode ill for the future.  The nation stands to lose much if not all of its leadership in technology, economy, and the very essence of its being within just a few short years.  Yet there is little movement to address this fundamental threat to the nations’ future.

There are solutions

None of these issues are insolvable.  In fact, some are readily correctable.

  • The nation’s electrical grid can be protected for less than $10 billion.
  • President Reagan faced a similar defense challenge when he took office. His increased spending on national defense actually discouraged America’s main adversary at the time, the Soviet Union, and commenced several decades of relative peace and prosperity between superpowers. The same can be done again.
  • The policies that have slashed middle class jobs, including favorable treatment for China, tax policies that encouraged corporations to take jobs overseas, and Obamacare policies that actually reward companies for replacing full time jobs with part-time positions are solvable through legislation.
  • Federal spending on anti-poverty programs that have failed to reduce poverty could be redirected to Social Security and Medicare.
  • The authority to determine school curriculum can be removed from the self-interested government bureaucrats, teachers’ unions, and the educational hierarchy and put back to where it belongs—in the hands of parents, organized into appropriate formats.

Ignoring the Issues That Matter

What are the most important challenges and issues facing America—and why do politicians and pundits ignore them? The New York Analysis of Policy & Government reviews this vital topic in this two-part review.

The nation needs to distinguish between issues that count, and those of far lesser importance. Inevitably, this will produce rage in advocates of those causes deemed comparatively inconsequential.

The United States faces numerous challenges. Many of the fundamental underpinnings of America’s economy, national security, health, preparation for future generations, and even the very existence of the country’s cultural and ideological underpinnings are threatened as never before.

During recent years, The U.S. endured an armed force weakened by years of disinvestment, wishful thinking replaced blunt realism in foreign affairs, an attempt to improve the nation’s health insurance system failed, the middle class was deeply wounded, public education deteriorated, and the population became more divided than at any time since the Civil War.

Serious attempts to address any of these crises are substantially hampered by the national debt of about $20 trillion, (half of which was accumulated in just the past eight years) the influence of special interests which ignore the harm they have wrought, and a determined effort by many educational, media and political figures to, as Barack Obama promised, “fundamentally change” America.

The former president was never seriously questioned as to what he sought to change America into.  Those agreeing with his political views fail to explain how the government-dominated economic system he sought to bring about, and in the case of health care, actually did establish, would succeed in the U.S. after failing in almost every other nation in which it has been tried.  Countries as diverse as the former Soviet Union and modern-day Venezuela have tried and failed.  Some point to Europe, but the nations of that continent essentially established their government-heavy economic systems by relying on Washington to take over most of their defense spending. Even China, ostensibly a Communist regime, employs a form of capitalism, and, not incidentally, relies heavily on the American consumer to keep its economy moving.

As profound and existential threats to America remain unaddressed, much of our national conversation pretends they don’t exist and focuses instead on issues of, at best, secondary importance—or no importance at all. Much of the blame for the failure to successfully confront, or even acknowledge, the nation’s real challenges falls on the traditional media. In its fevered attempt to assist progressive candidates, America’s premiere news sources have chosen to gloss over the extraordinary problems that plague the nation.

These are the under-emphasized issues that should be the centerpiece of national attention:

NATIONAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS. The national discussion about foreign affairs and defense planning has borne little relation to reality, probably because the actual facts are sufficiently distressing to make pundits and politicians alike worry that an honest narrative, and an accurate description of the costs that need to be afforded to ensure America’s safety, are sufficiently unpleasant that audiences and constituents alike would turn away.

Bluntly: Russia, China, and Iran constitute a singular and unified threat against the west.  Their geographical size and population make them the largest foe the United States has ever encountered. Russia, for the first time in history, has a greater nuclear arsenal than the U.S. China will soon have a larger navy. As a unit, they are America’s equal in technology, conventional and strategic military strength, and industrial capacity.

Their belligerent goals are manifestly clear through their actions in Ukraine, the South China Sea, the Middle East, and their dramatic armaments buildup. As America slashed its defense budget, these nations hiked theirs.  Washington, over the past eight years, gave peace a chance; it didn’t work.

Rather than confront the facts and take the necessary steps to protect the nation, politicians see more benefit on spending for more popular domestic programs. Reporters and analysts allow that irresponsibility to continue, citing irrelevant statistics such as comparisons of how much larger Washington’s budget is than Moscow, China, and Tehran.  But that comparison is inaccurate. Those axis powers don’t have to worry about paying a profit to private companies to the extent the U.S. does, nor do they disclose all their spending, or include many personnel costs. Since they constitute a contiguous land mass, they also don’t have to worry about extensive lines of supply, as the Pentagon does.

A related issue:  America’s electrical grid is very vulnerable to attack by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could be triggered by a single well-placed nuclear blast, (North Korea has implied its ability and willingness to do this) or even a naturally occurring solar event, such as that which occurred in the 1850’s.

The Report concludes tomorrow with a look at Social Security, Medicare, Public Education, and Healthcare.