Thursday, March 30, 2017

Has America Come to A Screeching Halt? Did The Naval Academy Scuttle Itself and A True Hero At The Same Time?

Brazil’s native language is Portuguese, so this video comes in Portuguese too! Watch it here and share with any and all of your Brazilian (and Portuguese) friends.
One day will this prediction turn into reality? (See 1 below.)
From my perspective I submit American progress seems to have come to a screeching halt for a variety of reasons and in no particular order:

1) The political process has turned into total gridlock and anything potentially favorable is blocked due to abject pettiness. Unbridled leaking is also doing significant damage to the public's confidence in our intelligence organizations.

2)  The nation's infrastructure has been in decline for years.

3) Cyber attacks are capable of doing significant damage to our economy and it is obvious Putin was successful in intruding into our recent election and has been successful in spreading doubt about the legitimacy of our electoral process.

Putin has also engaged in doing the same to virtually all significant democratic regimes. He is currently currying favor with France's Right Wing candidate.

4) Obama's foreign policy initiatives allowed Russia to make inroads in the Middle East and N Korea to pursue nuclear weapons capable of landing on our own shores,  In addition, Obama assisted Iran in becoming a nuclear power and even paid them ransom.

Our influence has waned, our diplomatic leverage has shrunk and  we are no longer effective in getting adversaries to bend to our will or even feel compelled to pay attention to our positions.

5) Our fiscal picture dims as we deepen our indebtedness.

6) Our nation remains divided on a variety of fronts and distrust of those who are sworn to defend us and make our streets safe  has risen to heights never experienced. Racial divide is the worst since the Civil Right's Days.

7) Government has grown amoebically and many of agencies no longer feel obligated to act within legislative constraints. The EPA is one of the worst abusers and sees itself able to enact laws of its own choosing.

8) Powerful and wealthy individuals have reached a point where their ability to fund various personal causes has reached dangerous anarchistic levels.

9) Our military capabilities have sunk to historically low numerical levels.

10) The Republican Party which controls Congress and  captured The White House is split and fractured and thus, recently were effective in undercutting President Trump in his first legislative initiative.

11)  Though we have become the world's largest energy producer significant segments of the population have been encouraged to keep us dependent upon unstable energy sources.

12) Our borders remain porous and many of our communities are consequently experiencing drug epidemics and random acts of lawlessness and a growing number of cities and states are harboring illegal immigrant criminals in contempt of federal laws.

13) Rogue judges have emasculated the president's authority to protect and defend our nation from the dire threat of Islamic radicalism.

14) Money in politics has allowed powerful groups to benefit from narrowly based legislation which is adverse to the nation's overall interests.

15) American education is failing to produce students capable of reasoning and college campuses have become sanctuaries embracing those holding views and engaging in behaviour that are antithetical to our constitution and traditions.

16) We are becoming an increasingly "Godless" society.

Will Americans ever get what they vote for?  Stay tuned but do not bet your rent money. (See 2 below.)
The Naval Academy scuttles itself and a true hero at the same time.  For shame. (See 3 below.)

1) How North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans

 The mainstream media, and some officials who should know better, continue to allege North Korea does not yet have capability to deliver on its repeated threats to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons. 

False reassurance is given to the American people that North Korea has not “demonstrated” that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough for missile delivery, or build a reentry vehicle for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of penetrating the atmosphere to blast a U.S. city.
Yet any nation that has built nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, as North Korea has done, can easily overcome the relatively much simpler technological challenge of warhead miniaturization and reentry vehicle design.
From The Hill
Indeed, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has been photographed posing with what appears to be a genuine miniaturized nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles. And North Korea does, in fact, have two classes of ICBMs—the road mobile KN-08 and KN-14—which both appear to be equipped with sophisticated reentry vehicles.
Even if it were true that North Korea does not yet have nuclear missiles, their “Dear Leader” could deliver an atomic bomb hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port, or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico. In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk.
A Hiroshima-type A-Bomb having a yield of 10-kilotons detonated in a major city would cause about 200,000 casualties from blast, thermal, and radiation effects. North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon having an estimated yield of 20-30 kilotons. The Defense Department assesses that on January 6, 2016, North Korea may have tested components of an H-Bomb. H-Bombs are much more powerful than A-Bombs and can produce much greater casualties—millions of casualties in a big city like New York.
The notion that North Korea is testing A-Bombs and H-Bomb components, but does not yet have the sophistication to miniaturize warheads and make reentry vehicles for missile delivery is absurd.
Eight years ago, in 2008, the CIA’s top East Asia analyst publicly stated North Korea successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads for delivery on its Nodong medium-range missile. The Nodong is able to strike South Korea and Japan or, if launched off a freighter, even the United States.
In 2011, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. General Ronald Burgess, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea has weaponized its nuclear devices into warheads for arming ballistic missiles.
On April 7, 2015, at a Pentagon press conference, Admiral William Gortney, then Commander of North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), responsible for protecting the U.S. from long-range missiles, warned that the intelligence community assesses North Korea’s KN-08 mobile ICBM could strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead.
And on October 7, 2015, Gortney again warned the Atlantic Council: “I agree with the intelligence community that we assess that they [North Koreans] have the ability, they have the weapons, and they have the ability to miniaturize those weapons, and they have the ability to put them on a rocket that can range the [U.S.] homeland.”
In February and March of 2015, former senior national security officials of the Reagan and Clinton administrations warned that North Korea should be regarded as capable of delivering by satellite a small nuclear warhead, specially designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States. According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year—killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.
Two North Korean satellites, the KMS-3 and KMS-4, presently orbit over the U.S. on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack.
Why do the press and public officials ignore or under-report these facts? Perhaps no administration wants to acknowledge that North Korea is an existential threat on their watch.
2)  Can Trump Fix Government by Running It Like a Business?

Past administrations have attempted reform by taking cues from the private sector with mixed results. It might be even harder for a White House that lacks experience in government to achieve success.

Donald Trump is taking steps to make the government more like the private sector. Past administrations have tried similar exercises in reform with mixed results, however, and it might be harder for a White House with relatively little governing experience to make improvements to the sprawling federal bureaucracy.

On the campaign trail, Trump pointed to his business record in promising  to fix government. On Monday, the White House unveiled an Office of American Innovation, which will make recommendations to improve government based on private sector consultation.

An early start may signal the administration plans to prioritize the effort, though it’s hard to tell what kind of follow-through it will devote to the project, what recommendations the office will devise, and whether any will actually be implemented. The office will be led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, who does not have prior experience in government, and whose portfolio now includes everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the opioid crisis.

“It takes a long time to really improve government, there aren’t quick fixes, so you have to start right away,” said Max Stier, the president of the Partnership for Public Service, a good government non-profit. “It’s also important that you have buy-in from the highest levels of government.”

There’s a long history of presidential administrations looking to the private sector for advice on how to fix government—as well as examples of those efforts amounting to little more than unrealized recommendations. In 1982, Ronald Reagan established the Grace Commission, led by businessman J. Peter Grace, which resulted in a set of recommendations to rid government of waste and inefficiency. “Some recommendations were adopted,” according to a report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service. But “the most significant recommendations required congressional action and were not implemented.”

Other administrations have attempted to improve government by modernizing it, a goal the Trump administration is also promising to achieve. According to a Elaine Kamarck, an aide to President Bill Clinton who helped implement a reform project known as the National Performance Review, and later re-named the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, the NPR helped bring the federal government into “the Internet Age.” It launched “the federal government’s first, comprehensive web portal,” Kamarck told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2013, which was designed to “offer citizens one stop access to government information.”

The Obama administration also focused on modernization as part of its own government reform agenda, including an effort to update information technology.

Shrinking the size of government, and cutting costs, has been another target of past administrations echoed by the Trump White House, which released an executive order aimed at eliminating redundancy in the federal government. During his first year in office, George W. Bush outlined a call for reform rooted in a “market-based” approach, and announced a “Management Agenda,” which the administration billed as “an aggressive strategy for improving management of the federal government.” As part of that, the Bush
administration saved taxpayers roughly $7 billion by encouraging public-private sector competition, according to a 2008 assessment published in the Public Administration Review.

The Clinton administration's reforms also resulted in a cost-savings in the billions of dollars, according to the IBM Center for the Business of Government and Partnership for Public Service report, and included scaling back the size of the federal workforce.

It can be hard to predict how a massive federal bureaucracy will respond to efforts to change it, however. And it may be difficult to avoid unforeseen repercussions. Job cuts under the Clinton administration created “unintended consequences, such as weakening the acquisition workforce and diminishing the expertise and capacity of professionals in federal human resources and other management rules,” according to the IBM Center for the Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service.

The Trump administration might face a unique set of challenges if the people tasked with recommending and carrying out reforms lack expertise in actually running government. A press release describing the so-called innovation office says that recommendations will be developed “with career staff along with private-sector and other external thought leaders.”

“The concern would be that relying on business people to make recommendations and fixes might not work as well as relying on public administration experts,” said Rob Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “The federal bureaucracy is complicated, and you need to address these issues with people who actually understand public administration. Otherwise it would be kind of like taking a governor and asking him to go in and advise General Motors on how to run their business.”

Kamarck made a similar argument, writing earlier this week that “a real government-reform effort must be led by people with in-depth knowledge of the government itself. Otherwise, it will simply be another initiative that is forgotten almost as soon as it is announced.”

Part of the challenge of government reform is when it works well, it often fails to generate much attention or praise, potentially diminishing the incentive for government officials to prioritize reform in the first place. A breakdown in government operations, however, does have the potential to generate significant negative publicity, a lesson President Obama’s administration learned during the botched roll out of the website in 2013. “Most presidents focus attention on policy and often fail to understand that won’t mean much if you can’t make it operational,” Stier said.

It’s too early to judge how this latest effort  might turn out. But unless the administration makes a substantial effort to tap existing governmental expertise, it’s hard to see how this latest attempt at reform could succeed.

Jim Webb knows fighting, which is what the US Naval Academy is supposed to be about. But perhaps no longer.

Webb, a member of the Annapolis class of ’68, brought a Navy Cross, a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts home with him from Vietnam, among other decorations. That was just the beginning.
His Marine Corps career cut short by war wounds, Webb continued his service to America both as secretary of the Navy and as US senator from Virginia. And he authored 10 books — among them a riveting novel of combat in Southeast Asia and a history of the enduringly pugnacious Scots-Irish in America, “Born Fighting.”
Webb, himself Scots-Irish, has been a fighter all his life. But this week, he took a knee — understandably but regrettably surrendering to the know-nothingism that has been choking off reasoned political discourse on college campuses and elsewhere across the country for far too long.
Think of it as Jim Webb vs. the hecklers’ veto — and the hecklers won.
Webb was to have been honored Friday as a “distinguished graduate” by the Naval Academy Alumni Association, but withdrew Tuesday evening: “I am being told that my presence at the ceremony would likely mar the otherwise celebratory nature of that special day. As a consequence, I find it necessary to decline the award.”
Better he should have spit in somebody’s eye — but once an officer and a gentleman, always an officer and a gentleman, one supposes.

At issue was a paper he wrote in 1979 objecting to the admission of women to the nation’s military academies on the even-then-unfashionable, but still-not-unreasonable, grounds that assignment of women to front line combat roles is at best disruptive, and at worst dangerous. Perhaps lethally so.
Webb could have been dead wrong about all of it, of course, even if 40 years of experience with gender integration strongly indicates otherwise. The Navy’s ongoing shipboard pregnancy epidemic and the difficulty most women have coping with traditional infantry-training standards suggests that the debate is far from settled.
Unless dissent can be beaten into the ground, of course — along with those who refuse to accept that political equity can trump basic biology without serious consequences.
Webb demurred early on, and it’s hard to imagine someone with greater personal standing to do so. Now he’s paying a price, if a small one — another plaque for the wall — and certainly he’ll survive.
But it’s not clear that such can be said with certainty about honorable military service in defense of fundamental principles. Not over the long haul.
If graduates of the Naval Academy are prepared to behave like Middlebury College undergrads over a 38-year-old theoretical text — over an idea! — what is there to be said of the individual military officer’s solemn pledge to preserve and protect the Constitution?
And if the Naval Academy itself acquiesces in a heckler’s veto — actively or inferentially — then what is to be said of the institution’s own commitment to the high standards it claims to demand of its students? Plenty — but nothing good.
More officers will take the oath seriously than not, of course. That the women-in-combat discussion has persisted for decades is testimony to the fact that principled officers continue to resist endangering young soldiers, sailors and Marines in pursuit of politically driven social goals.
And to be clear, women have served with honor and distinction for decades, sometimes with grievous personal consequences. The nation needs to recognize that without caveat or qualification.
But, again, what happened to Jim Webb is not about women in the military. It’s about whether the virus that has swept America’s campuses — political activism of the sort meant to disrupt and coerce — is now working its way into the armed forces. This would be no small thing.
Anyway, somebody needs to apologize to Jim Webb. If anyone ever earned the right to be wrong, it’s him. And the thing is, he may have been right.
Let the discussion continue.

Bob McManus is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal

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