Saturday, April 26, 2014

Conservative Republicans Get Liberal Democrats to Increase Freedom and Cut Taxes in Repealing Part of Obamacare

Earlier this month, the United States Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law a measure to repeal a provision of the law that federalized health insurance, “Obamacare.”  The provision would have prohibited small businesses from offering certain high deductible health insurance plans to their employees.

            By repealing the provision, small businesses may continue to offer such plans, which make their employees eligible to open health savings accounts (HSAs).  HSAs, which were signed into law by President George W. Bush, are tax-exempt accounts that earn tax-deferred interest.  Contributions to them may be carried over if not spent and are heritable.  Thus, they help reduce unnecessary health care spending by incentivizing saving.  By offering such plans, employees may exercise their freedom of choice to pay lower premiums in exchange for the higher deductibles, a choice which especially makes economic sense for younger workers without families.  Additionally, contributions to HSAs represent tax cuts, which lead to even more freedom, as people who contribute to them are freer to spend health care money as they see fit.

As I posted last month, this bill is the third repeal of a part of Obamacare that has been approved by both the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate and signed into law by President Obama, in addition to a major provision that was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  I share the concern of some fellow conservatives that reforms of a bad program make it more difficult to repeal that program fully, but Obamacare is sufficiently disastrous that these minor fixes do not prevent it from being undermined by its own provisions. 

In the case of welfare reform, conservatives were right to reform it – without compromising on principles – to prove that work is better than welfare, which produced spectacularly successful results of increasing employment and decreasing the deficit.  Similarly, in the case of Obamacare, conservatives were right both in terms of politics and policy to work to repeal minor provisions.  Politically, these efforts provide refutation to the liberal Democratic argument that conservatives and Republicans are focused only on repeal because of partisanship or by being too steadfast to ideological conviction to relieve people of unnecessary burdens, while having the additional benefit of further documenting how flawed the law to federalize health insurance has been.  Also, getting the liberal Democrats to go along with salvaging a Bush-era reform – without having to give up anything in return – is a noteworthy political accomplishment.  In terms of policy, the repeal of this particular provision increases freedom and reduces taxes, which advances conservative principles and represents good government. 

Conservatives should continue to work to repeal the federalization of health insurance totally, but should not pass up opportunities in the meantime to repeal some of its more onerous provisions, either through legislation or the courts, as long as these efforts are in keeping with conservative principles and do not strengthen Obamacare structurally in such a way as to make it more tolerable by the public.  When conservatives do, they ought to claim the credit they deserve.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Russians and Iranians Admit Lying

           On the same day, both the Russians and Iranians have reportedly today admitted to lying.  Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that he lied about the Russian invasion of Crimea, while a former Iranian government nuclear official admitted that the Iranians lied about their nuclear program.

            The Russian Federation had denied that the military-like uniformed forces bearing no insignia that swept into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula were theirs, claiming they were Crimean self-defense forces.  Putin’s admission that the men were Russian government forces not only undermines the justification for Russia’s actions, but lends credence to the Ukrainian accusation that Russian forces have similarly infiltrated eastern Ukraine to take over government facilities and foment insurrection among the Russian-speakers there. 

The Russian Federation’s goal is to push for independence referenda in eastern Ukraine that would lead to annexation by Russia, as it had in Crimea.  In the meantime, Russia hopes to spark confrontations between Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian government forces in order to justify a Russian invasion based on its assertion of a new right to invade sovereign, independent states to defend Russian-speakers there.  It is a novel claim, since the defeat of Nazi Germany, that one state has such a right to invade other states to “protect” citizens in the invaded state who share the same language as the invading state.  As I have posted previously, Russia had signed a treaty recognizing Ukraine’s borders, which waives any historic claim it can now make to Ukrainian territory based on the presence of Russian speakers there. Putin’s reference to Ukraine as “New Russia” and its longstanding lament of losing the former Soviet Republics expose the Russian Federation’s imperialism.  Its perceived sensitivity about Western influence in its claimed sphere of influence is often used by Russians and their sympathizers to excuse acts of aggression that they would not tolerate were they made by any other state.  The West poses no threat to a peaceful Russia that would respect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the states in what Russia refers to as its “Near Abroad.”  Just as the Russian government does not respect the liberty of Russian citizens, however, it does not respect liberty abroad.

In addition, a report by the United Nations found that Russia’s claims of Ukrainian violations of the rights of Russian speakers in Crimea were false, as there were no systematic or widespread incidents of abuse.  The Russians are following the same strategy in Ukraine as in Georgia of fomenting conflict, exaggerating abuses of minority rights and vilifying a pro-Western government it cannot control, to justify or at least distract from its own misbehavior.  The Ukrainians have promised to respect minority rights and have offered more autonomy to eastern provinces.  The report also refutes the Russian claims of the legitimacy of the deposed pro-Russian government in Ukraine because of the lack of freedom of expression or an independent judiciary and the jailing of opposition figures.  Ukraine’s pro-Russian government was thus no more legitimate than Russia’s or Venezuela’s, despite the pretense of democratic elections in these authoritarian states. 

            Meanwhile, the Iranians have been lying about the nature and purpose of their nuclear program for years, despite all the evidence to the contrary, in addition to their obvious deceptions.  Oil-rich Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but it has enriched uranium far beyond the degree necessary for the production of energy – to the point necessary for the production of nuclear weapons, among other steps it has taken that are consistent with the development of a military program.  The former Iranian nuclear official justified the lies by blaming Western mistrust, but the West and the Islamic Republic’s neighbors mistrusted the terrorist-sponsoring theocratic dictatorship because of its failure to disclose its programs and the obvious signs that Iran’s program was not based upon a peaceful intent.  

           Both Communists, like Putin, and Islamists, like the Iranian regime, believe it is justifiable to lie in order to achieve their ends.  They will continue to try to deceive everyone else about their true intent and to lie about their opponents.  Whatever one might be tempted to believe about particular individuals or governments that might oppose Communists or Islamists, it is critically important not to be distracted by any perceived faults or inconsistencies on the part of their opponents, which are often fabricated or exaggerated.  The lies not only suggest the moral bankruptcy of those who state them, but remind everyone of the Communists’ and Islamists’ evil intent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The United States Supreme Court Ruling Expands Freedom of Expression by Striking down the Overall Cap on Political Contributions

           The Supreme Court provided another victory for freedom of expression earlier this month by striking down the cap on each citizen’s campaign contributions to congressional candidates overall per election cycle as an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of speech.  The cap was part of the elaborate and burdensome system of campaign finance laws enacted by Congress and signed into law by Presidents over the years, starting with the 1975 post-Watergate liberal Democratic Congress.

            In addition to the limits donors may make to individual candidates for Congress, a cap of less than $50,000 was placed on the total amount donors could give to all congressional candidates each election cycle.  Therefore, a candidate could give many congressional candidates a small amount of money or the maximum to only a few dozen.  The cap was thus effectively a limit on the number of candidates to whom a citizen could donate to the maximum allowable limit.  As a result, citizens could not necessarily donate the maximum contribution of about $2,300 to all of the congressional candidates from their party in their state or all of the female candidates across the Union or all of the candidates of a particular ethnicity or religion, or all candidates who are veterans, or all the candidates who support a particular position. 

While retaining the limit on citizens’ contributions to each individual candidate per cycle, the Supreme Court ruled that the amount of the overall cap was arbitrary and the cap itself served no compelling government interest.  The majority of the Court struck the cap down as unconstitutional because it violated the freedom of speech.  The Court has previously defined making political contributions as exercising free speech.  Because the Supreme Court allowed the limits to contributions citizens can make to congressional candidates to remain, the Court hardly undermined the post-Watergate campaign finance laws cherished by the Left, as many liberals have hysterically alleged.  If a citizen cannot unduly influence one candidate, which is the basis of the supposed concern behind the laws, by making no more than the maximum permitted contribution, then neither can he unduly influence several candidates.

I would have agreed with Justice Clarence Thomas, however, who concurred with the plurality in a separate opinion, that the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to limit the contributions made by citizens at all, just as it lacks the authority to regulate campaign spending by citizens.  Therefore, he argues, all limits on campaign contributions should be struck down as unconstitutional restrictions on the freedom of expression. 

I would also argue that although contributing and spending money are types of political expression, they are not necessarily exercises of the freedom of speech, but of the press (i.e. the printing press), which means the freedom to print, or more broadly, to publish, as distinct from strictly oral communication.  Thus, print advertisements, television or internet ads or even radio ads are exercises of the freedom of the press.  Just as one must spend, and presumably raise, money to operate a printing press, one must raise and spend money to publish electronic ads.  Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the freedom of expression, however it is defined, for all citizens or combinations of citizens. 

The ruling will also have the practical effect of making campaign fundraising easier, as one of the unintended consequences of liberals’ regulation of campaign contributions to reduce what they regard as the corrupting influence of money and specifically the disproportionate political influence of wealthy donors was that by limiting contributions, a candidate needs more donors to raise the equivalent amount of money he would have been able to raise absent the contribution limits.  As a result, campaign finance laws had the opposite effect of what was intended by making each maximum contribution all the more significant and thus more influential, as well as causing candidates to have to be even more concerned about raising money, and thereby to be even more vulnerable to its supposed corrupting influence.  Because of the Court’s ruling, each maximum contribution will constitute a less significant portion of a candidate’s total contributions, which, consequently, minimizes the influence of each individual donor, and each congressional candidate will be less vulnerable to the corrupting influence of money because it will now be easier to raise.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jeremiah Denton, Rest in Peace

           War hero, Rear Admiral and former United States Senator Jeremiah Denton died last month in Virginia at the age of 89.  He was famous as a prisoner of war during the Vietnamese War.

            Born in Alabama in 1924, Denton graduated from the Naval Academy in 1947 and became a naval aviator, instructor and test pilot.  Meanwhile, he earned additional degrees from the Armed Forces Staff College, Navy War College and George Washington UniversityDenton is credited as the architect of the “Haystack Concept,” a tactic to conceal naval air carrier groups by making them appear as commercial shipping. 

            During the Vietnamese War, Denton served on the carrier, U.S.S. Independence.  His A-6 Intruder was shot down in 1965 by North Vietnam.  After bailing out, Denton was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese.  He spent over seven and a half years as a P.O.W., half of which was in solitary confinement because of the organized resistance exhibited by him and his fellow prisoners.  In 1966, the Communist North Vietnamese forced Denton to participate in a televised press conference.  Seizing the opportunity, he famously blinked the word “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” in Morse Code to alert the world for the first time of the conditions he and his fellow Americans were suffering at the hands of their captors.  Denton also maintained his honor by affirming his support of the United States and its policy.  He was promoted to Captain during this time and was later awarded the Naval Cross for his heroism, the highest of his many decorations.  The bold move by Denton helped put pressure on the North Vietnamese to stop violating the Geneva Convention, but carpet bombing by American B-52 bombers in 1972 was even more effective.  Released in 1973, Denton made a famous speech on the tarmac at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in which he expressed the pride of the American P.O.W.s for having served under difficult circumstances and their gratitude to their Commander in Chief and the United States.

Denton served as Commandant of the Army War College from 1974-1975.  He retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral in 1977.  In the meantime, Denton penned When Hell Was in Session, which told the story of the American P.O.W. resistance to the North Vietnamese captors, in 1976.  I recommend the book, which was later turned into a motion picture.  A documentary filmed entitled Return With Honor, which was the motto of the resistance, told the story of the heroic leadership of Denton and a handful of other officers in the prison camps who did, indeed, maintain American honor to the best of their abilities, despite torture and starvation.

After the war, Denton worked as a television broadcaster, advocating American aid for the resistance to the Marxist Nicaraguan government.  He founded the National Forum Foundation, now known as the Admiral Jeremiah Denton Foundation, in 1984.  Meanwhile, Denton was elected U.S. Senator in 1980, thereby becoming the only retired Admiral elected to the Senate, as well as the first Republican elected Senator from Alabama since Reconstruction and the first Roman Catholic elected statewide.  He served honorably from 1981-1987, compiling a conservative record.  Denton was narrowly defeated for reelection in 1986 by Democrat Richard Shelby, who later became a Republican.  

Jeremiah Denton served the United States of America for decades, with honor, and was a model of self-sacrifice and comportment in captivity.  He is an inspiration to all Americans.  May Jeremiah Denton rest in peace.  

The United States Denies a Visa to Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations

In an extraordinary move, the United States of America today has denied a visa to the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations because of his role in assisting the kidnappers of the American embassy staff who were held hostage for 444 days from 1979-1981. 

I had posted earlier this month to urge the Administration to deny Iran’s UN Ambassador entry to the U.S.  In the meantime, the House of Representatives had passed a resolution unanimously urging the visa be denied.  Some of the former hostages had spoken out against granting him the visa.

The denial of the visa sends a clear message that people who are involved with attacks on diplomats will not be accepted as diplomats themselves.  It also emphasizes Iran’s continued international isolation.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Update on the Crisis in Ukraine

           The economic sanctions I had posted about last month have now been imposed by the United States Congress and President Barack Obama on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.  The targeted sanctions are in addition to the freezing of assets and restrictions on the visas of a small number of Russians and Ukrainians complicit in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea imposed by the Obama Administration and the suspension of military cooperation.  Congress also approved a loan to aid Ukraine while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration suspended cooperation with Russia, other than in regard to the International Space Station. 

            The European Union has also imposed visa restrictions and economic sanctions on a few Russians and Ukrainian collaborators, while Switzerland announced it would not allow its banks to be safe havens for those individuals.  The EU also is loaning money to the Ukrainian government to bail it out of its significant debt and it reduced tariffs on Ukrainian imports, which will help make up for the 50% increase in the fee Russia charges Ukraine for natural gas and to help restore the Ukrainian economy, which is in recession.  The EU suspended important trade talks with Russia

            As I mentioned in a post last month, the U.S. and the other major industrial powers (the Group of 7, which includes Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan) already boycotted a Group of 8 summit in Russia and suspended the Russian Federation from membership in the group.  The U.S. and a number of its allies also declined to send governmental delegations to the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, as also mentioned in the same post.   

I catalogue all these punishments of the Russian Federation in particular to note the price it is paying for its invasion of Ukraine, which is more than it paid for invading Georgia, although it is only a limited response that appears weak both to the Russians and to nervous Western allies in Eastern Europe, and worth the price for the gain the Russians perceive from winning Crimea.  Furthermore, President George W. Bush provided direct military support to Georgia, but there has been no military aid to Ukraine from the West. 

            Meanwhile, thousands of ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars have been fleeing Crimea.  All Ukrainian military forces have either withdrawn from Crimea or defected to the Russian FederationRussia captured all Ukrainian military bases and much materiel, including Ukraine’s Black Sea Fleet, while Russia has returned only obsolete tanks to Ukraine

            Tens of thousands of Russian troops have massed on the border with Ukraine and some of them did make an incursion north of Crimea, which increased Ukrainian fears of an invasion of eastern Ukraine, which is inhabited mostly by ethnic Russians.  Russia pulled back several thousand soldiers, but it is not clear if the move was in response to Western pressure or a feint. 

In addition to Ukraine and Georgia, there are concerns in Moldova and even the Baltic States over Russian imperialism, especially given the Russian Federation’s assertion of a right to “protect” Russian-speakers abroad, especially former Soviet territory that it deeply regrets losing and over which it claims a sphere of influence.   

The U.S., the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU must act by offering more support to Eastern European states threatened by Russia, such as implementing missile defense that protects against Russian missiles and opening a pathway for NATO cooperation or membership for more former Soviet republics while increasing the financial price on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea to deter further aggression and reassure Eastern Europeans of the West’s resolve to protect them.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Foreign Digest: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan

Syrian Civil War Update
            The Syrian Civil War has now raged for three years, leaving over 150,000 dead.  There have been many injured and left homeless, while a multitude have sought refuge in other foreign states.  Syrian Dictator Bashar Assad, who remains unpunished for using chemical weapons against innocent civilians, continues his indiscriminate conventional attacks in residential areas that oppose his tyranny.  Meanwhile, although there has been progress in eliminating the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons, about half of it remains. 

More Protests against Venezuela’s Dictatorship
            There have been more protests against the authoritarian Chavist regime of Nicolas Maduro, which have been met with more oppression and violence by the dictatorship.  The imprisonment of a major opposition figure for political purposes was one of the latest sparks of the demonstrations.  Venezuela has been wracked by high inflation and crime, in addition to suffering under tyranny. 
Afghan Presidential Election
           The turnout in Afghanistan’s presidential elections has been high, despite violence by the Taliban intended to disrupt the elections.  President Hamid Karzai is term-limited to two four-year terms, meaning Afghans are elected a new president.  Karzai is expected to allow Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of power. Security, corruption and the economy are major concerns, but one area of agreement among the candidates is the need to sign the status of forces agreement with the United States that would provide for the continued presence of a significant force of American soldiers after most units withdraw later this year.  I commend the Afghan people for their courage, resolve and commitment to representative government.  

Report from the 2014 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference

           The 2014 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, the twenty-fifth since its founding, concluded in Harrisburg today.   

           I attended the PALC for the third time  the first since 2010.  See also my post, Report from the 2010 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, from April of that year,  

Attendance at the PALC has increased dramatically since the early days of the conference, which is the Keystone State’s version of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. and always attracts first-rate speakers.  There are also far more exhibitors than before, advocating in regard to a diversity of issues.  The PALC is broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.  

A project of the Pennsylvania Leadership Council, the 2014 PALC (, was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Foundation, Americans for Prosperity-PA, Corbett for Governor/Republican Party of PA, Armstrong/Indiana Patriots and Action of PA, and co-sponsored by numerous conservative organizations.  I was only able to attend part of the Saturday sessions, which are all worth reporting here.

Columnist and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell observed how the first institutions that are targets for destruction by totalitarian regimes are the family and the church, as these are their main obstacles to control.  He explained eloquently how focusing on religious liberty does not in conflict with economic concerns because religious freedom is fundamental to all freedoms, including economic freedom.  Blackwell emphasized how religious liberty, in fact, is a prerequisite to prosperity.  He noted how far President Barack Obama’s policies were from promoting liberty.

Dr. Paul Kengor, a history professor from Grove City College who is an author of several books about Ronald Reagan and anti-Communism, reviewed eleven principles of Reagan that he identified and explores in his latest book on that particular subject.  He pointed out how many of them were related to faith and morals, in addition to Reagan’s view about limited government and the free market, as the 40th President of the United States had a consistent view of freedom based upon virtue and conserving the time-tested collective wisdom of the ages.  Reagan had successfully united the social and economic conservatives because he believed in both social and economic conservatism, Kengor noted.  The historian contrasted the Marxist belief in the abolition of private property and the supremacy of the state with Reagan’s belief that every individual is more important than the state.  He also contrasted Reagan’s belief in peace through strength and Obama’s weakness in regard to Russian aggression, as well as Reagan’s belief in American exceptionalism based upon the recognition of America as more of an idea than a place with Obama’s view that America is no more exceptional than any foreign state.  Kengor observed how Obama’s vision of big government is the antithesis of Reagan’s belief in the American people and his confidence in the private sector.

A panel on emerging constituencies moderated by erstwhile Republican U.S. Representative nominee  Evan Feinberg was enlightening.  GOP strategist Lenny McAllister advised that Republicans and conservatives can appeal to urban voters by avoiding three tactics: an overemphasis on the Republican Party’s good record against slavery and racial discrimination, pointing out the obvious problems in urban areas and being overly argumentative.  Pennsylvania College Republican Chairman Christopher Wetherson observed how college students are noticing the failures of Obama’s policies, in terms of high unemployment for often debt-burdened college graduates and the disastrous federalization of heath insurance, and are thus open to a conservative message that offers a better alternative.  Having to pay for massive government debt was a concern of these emerging constituencies, the panelists noted.   

            Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley drew a sharp contrast between the situation that faced Pennsylvania four years ago of recession, rising unemployment, a four-billion dollar state budget deficit, and high taxes, with the significantly improved situation today, thanks to the work of Governor Tom Corbett and the Republican-led General Assembly.  He reminded the audience how Corbett had eliminated the deficit without raising taxes and by regulating the natural gas industry responsibly instead of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, as the liberal Democrats running for governor and those in the legislature would do.  Cawley warned how the Democratic gubernatorial candidates were in favor of returning to the same failed liberal tax and spend policies that had harmed Pennsylvania before the Corbett Administration and how they are in favor of continuing Obama’s liberal fiscal policies and his federalization of health insurance, despite the hurt they are causing many Pennsylvanians.  He urged his fellow conservatives to keep Pennsylvania on the right course by working to reelect Tom Corbett Governor.  

           Michael Reagan, the head of the Reagan Legacy Foundation and former talk radio host, provided fascinating insight into his father, President Ronald Reagan.  The adopted son of the 40th President extolled his father’s virtues of honesty and decency and stated that his father was the same genuine person in private as in public.  The younger Reagan emphasized the centrality of faith in his father’s life and movingly recounted how his father dedicated his presidency to God in gratitude for the sparing of his life after the attempt to assassinate him.  The son of the President also noted how his father, as an actor, was mindful of his audience and that his message of freedom was not intended only for those who were in freedom, but to reassure those behind the Iron Curtain who were not free that he was fighting for their liberty.  The younger Reagan noted how a man as great as his father is rare and that although his father is a good model for all conservatives, his fellow conservatives ought not to continue to look for another Reagan and thus compare everyone else unfavorably to him and how some conservatives today might reject their hero for similar shortcomings for not always adhering to conservative views.  Michael Reagan urged them to refrain from regarding each other as the enemy for not being conservative enough instead of recognizing the liberals as the enemy of liberty and, like Ronald Reagan, to seek common ground with each other and work for the greater good.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Five-Year Blog Report

It has been five years since StatCounter began tracking pageviews of my blog.  Since my last annual report, there were nearly 400 more visits (not counting my own and counting only pageviews of other pages that are at least one hour after the previous pageview).  I also screen out computer-generated pageviews, to the extent possible.  I do not count total “hits,” meaning repeated views of the same page within an hour, which would add several thousand more to the total pageviews since StatCounter began tracking in 2009. 

Each post is viewed an average of 11 times, if views of the homepage are included.  Total visits are over 5,900, with several hundred additional pageviews. 

Although I posted fewer times last year than the year before, which attracted additional interest because it was a presidential election year, I attribute the lower number of visits to my blog to better screening out of computer-generated pageviews, as well as measures taken by visitors for greater privacy protection, in light of recent revelations, that make them impossible to be tracked by StatCounter.  These pageviews are noticed by Blogger, although only by country, not by city and even individual computer, as with StatCounter.   In fact, the queries for most searches are now encrypted, although not the results.  I can see, for example, that pages on my blog are often in the top ten highest or are even first on the list of results.  The queries are helpful in noticing visitors’ questions and posting answers, but I certainly understand people’s privacy concerns. 

The most popular post remains The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization, with over 1,500 page views, followed by Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the National Constitution Center.  Nine posts have been viewed over 100 times.  Malaysia is the source of the most visits outside the United States.  The next most visits outside the U.S. come from Algeria, followed by the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Canada, Australia, India, and the Philippines.  There was even a visit since my last annual report from Rwanda.  Within the U.S., visits generally come proportionately from the States, according to population, outside of Pennsylvania.  Since my last annual report, there were two visits were from the U.S. Senate.

Thank you for visiting my blog and posting comments, or for the positive feedback some visitors express to me outside the blog.  Please feel free to post comments or to ask questions or suggest other topics.  Visit at least weekly to keep up to date, as only a limited number of posts are kept on the homepage.  Again, thank you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The United States Congress Must Protect the Electricity Grid Now

           A solar flare on Saturday that disrupted radio transmissions, recent testimony before the United States Congress about the dangers of solar flares and electromagnetic pulse attacks (EMP), and congressional testimony earlier this year that revealed a number of attacks on electricity transformers, including a damaging sniper attack on an electricity generation plant in California last year, highlight the need for improved security for the electricity grid in the U.S.

Solar flares can not only disrupt radio transmissions, but ruin satellites and produce damaging surges to power plants and the electrical grid.  EMPs would permanently destroy not only power plants and the grid, but also any unprotected electronic equipment, including machines, vehicles, computers and appliances.  Backup electrical power would be scarce.  Much of the U.S. could be in range of a well-placed EMP attack. As it would take years to recover from such a catastrophic event, the destruction of the grid would thus be devastating to modern electricity-dependent civilization. 

            There are a number of steps that can be taken both by the federal government and voluntarily by the electricity industry to deter or limit the damage from attacks.  States also should do their part to defend the electricity grid, but because the grid crosses state lines, federal involvement is essential, in addition the domestic security aspect.  

           Some of the measures that would protect against the most severe threats are not cost prohibitive, especially considering the risk of not protecting the system.  Contingency planning is a form of insurance.  Just as a ballistic missile defense system would deter or at least provide some protection against a nuclear attack (which generate EMPs), greater defense for the electricity grid must be implemented. The East Coast of America continues to be unprotected by missile defense.  There also must be a plan to have backup transformers available, for example.  They are currently imported from Germany and would be difficult to replace with the electricity grid down, especially in the event of an EMP attack.  In addition, the U.S. must continue its cyber security efforts, as the electricity grid is vulnerable to cyber attack.  

           Conservatives should urge the U.S. Congress to lead the effort to protect the electricity grid now.

Deny Entry to the Militant Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations

           Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations aided the kidnappers of diplomats.  He provided translation services to the militant Iranian students who took over the United States Embassy in Iran in 1979 and captured its American staff and held them hostage, which made him a mouthpiece to militancy.  The Islamic Republic, instead of fulfilling its duty as the host state to protect the diplomats, supported the militants, who held the Americans until 1981.  Iran’s UN envoy has expressed no remorse for his role.

As Iran has no diplomatic relations with the U.S., the Iranian Ambassador the U.N. is effectively the Iranian regime’s representative in America.  The U.S. should not grant a visa to a diplomat with a record of violence against diplomats and embassy staff.  It should take the extraordinary step of denying entry to the Iranian Ambassador to make a clear statement that violence against diplomats is unacceptable and to show support for the former hostages. 

The Iranian regime is the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism.  It finances and arms terrorists who have targeted and killed Americans.  In addition, the Islamic Republic strongly supports Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, another state sponsor of terrorism, who is brutally suppressing a rebellion.  Meanwhile, Iran continues its nuclear weapons program, which threatens states in the region.