Cyberwarfare doesn’t quite make the front page, but inside …

North Korea at night with South Korea below, China to the left and Japan to the right.

The news items were pages apart and totally unrelated. Or were they?

On the cover of the morning newspaper is an AP account of North Korea successfully testing a nuclear-capable missile. The Seoul-datelined story opens: “North Korea on Monday boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of ‘medium long-range’ ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.” The rocket flew 490 miles

Inside the Nevada section there is an interview with the  commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base. In it he talks about the role of Nellis, which includes discussion of the base’s cyberwarfare role. The “bird” colonel commented that an example of cyberwarfare would be “figuring out how, if our nation decided, we would take down the electrical grid in North Korea.”

The irony is that North Korea doesn’t have much of an electric grid to take down, but we do.

In fact a story at Townhall today talks about what could be used to take down our grid — electromagnetic pulse or EMP, which could be delivered by a solar flare or a high-altitude nuclear detonation, which could delivered from a ship or submarine less than 490 miles off either coast.

As we noted three years ago, Dr. Peter Pry testified before Congress  that an EMP event could wipe out 90 percent of America’s population.

“Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse,” he said.

There was a bill in the House, H.R. 3410, at the time that was intended to start the relatively inexpensive process of hardening the nation’s grid against such an attack. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck was a co-sponsor. It passed the House in December 2014 and has since languished, apparently for a lack of urgency in the Senate and White House.

I have been writing about this topic since 1980 to no avail.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., who introduced H.R. 3410 in October 2013, said three years ago “every single facet of modern human life” would be “crippled” by an EMP event. “It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation,” he said. “In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination.”

The cost to do this grid work has been placed at somewhere between a half a billion dollars and a couple of billion. Washington spends three times that in one minute.

The headline on that Townhall story reads: “Tick, Tock: EMP War Looms.”

Here is an excerpt from that story by Katie Kieffer:

A unique menace in that it can occur naturally (via a geomagnetic storm) or by man (via the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon), EMP is a rapid acceleration of particles that creates a high-power burst of electromagnetic energy.

55 years ago, during the Cold War, the United States experienced an accidental EMP blast when the JFK administration tested a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead 250 miles above Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The test, Operation Starfish Prime, malfunctioned. Traffic lights 850 miles away in Hawaii immediately went out, six satellites above the Pacific died, and radio networks were disrupted in Alaska, Hawaii and California.

Starfish Prime was a powerful warning — had we listened. Unfortunately, today our country is virtually defenseless against an EMP attack. Furthermore, the ramifications of an EMP attack in 2017 are far greater than in 1962 due to the proliferation of grid-dependent smartphones, computers, cars, medical facilities, financial institutions and food distribution channels. Even our military is far more electricity-dependent.

“Electricity could be out for months or years because the grid would need to be assembled completely anew since its components would melt,” EMP expert Avi Schurr told NATO. Hospitals, banks, and grocery stores would be unable to function for months — and possibly permanently. Without power or communications systems, chaos would erupt and tens of millions of Americans would die.

The good news? We know how to prevent an EMP attack—and with a relatively modest monetary investment.

The bad news? More than any president in U.S. history, Barack Obama had unique congressional studies at his fingertips alerting him to the danger of an EMP attack, plus manifold prevention recommendations from the congressional EMP Commission. Yet Obama only took steps to weaken America’s already-anemic defenses.

Col. Paul J. Murray, commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, discusses cyberwarfare (R-J photo by Keith Rogers)

 

Does it really take a million acres of national monuments in Nevada to protect a few artifacts?

President Trump’s signing of an executive order calling for a review of the national monument designations made in the past 20 years prompted the local newspaper to drag out the usual suspects to moan and groan about the need to “protect” the million acres of Nevada land that Obama designated as national monuments in his last months in office.

Trump called Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create monuments an “egregious abuse of federal power.”

“We’re very dismayed,” one of the lock-up-the-land advocates told the local paper. “We worked hard on this for 15 years. I think the issue has been decided.”

Largely decided without any input for local officials and residents.

“Today we’re putting the states back in charge,” Trump said Wednesday.

His Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said his agency will recommend which monuments should be lifted or, perhaps, reduced in size. He also said local feedback will be sought.

Before Obama created with a stroke of his pen the 700,000-acre Basin and Range Monument on the Nye and Lincoln border and the 300,000-acre Gold Butte Monument near Mesquite, he might have asked someone to actually read that 1906 law which gives the president the power to declare land off-limits to productive use for the purpose of protecting “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” on public land. The law also says that the designation “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

Does it take a million acres to protect a few petrogylphs and artifacts?

Though the monuments’ backers say the Antiquities Act grants the president power to create monuments but does not grant the power to rescind previous designations, there is legal precedent that states a presidential right to declare implies a presidential right to rescind.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this year, “In Myers v. United States (1926), the Supreme Court ruled that the president’s power to appoint officials, with the advice and consent of the Senate, includes the power to unilaterally remove them.”

The court said, “The power of removal is an incident of the power to appoint …”

BLM pix

 

 

Trump pen scratches out Obama’s expensive and futile Clean Power Plan

What Obama could do with his pen, Trump can undo with his — and has.

On Tuesday Trump signed an order telling the EPA to rewrite Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would have closed down most coal-fired power plants so they could be replaced with windmills and solar panels. Obama had committed to cutting so-called greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025, while shrugging off the fact his plan would suck $1 trillion out of the economy and kill 125,000 jobs, as The Wall Street Journal reports today in an editorial.

The WSJ further points out the utter futility of Obama’s senseless and futile gesture, because a year of U.S. emission cuts in 2025 would be canceled out by three weeks of Chinese emissions. Besides, though emissions continue to increase, temperatures globally have remained much the same.

Also in today’s WSJ, Paul Tice, a business prof and energy research analyst, recommends that Trump’s EPA needs to conduct a study that would show whether or not the agency’s 2009 “endangerment finding” that tagged carbon dioxide as a pollutant is indeed valid. He suggested the decision was rushed and based on flawed data. Until that finding is confirmed or more likely refuted, he notes some future liberal president can scratch through Trump’s order.

Tice notes the “breakdown in correlation between the world’s average surface temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels” has called into “question both the predictive power and input data quality of most global climate models, and further highlights the scientific uncertainty surrounding the basic premise of anthropogenic climate change.”

Throwing money at faulty theories is hardly a wise endeavor.

The WSJ editorial concludes: “As for climate change, President Trump’s order will have the same practical effect on rising temperatures as the Clean Power Plan: none.”

 

 

When haggling over details, it is easy to forget what the rules are

When you are down in the scrum, butting heads and scrambling for the ball it is easy to forget the rules of the game or even what game you are playing.

Now, if it is wrong for Congress to mandate under pain of tax penalties that everyone buy insurance from privately owned and operated health insurance companies or through state or federally operated exchanges, isn’t it just as wrong for Congress to order those health insurers to charge a 30 percent premium penalty to those who let their insurance lapse?

The Commerce Clause has been stretched beyond any semblance of rationality when a person can be fined for growing grain to feed his own cattle because that disrupts interstate commerce, but health insurance is not commonly available across state lines.

Where does Congress derive the enumerated power to micromanage health insurance — whether via ObamaCare or RyanCare?

And why pray tell can you be given Medicaid — basically government insurance that dictates what allegedly private doctors and hospitals may charge for care no matter what it really costs — if your income is 138 percent of the poverty level, but you are on your own if you earn 139 percent of the poverty level?

Overturn the actuarial tables and whole concept of insurance when Congress dictates that those with pre-existing conditions and “children” to the age of 26 must be covered at the same rate as others. What is the difference between only allowing insurers to charge three times as much for older people than healthier younger people than only allowing them to charge five times as much.

Despite what you may have read in the morning paper, RyanCare does not repeal the tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans. It merely delays it a couple of years.

When you are up to your arse in alligators it is hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp.

 

 

 

 

Trump orders feds to review Obama-era water grab

President Trump today signed an executive order telling the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the so-called waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule created under the Obama administration, which attempted to usurp dominion over every stream, ditch, wetland or muddy hoof print that might eventually spill a few drops of water into any rivulet that might occasionally be navigable with an inner tube.

“We’re going to free up our country and it’s going to be done in a very environmental and positive environmental way, I will tell you that,” Trump said. “[We will] create millions of jobs, so many jobs are delayed for so many years that it’s unfair to everybody.”

Trump ordered the federal agencies to review a 2006 opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that reduced the scope of the act by defining “waters of the United States” as only permanent bodies of water and not the occasional result of rainfall.

Nevada was one of 23 states to file suit over the WOTUS rule. The Supreme Court ruled this past summer that property owners had a right to sue in court over permitting decisions. The federal agencies had contended property owners could only go to court once decisions were final, but essentially argued that all permitting decisions are reviewable and potentially reversible and therefore never final.

In December 2010, the Hawkes Co. applied for a permit to mine peat on property in Minnesota. More than a year later the Army Corps denied the application, saying the land contained “water of the United States” because its wetlands had a “significant nexus” to the Red River of the North, located some 120 miles away.

In the opinion of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out the definition of WOTUS used by the EPA and the Corps includes “land areas occasionally or regularly saturated with water — such as ‘mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, [and] playa lakes’ — the ‘use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce.’ The Corps has applied that definition to assert jurisdiction over ‘270-to-300 million acres of swampy lands in the United States — including half of Alaska and an area the size of California in the lower 48 States.’”

Roberts also noted that a specialized individual permit on average costs $271,596 and 788 days to complete. He said the permitting process can be “arduous, expensive, and long.” He left out futile, since the process never ends.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt applauded the judgment, “This unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision vindicates our position that the Obama administration has continually attempted to avoid the rule of law and judicial review of its unlawful actions. The Obama administration seems determined to move as far and as fast as possible to unilaterally change our constitutional system and our congressional laws. … Fortunately in this case, our checks and balances have protected Nevadans from truly unprecedented federal overreach.”

Trump orders review of WOTUS.

Trump orders review of WOTUS.

Editorial: Equal pay bill is a waste of time and money

If you ever seek to land a government contract in Nevada — paving roads, scrubbing floors, selling typing paper — under a proposed law you will be guilty until proven innocent.

Assembly Bill 106, being sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel of Henderson, would prohibit government agencies in the state from contracting with any firm until it has received a “certificate of pay equity compliance” issued by the state Labor Commissioner declaring the company provides equal pay for equal work performed by men and women employees.

Never mind the fact the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 already proscribes pay discrimination based on gender.

The bill appears to be a sop to that widely touted canard that women doing the same work as men get paid less than 80 percent as much as their male co-workers.

The bill would create a mountain of paperwork because it requires submitting to the Labor Commissioner an annual workforce analysis that includes: the total number of persons employed in each job category by gender, the total number of hours worked for each employee and the total compensation for each.

Compliance will be costly and time consuming, driving up the cost of doing business, which will be passed along to taxpayers who cover the cost of government contracts.

AB106 would allow differences in pay for men and women if the employer can prove any pay differential is based legitimately on a seniority or merit system, is based on quality or quantity of production or some unspecified differential based on factors other than gender.

Of course, all these exemptions are entirely subjective and subject to the whim of the bureaucrat looking at the data. One person’s meritorious job performance is another’s discrimination.

Also, the bill states, “The denial or cancellation (of a certificate of compliance) is not subject to judicial review.” Satisfy the inspector or no government contract. Sounds like an invitation to pass envelopes of cash under the table.

Further, the bill also requires all governmental agencies and political subdivisions of government to obtain a certificate of compliance, thus again driving up the cost to all taxpayers for compliance

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2005 exploded the unequal gender pay myth. It concluded that “the gender gap is attributable to choices made by women concerning the amount of time and energy to devote to a career as reflected in years of work experience, utilization of part-time work, and workplace and job characteristics. There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles. Comparing the wage gap between women and men ages 35-43 who have never married and never had a child, we find a small observed gap in favor of women, which becomes insignificant after accounting for differences in skills and job and workplace characteristics. What the average woman sacrifices in earnings from choosing jobs that allow for part-time work and flexible work conditions is presumably offset by a gain in the utility of time spent with children and family.”

We wonder if one way to comply with AB106 is to employ a workforce that consists of only men or women — instant compliance, no pay differential. Or is that discriminatory?

AB106 is an expensive and superfluous boondoggle and should be rejected by lawmakers or vetoed by the governor.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Rick McKee cartoon

Rick McKee cartoon

President signs orders telling officials to enforce immigration laws

Why is it necessary for a president to issue an executive order telling public officials to enforce the laws passed by Congress?

That’s apparently what it has come to. According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump has signed orders that mean almost everybody living in the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation and new arrivals will no longer be subject to the current catch and release practice.

“The Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” WSJ quotes an enforcement memo as saying. “Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws.”

The New York Times reports that the orders end the Obama administration policy that required Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to immediately deport only those newly arriving illegal immigrants who were apprehended within 100 miles of the border and had been in the country no more than 14 days. “Now it will include those who have been in the country for up to two years, and located anywhere in the nation,” NYT relates.

The orders also tell the federal immigration agencies to revive a program that used local police to help with immigration enforcement, a program called 287g that was scaled down under Obama, NYT says.

According to Channel 3, the 287g program under Sheriff Doug Gillespie only turned over to immigration those suspects that had an outstanding warrant or an immigration detainer.

But it would be up to current Sheriff Joe Lombardo to determine the level of cooperation.

Border wall in Nogales, Ariz. (Reuters pix via WSJ)

Border wall in Nogales, Ariz. (Reuters pix via WSJ)