Wednesday, February 7, 2018

State of the Union? Dysfunctional!

President Trumps first State of the Union address in 2018 would have been accurate if he had used one word. Dysfunctional! 

Our short term political and socio-economic agendas are out of sync and out-of-balance with basic human needs for our sustainable survival.  Together we must focus on strategic solutions not cultural biases. Solutions based on hard evidence that allows the possibility to harmonize all systems and structures (cellular, body, family, city, state, national, global) together. Because thats were we are. Together. Now in an unsustainable union on spaceship earth.

This will require using fundamental principles, not the alternative principles created in by human minds that have never been conclusively tested.

Engineers own half of the equation for us to survive and thrive when they follow the “Laws of Nature”. Laws that have been tested over billions of years.
Theologians and policymakers own the other half when following the laws of “Nature’s God”. Laws that have been tested over millions of years now represented by The Golden Rule.

Combining these we can engineer a sustainable world with ‘life, liberty and justice for all’. Ignoring them will be catastrophic.

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles." -- Thomas Jefferson, 1797

To hell with patience! Literally. That’s where we are heading if we fail to codify fundamental principles in all that we do on this finite planet. It’s now urgent that we act consistently and holistically on such principles!

Warning! If you prefer that ‘life and death’ decisions be based on human emotions instead of logic and reasoning, stop reading now. You won’t agree with most of what follows.
It is not fake news that our political system (elections, party loyalty, candidate financing, procurement process…) are dysfunctional.
Our current government system and structures (a divided and uncooperative Congress, a bully Administration, an unprincipled Supreme Court, DOD, DHS, HHS, CIA, Dept of Veterans Affairs, Dept of Education…) are all dysfunctional. We don’t trust them. We don’t trust the media, scientists, corporations, or each other. But trust is what we need to thrive and survive.
Just as troubling is the UN system and other global structures (NATO, G-8, G-20…) that we created to deal with terrorism, pandemics, wars, genocide, famine, WMD proliferation, poverty, climate change and failed states… They are also dysfunctional.
Only a fool would trust any of these systems and structures to fix themselves. Yet they must be fixed unless you believe that "politics as usual" can do it. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is a workable definition of insanity.
As a human principle is has persistently failed. And that persistent failure is now threatening ever aspect of our lives.

What follows may sound utopian, but considering the alternative we may want to consider some utopian ideas. It wouldn’t be the first.
The great visionary and genius designer Buckminster Fuller highlighted in his 1973 book with the same name "Utopia or Oblivion." 
‘We can either create heaven on earth — or our children will inherit a living hell.’ This is now an urgent choice.

So here’s the key question. Is there anything we can trust? Our coinage suggested ‘In God we Trust”. But what does that mean?
Here is something it could mean that is in sync with our nation’s Founding Fathers.
The idea that our rights, our sovereign rights are God given. Our most fundamental rights of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not a gift from our government just to Americans with a passport. But to all people regardless of their government’s priorities. Protecting the fundamental rights of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all people equally is the ONLY valid function of government.

These were the “Truths” that our founding fathers claimed were “Self-evident”. The idea that ‘all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ These rights, and others, are worthy of trust. We cannot trust those who offer alternative principles.


Can we trust justice? “Justice for all” is essentially the modern version of ‘the Golden Rule”. A fundamental principle of every major religion. Yet Americans have a Department of Justice that enforces unjust laws. It is a legal system not a system that enforces justice. It is fundamentally flawed. Yet we continue to worship the Constitution and the systems and structures it codified. And then we wonder why our State of the Union is dysfunctional.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Real World. Not the one your mind invented.

The Real World. 

January 1, 2018, the UN Secretary-General issued a red alert for the world calling for unity in a world of growing conflict and inequality.  He said, “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals.”  If we fail his advice we should arrange burial plans for millions of people, the US Constitution, and the UN Charter.  Without transforming these two governance systems and structures we can expect increasing chaos.   Things change but we don’t.   We collectively keep ignoring the “Self-evident” “Truths” inherent in the “Laws of Nature and Natures God”(LN&NG).  These fundamental principles (FPs) are essential for sustainably governing our lives, our nations, and the world.  They are principles from which other basic truths, laws, or assumptions are made for making workable things.  America’s founding fathers acknowledged their importance in the lead paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.   FPs should not be confused with the alternative principles (APs) that humans craft to forward other agendas.  APs might work temporarily, but inevitably they fail.  Every reliable system and structure in the world that we depend on to sustain life is based on FPs.   Humanities persistent failure to distinguish between FPs and APs is the difference between life and billions of deaths.  It is the difference between prevention and unsustainable economic and environmental costs.   Anyone concerned about reversing the world’s accelerating chaos should adhere to FPs for solutions to sustain freedom and security for all.
Listed below are key factors influencing our minds perceptions of the world.  Some meld our hearts and minds. Others distract our thinking from what is required for managing a more workable world.  They have been gleaned from dozens of sources over three decades of observing the growing abyss between the horrific things humans do in the world and how wonderful the world could be if we actually adopted the LN&NG that have been understood for decades, some for millenniums.
As a biologist I find it fascinating that the Bible, written nearly 2000 years ago, predicted global chaos if responsible choices were shunned.  It must have been obvious, even back then, that advances in weaponry and the resistance of the human mind to change were unsustainable.
Three lines of change:   Change is a FP.  Life’s prime directive is survival.   Thus, a biological FP dictates that if a living thing fails to adapt to the changing world around it, it will parish.  Humans are adventurous but they also value stability/security.  The natural world has many threats so for millennium humans have invented principles intended to protect themselves and those they spawn and depend on.  If those principles adhered to the LN&NG they increased their chance of survival. If those principles were incompatible with the LN & NG the people and cultures that adopted them usually perished.  Principles incompatible with the LN&NG are APs (alternative principles).  They may have been useful once but ultimately they fail.
Given the two FPs above (constant change and the need to adapt) it should be easy to predict the real world consequences of these three current-era non-intersecting lines.  The first line arches upward representing the exponential growth in the power and global availability of technologies.  The second line rises shallow but relatively straight.  It represents linear human thinking.  The last line represents government change. It runs flat across time with a blip up on Sept 11, 2001, but is now declining in any prospect for significant change in either the US Constitution or UN governing systems.

Our Pleistocene linear thinking shouldn’t need Artificial Intelligence (AI) to forecast the inevitable consequences of relying on a 260 year old AP (American federalism) working within a 400 year old global governing AP (national sovereignty).   The current hyper technological change in an irreversibly interconnected world spells chaos.
The technologies changing the fastest are bio, cyber, and robotics -- each are increasingly profound and challenging to contemplate global consequences.  Bioengineers can now make new viruses faster than our capacity to make, test, and manufacture vaccines to protect against them.  Computer engineers are developing AI to think and learn infinitely faster than humans-- spawning weapon systems that pose an existential threat acknowledged by the smartest minds in the technology world.   Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that whoever masters AI will become ‘ruler of the world’.   Last year China’s government, which can change quickly, announced its plans to be the “premier global AI innovation center” by 2030.  China already invests heavily in AI and the former Executive Chair of Google’s parent Alphabet, said China is expected to overtake the US within a decade.  The vital question should not be which nation develops AI first but can any nation control it.
The economic cost of investing precious time and limited tax dollars into weapons systems for protecting ‘national security’ in a never ending arms race and endless war on terrorism… is unsustainable. Yet nations keep doing it.  Meanwhile, poverty and its related hunger and infectious diseases combined with the rise of wealth related chronic diseases continue to destabilize nation states via social unrest and economic debt respectively.    Given the inevitable threat of pandemics or the likelihood of bioengineered weapons destabilizing nations and global economic systems with little warning, the fact that existing governments rely on reactionary responses instead of preventive actions -- is sheer stupidity.   Knowing this is the Modus operandi of many humans is not encouraging.
War tactics and strategies will continue to evolve. The permanent war against terrorism (with privacy being sacrificed for security) and rising threats between nations accelerate the evolution of weapon technologies which are mostly dependent on private R&D tech advances.  The nature of corporations is global sales and distribution of its technology.   Given that all technology is dual-use, even Fitbits (the personal wristband health monitors) can be weaponized if terrorists hack them to find and target soldiers or military bases where they live and train.
Another factor is that ‘offensive’ uses of technology usually have an advantage over their defensive uses.  Given the natural vulnerabilities to the S&S within our bodies and complex unfortified technological S&S we rely on to protect them, protecting life is at a disadvantage.  Castles, rivers and oceans once helped to protect us.  Not now.  A more troubling factor is that traditional weapons used to be used up when used. Bio and Cyber weapons replicate themselves freely when used and are increasingly less noticeable and more anonymous.
Worldwide engineers adhering to FPs are creating unprecedentedly powerful, affordable, and ubiquitous technologies -- all with multiple uses.  Only the motivation of the user decides how.  And human users are prone to error and anticipating unintended consequences.  Technologies can be directed to achieve miracles or disasters.  Meanwhile our mind’s linear thinking (particularly among peace activists) struggles to understand the real world implications of these factors.   These and others make disarmament ultimately impossible and deterrence increasingly irrelevant making the progressive ‘peace through disarmament’ AP and the conservative “peace through strength” AP equally foolish.
Ultimately technology cannot be controlled.  But preventing or remediating natural or intentional disasters require it.   Transforming our global governance S&S to incorporate the LN&NG can significantly reduce motivation to misuse technology.
America’s founding fathers failed to do this when engineering our nation’s original federal system.  And within 100 years our civil war lasting only four years killed more Americans than all the wars since then combined.   Astonishingly, we still haven’t codified these ‘self-evident’ FPs into our dealings with people in other nations.   The lethal blowback from unjust foreign policy and military actions will only accelerate.   Old dogmatic political APs like ‘national sovereignty’ are simply unworkable in a rapidly changing and irreversibly interdependent world.
Universal elements (Systems, Structures, and Fundamental Principles)­:   All life forms are delicate systems and structures that depend on natural S&S that are all based on the LN&NG.  Being part of all of this we must remember that over 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct.  And, nothing but the best use of human ingenuity and technological can ensure the survival of current species including ourselves. 
Our focus thus far has been on making mostly unnecessary things-- systems and structures that make our lives easier and more comfortable while ignoring the lives of others who cannot afford them.  We only recently started thinking seriously about environmental sustainability.   But these ‘green’ investments pale in comparison to our investments in military might, looking good, and immediate comforts.  
Human’s primary structural survival advantages (walking on two legs, thumbs for tool making, and shoulders capable of accurate projectile throwing) evolved with our mind’s creative capacity for solving problems we encounter in nature.   Again, our creative mind (once a strength) has now become our primary problem.  We recognize and then ignore FPs and defend to the death maintaining APs accelerating our demise.  Engineers and scientists rely on FPs and use repeatable tests to ensure they work.   Politicians use APs then use elections and wars for testing.  No wonder “We the people” lost trust in government.  Trust requires truth and APs are basically unreliable.  Engineering a more workable world will require FPs inherent in the LN&NG.
An FP that politicians often mention but rarely codify is justice.  Every major religion promotes the “Golden Rule”.   Wise men assert that Nature’s God settles for nothing less.  Americans pledge “justice for all” but rarely demand it in governments S&S.  The Declaration of Independence offered us another FP of Nature’s God -- our “unalienable right” to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.  Only a partisan politician trapped in an ideological bubble of APs can miss this theme.  Why? 
Domains of experience (senses, feelings, and concepts):  When birthed we initially experience the real world through five senses.  These lead to internal sensations we later in life call ‘feelings’ or ‘emotions’.   Our use of words for conceptual learning is achieved with our mind’s unprecedented capacity for language.   Before relying on science to understand S&S we used language to creatively describe and explain things.  We shared stories, analogies and concepts.  These could be useful or irrelevant, even dangerous, if they distanced us from the LN&NG.   
Science and religions eventually helped us identify FPs, explore them, and adopt them into our lives.  Old stories and unexamined concepts however still reinforce APs and S&S spread them.  We freely do either.  Tragically, our bodies, families, and nations are never free of the dangers of relying on APs.  Here is how concepts (APs) create and exacerbate many of today’s problems while FPs will solve them.  Applying concepts consistent with the LN&NG can help us manage reality thus creating a more workable world.
Expectations (Freedom, Security, and Independence):  “Freedom is…a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” John Webbe.  
We are free to do as we want.  But we (and humanity) will never be free of the consequences.  Every action has consequences -- perhaps thousands.   And, every action inevitably impacts the freedom and security of others.   Then, as much as people want freedom, they also want security.   This creates an unavoidable freedom verses security dilemma.  In order to maximize both freedom and security it is essential to understand we have unintentionally created a trilemma (a condition in which we must choose two out of three options).  The third desire created in our minds is an AP – ‘independence’.  Which, in reality, is an illusion.
In worshiping ‘independence’ we blind ourselves to the consequences our actions have on other things (people, nations and the environment).  By recognizing this and taking responsible actions regarding the LN&NG we can effectively maximizes both our freedom and our security.   Believing ‘independent’ governments can protect our freedom and security is recipe for sacrificing freedom and/or security.  One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. 
Most factors that influence our nation’s economy, environment, society, crime rates, health, and security are significantly influenced by global forces-- forces that walls, weapons systems, and independent governments (or agencies) cannot stop.  One pathogen, one computer virus, or one high altitude EMP event can ruin your whole day.
Our current government S&S do great injustices when we try to hold nations accountable for the actions of their leaders.  This ‘national sovereignty’ system is inherently flawed relying on diplomacy, covert actions, war, threats of war, or sanctions (which can be more deadly than war) when seeking accountability.  This so-called ‘International Law’ is no better than international hopes and dreams.  Each of these APs ignores the LN&NG.   The grand illusion is assuming that sovereignty belongs to governments.  According to the LN&NG sovereignty belongs to individuals to govern their own destiny.  Citizens may lend it to governments to collectively defend their freedoms and security, but if their government acts irresponsibly… there will be consequences to both.   Borders, reactionary policies, limited budgets, and hopeful wishes are worse than useless.
 The trilemma applies to every sector.  Consider health (biosecurity perhaps the most immediate and inevitably threat to humanity).  The greatest human achievement is arguably the unprecedented global eradication of Smallpox.  Wars killed around 100 million people in the 20th century.  Governments murdering their own citizens (genocides) took 160 million more.  Smallpox alone killed over 300 million (more than war and genocide combined) in just 70 years of that century.  Astonishingly, if just one nation, tribe, or family had rejected the Smallpox vaccine, the mass killer would still be with us today.   Instead, because of a onetime US government investment of $32 million into the 10 year global campaign, US taxpayers have saved over $1000 domestically for every dollar invested globally.  It was the engineering (using FPs) of global S&S at every government level which achieved it.  Every issue (education, religion, cybersecurity, trade, environment, crime, immigration, WMD proliferation, terrorism…) fits this scenario.  Maximizing freedom and security, requires shedding the AP of independence.   
Paths (Status quo, extinction, transformation):  The acceleration of threatening news will continue without fundamental change in government S&S.   By doing nothing or just tweaking the S&S conditions will continue to worsen indefinitely.  Catastrophic collapse may be inevitable given the evolution of weaponry.   Codifying the LN&NG into all government S&S will transform the current ‘law of force’ into the ‘force of law’.  The global Rule of Law.
Essential factors (Democracy, Justice, and Unalienable Human Rights):  Words mean specific things to engineers, scientists, doctors, and even lawyers.  To politicians words can mean anything (think “health care”).   Politicians often praise the phrase “rule of law” but few have a working definition.   Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy did.  When asked “what makes the ‘Rule of Law’ effective?”  He answered ‘it requires “three” basic elements.  First, the laws must be made and enforced by a democratic process (people’s participating in rule making is important, but majority rule is dangerous).   Second, laws must be applied equally to all (No justice.  No peace).   Third, laws must be protective of basic unalienable human rights’ (many claim this alone is the primary function of government).
Dangerously, US government S&S miscarried here.  In our “Justice System” it is better to be rich and guilty than innocent and poor.  It is a legal system not a justice system.  Worse, our nation’s defense system is lethally unjust globally.  Both systems demonstrate little respect for everyone’s unalienable rights.
Fundamental rights (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness):   You’d be crazy to drive across a bridge or fly in an airplane that was engineered using APs.  Yet we are complacent in living with a US Constitution and UN Charter with both ignoring the LN&NG.  Why not trust “Self-evident” “Truths”?
Confucius say, “Abandon weapons first. Then food.  But never abandon trust.  People cannot get on without trust. Trust is more important than life.”  Last year Thomas Friedman said “Government moves at the speed of trust.”  In FDRs 1941 State of the Union Address he defined four basic freedoms ‘freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear.’  Together these quotes offer a sane path to ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. 
Countless truth-seekers over the last 3000 years have spelled out the FPs. Historians document the persistent human folly of ignoring them.  Why do politicians continue to defend APs as our cherished freedoms and security diminish? 
Mental Flaws (beliefs, limits, and intractability):  We cannot deny our mind’s capacity to believe ANYTHING.   Our imaginative capacity enabled us to visit the moon, eradicate smallpox, and establish a global communications system.   Originally, a tool to improve our chances for survival and procreation, our mind eventually became the righteous and often murderous defender of APs.  
Worse yet, we don’t even do what we know we should -- like preventing problems instead of reacting to them.  But our minds capacity for distraction may be most dangerous.   We are sinking in quicksand while swatting at flies.  Instead of debating who can marry, we should be lobbying our elected officials 24/7/365 to take essential actions.
Essential actions (Holistic, funding, security):   Expert’s agree.  Workable solutions will require ‘holistic’, ‘comprehensive’, ‘universal’ or ‘whole of government” efforts.   These are needed to prevent wars, genocides, famines, dictatorships, terrorism… and effectively recover from threats we cannot prevent.  After WWII’s horrors the undemocratic UN agreed to what should be humanities most valuable document – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   It’s the closest the world came to codifying the LN&NG, but the UN was given no power to enforce it.  This December 10th is the 70th anniversary of the hope it offered.  Gloriously, just 2 years ago, the world’s governments approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.  But, without adequate funding.  Fortunately, there’s no lack of money in the real world.   What is needed is a global movement of movements (MOM) to freeze and seize some of the estimated $32 trillion now stashed in off-shore accounts by corrupt leaders, drug cartels, and greedy capitalists - all avoiding national taxation S&S. 
Movements (Peace, Justice, & Environment):  Advocating as one movement, these three broad movements (peace, environment, and social/economic justice movements) consisting of tens of thousands of organizations with hundreds of millions of individuals could create the political will for funding a more workable world.  But their advocacy must be done in the context of national security…as well as their existing humanitarian/moral goals.  So far each has resisted abandoning their own movement’s special interest to sustainably achieve life, liberty and justice for all.
Three publications (Global justice, Warnings, UN Reform):   There’s no shortage of prestigious studies, unanimous reports, and bipartisan commissions offering repeated warnings about the threats we face, action plans to prevent them and the blue prints to create a more workable world.  Here’s three: 
WARNINGS: FINDING CASSANDRAS TO STOP CATASTROPHES,  Richard A. Clarke and R.P. Eddy,  2017.  
Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World:  By Joe Schwartzberg. A book summary can be found: http://www.workableworld.org/book-summaries.html
In conclusion:  Unless we follow the laws of nature (using science and engineering to sustain humanity) and nature’s God (the wisdom of the ages –the golden rule – liberty and justice for all)  humanities destiny will be hobbled or ended.  This revelation is not new.  Everything changes.  Can we?

"Now all acts of legislature apparently contrary to natural right and justice, are, in our laws, and must be in the nature of things, considered as void. The laws of nature are the laws of God: A legislature must not obstruct our obedience to him from whose punishments they cannot protect us. All human constitutions which contradict His laws, we are in conscience bound to disobey." -- George Mason (1725-1792), drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and one of three who refused to sign the Constitution.

"A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse." -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

UN reform! Anyone other than the Chinese?

Chinese Leadership on U.N. Reform

Rene Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service
6 Jan 2017 – There have been a number of periods when proposals for new or different United Nations structures were proposed and discussed. The first was in the 1944-1945 period when the Charter was being drafted. Some who had lived through the decline and then death of the League of Nations wanted a stronger world institution, able to move more quickly and effectively in times of crisis or the start of armed conflict.
In practice, the League of Nations was reincarnated in 1945 in the U.N. Charter but the names of some of the bodies were changed and new Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO were added. There was some dissatisfaction during the San Francisco negotiations, and an article was added indicating that 10 years after the coming into force of the Charter a proposal to hold a U.N. Charter Review Conference would be placed on the Agenda – thus for 1955.
The possibility of a U.N. Charter Review Conference led in the 1953-1954 period to a host of proposals for changes in the U.N. structures, for a greater role for international law, for a standing U.N. “peace force”. Nearly all these proposals would require modifications in the U.N. Charter.
When 1955 arrived, the United States and the Soviet Union, who did not want a Charter Review Conference which might have questioned their policies, were able to sweep the Charter Review agenda item under the rug from where it has never emerged. In place of a Charter Review Conference, a U.N. Committee on “Strengthening the U.N. Charter” was set up which made a number of useful suggestions, none of which were put into practice as such. The Committee on Strengthening the Charter was the first of a series of expert committees, “High-Level Panels” set up within the U.N. to review its functioning and its ability to respond to new challenges. There have also been a number of committees set up outside of the U.N. to look at world challenges and U.N. responses, such as the Commission on Global Governance.
While in practice there have been modifications in the ways the U.N. works, few of these changes have recognized an expert group’s recommendations as the source of the changes. Some of the proposals made would have strengthened some factions of the U.N. system over the then current status quo – most usually to strength the role of developing countries (the South) over the industrialized States (the North). While the vocabulary of “win-win” modifications is often used, in practice few States want to take a chance, and the status quo continues.
Now, with a new Secretary General who knows well how the U.N. works from his decade as High Commissioner for Refugees, U.N. reform is again “in the air”. There are an increasing number of proposals presented by governments and by non-governmental organizations associated with the U.N. The emphasis today is on what can be done without a revision of the Charter. Most of the proposals turn on what the Secretary General can do on his own authority. The Secretary General cannot go against the will of States – especially the most powerful States – , but he does have a certain power of initiative and can make changes under the cover of “better management”.
One of the most complete reform proposals has just been issued for discussion at the U.N. by the Government of China in a 27-page document. (1) Many of the proposals are very similar to suggestions made by the Association of World Citizens. The Chinese text has no footnotes as to what documents were read before writing the paper, so we will not suggest that they were “borrowed” from world citizens. We can only say that great minds go along the same avenues!
The Chinese proposals are divided into three major categories:
1.  Strengthening the conflict resolution, peacekeeping functions of the U.N.
2. Strengthening the capacity of the organization to promote economic and social wellbeing while at the same time protecting the environment.
3. Strengthening the management aspects both at U.N. Headquarters and in the field, strengthening the cooperation among U.N. Agencies, regional government organizations and new institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The paper begins with its aims and spirit.
The world is undergoing major developments, transformation, and adjustment, but peace and development remains the call of our day. The trends of global multi-polarity, economic globalization, IT application and cultural diversity are surging forward; and countries are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Yet, the world faces growing uncertainties and destabilizing factors as well as interwoven global threats and challenges that keep cropping up. Against this backdrop China is ready to work together with other countries to forge a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation, to build a community with a shared future for mankind, and to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.”
The Chinese proposals merit close attention. Most are not radically new. The proposals are very “State-centric”. The role and capacity for action of non-governmental organizations is never mentioned. However, it is not so much the proposals themselves as the timing which is important. The reform of the U.N. has become a major policy issue. No other great power has put forward such a comprehensive set of proposals and none seem likely to do so. It is likely that given the large place given to a greater say in development policy and practice for the countries of the South, most of the 134 States which are considered “South” will support the Chinese proposals and not present counter proposals. China is not currently tied down in regional armed conflicts, and there is a strong “win-win” spirit in the presentation. Thus we can look to Chinese leadership on the U.N. Reform agenda.
Note:
1.  Available through the Passblue website of independent analysis of U.N. issues in a 3 January 2018 article by Kacie Candela
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RenĂ© Wadlow is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on the Middle East, president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Dear Editor,
My jaw dropped three times reading “Security Flaws” page A17 in the Washington Post this weekend.   
First, when I read the severity of the cyber security flaws it highlighted (confirming what I’ve thought about “cyber security” being an oxymoron).   Second, when I noted this profound news was relegated to page A17.  Nearly every aspect of our health, freedom and lives (banking, transportation, power, food, water, health care, emergency response, voting…) is now extremely dependent on cyber technology and profoundly vulnerable.  Third, when I went to find the article on the Post web page to share with others…I realized there is no ‘dropdown’ column for ‘science’, ‘technology’, or ‘engineering’. 
I used to tour the country doing campus and civic group presentations regarding a growing list of national security threats we face (some inevitable, most preventable) and the increasingly urgent need for  government effectiveness to prepare for, prevent, or recover from them.   My first PowerPoint slide had three lines.  The first was a growth curve arching increasingly upward representing the exponential growth in the power of dual-use technology (bio, cyber, nano, robotics, even conventional) over time.   The second was a linear straight line rising diagonally upward representing our brains capacity to absorb information and understand the world around us (our minds delusional capacity to ‘believe anything’ was on the next PowerPoint slide).  The third line represented our Government’s capacity for change.  It was essentially a flat line –little to no change over time (I did add a blip to that line in presentations done after Sept. 11, 2001).  I stopped doing these presentations a few years after my last professional job advocating for effective world government to address these global threats (something that should be even more self-evident given the growing global chaos since then).  What is most disturbing to me now is that since then that flat line has been heading downward.  If I were doing these presentations today I’d add a 4th line showing a similar decline in public trust in the media, churches, corporations and the government.
How the Post, with its new owner (and our new President, both products of advances in cyber technology) does not have a prime website ‘drop down’ for this influential category of technology is a surprise.
If I ever do more presentations on national security threats I’ll have to modify my initial PowerPoint slide by adding two more lines.   The forth line would represent the fourth estate (including the Post) regarding how we get our news.   It will slant gradually downward as technology transforms the quantity, quality, and source of that news.   The fifth line would basically parallel the third and fourth lines.  Slanting down over time representing the public’s loss in trust that ‘we the people’ have in both the news and our government’s ability to respond change.  
Things change.  Can we?  Can we do it fast enough and in the right direction?  Our founding fathers gave us the basic rules for achieving a ‘more perfect union”.  They offered ‘Self-Evident” “Truths” they failed to follow themselves in writing our flawed Constitution.  At what point will we make a change, a transformational change/coarse correction, before Artificial Intelligence makes it for us, or we destroy our own capacity for change via ignorance, apathy and exhaustion?   What we need are people who swear an oath to the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”.    Not to a piece of paper (the Constitution) or a single book (Bible, Tora, Quran…).   If we fail to combine the power of technology with the power of the human spirit to ensure “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as well as “justice for all” we may not deserve this profound gift we have been given on this third planet from the Sun.
2018 promises to be worse than 2017.  The hope we have that things will change for the better without an unprecedented united effort if folly.  Exactly 70 years ago after the horrors of World War II the world was given a document as profound as our Declaration of Independence.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was offered as a foundation for future peace, security and freedom for all.   Witnessing a new weapon with the capacity to vaporize a hundred thousand people in a flash, an attempted genocide, and catastrophic global war should have convinced those at the time to offer more than just a list of ideal goals.  They should have provided us with an ideal global system of governing the threats we face.  Threats that would only grow with time and advances in new technologies. 
Instead the key policy makers of the winners WWII gave ‘we the people of the world’ a virtually powerless global structure called the UN.  They ensured that the global paradigm of “national sovereignty” created over 400 years ago as a “peace treaty” would become “international law”.   They didn’t seem to consider the fact that the so called Treaty of Westphalia still allowed wars within and between states, and still permitted (helped create) two World Wars in less than 40 years.   It should come as no surprise that “international law” in reality is no law at all other than the law of the jungle.   Within nations, governments still do as they please.  Genocide, ethnic cleansing, starvation remind us we can only condemn in words, resolutions, and unenforceable treaties.
Considering relations between governments, nations with nuclear weapons can do as they please to other nations without them.  Or dictate to other nations suspected of having them or trying to acquire them.   Occasionally, governments looking out for themselves still have the freedom to use their nuclear weapons against another nation they feel threaten by.   Like a  “Stand your Ground” law that now exists in some US states.  Yes. You might end up murdering some individual you perceived as a threat to you, but that loss of their potentially innocent life was acceptable to ensure your right to self-protection.
So international law isn’t much more than bunch of good ideas and promises with zero enforcement capacity other than war itself, or sanctions which can be more deadly than war or sometimes lead to war.

  And, if those nations had nuclear weapons, the leaders of those nations could damn near do anything they wanted to other nations without ever being held personally accountable. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

“Who Can you Trust”, the book by Rachel Botsman, should be required reading for all eligible voters.   

The quick answer to the title question:   Engineers!   

Our currency says “In God We Trust” but as Thomas Jefferson once quipped “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Given what our government has done and continues to do to us and others around the world is there any question about why few trust it.

From the beginning our government failed to codify the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” when engineering the Constitution, the foundation of our government system and structures.  

First it condoned slavery and other injustices against Native Americans leading to a civil war that cost more American lives than all the wars we have fought since then combined.   

Today our foreign policy and war fighting strategies still ignore the self-evident truth that all people are created equal and deserving of the unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

Given the evolution of weaponry and war, the consequences of injustices related to our worshiped Constitution will be far greater than most people imagine.

So what do we trust?  When we flip a light switch we trust the lights will come on.  When we drive over a bridge we trust it won't collapse into the water.  When we go into surgery, we ultimately trust those involved in the operation to rely on proven medical procedures and medicines, and the hospital systems and structures intended to keep us safe while we are sedated and long after we awake.  

Why can't we trust our policy makers to enact a fair tax code?  How about a health care system to protect all children equally?  Or the elderly regardless of their income level.  Can we trust our government to protect the natural systems and structures we need to ensure every American has access to clean air and water, nutritious food and a relatively predictable climate? 

Most engineers and health professionals swear oaths to protect public health and safety.   Elected government officials, military leaders, and most public servants swear to protect the Constitution -- a document that used political principles but is allowed by 'we the people" to overlook the laws of nature and even nature’s God.

We tend to trust professions that rely on science and engineering but not those that rely on unscientific principles like “peace through strength”, "if it leads it bleeds" or “if it feels good do it”.  

Some professions may follow a moral or spiritual compass that they might attribute to ‘nature’s God’, the greater good of humanity, or justice (‘golden rule’) as a fundamental principle.  But then ignore the laws of nature and blame God when things don't turn out right.  They fail to grasp the self evident truth that nature always has the last vote.

Too often government laws and policies are based on alternative principles.  Political or party principles based on hypothetically good, but largely untested, ideas.   And then wonder why our government is increasing dysfunctional.   Engineers and doctors don’t rely on witchcraft or prayer to build strong bridges or heal the sick.  The Defense Department doesn’t rely on partisan principles in designing weapons systems. 
In reality, every aspect of our national security depends on well-functioning systems and reliable structures that are based on fundamental principles.  Protecting our freedoms, our security and our prosperity rely on all systems and structures operating smoothly.   

Thomas Freedman once said “Government moves at the speed of trust”.   Our government hasn’t passed a significant piece of legislation favoring 'justice for all' for decades.  According to a survey of US national security experts two years ago our own government’s dysfunction was the second greatest threat to our nation, just below terrorism.   Few would dispute that our government’s dysfunction has continued to worsen since then.
The inevitable lethal consequences of our loss of trust in government will be calculated in lives lost from the threat from gun nuts or homegrown lone-wolf terrorists using IEDs or drone delivered chemical or biological WMD.    It is impossible to protect both our Constitutional rights to bear arms and maintain our privacy  (2nd & 4nd Amendments) while also protecting our individual/national security.

Our only reliable means of maximizing both our freedom and national security is by re engineering our government and all of its policies (foreign and domestic) to responsibly following “the laws of nature and Nature’s God” and codify the “Truths” that we hold to be “Self-evident”.   

It was 69 years ago to the day - of the printing of this Washington Post book review, Dec. 10, 1948, - that the world attempted to follow the genius of a unique government design - that put human rights above states’ rights.  It was after the horrors of World War II that all nations agreed to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect the security of future generations.

Humanity has yet to trust any system of world government and the creation of structures that would be needed to hold individuals and governments accountable for violations of human rights or crimes against the environment on which all life and prosperity depends.  But the world has recently agreed on meeting a comprehensive set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals.  These represent the world’s best path to maximizing humanities freedoms, security and shared prosperity. 

If ‘we the people’ and governments of the world took on this set of 17 goals to the same degree we invest in our military readiness, we would spark the transformation of change needed at every level to bring trust back into the hearts and minds of people worldwide.

Any government constitution that continues to codify injustices at home or abroad cannot be trusted to deliver freedom, security, or prosperity indefinitely.    That should now be a ‘self-evident truth’ to any individual who trusts in the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”.  

Sunday, December 3, 2017

An 'Attention economy' within our 'distraction culture'

http://theweek.com/articles/737813/how-silicon-valley-hooks
Our addiction to social media was planned as a means of making software engineers rich. It was no conspiracy. Just good old capitalism of giving people what they want and rewarding their ‘likes’.
Unfortunately, the consequences of these creative ‘connecting’ apps were not fully understood. Not until Trump was elected.
Most people recognized their loss privacy and reasonably feared a ‘big brother’ government. Masses of lazy citizens largely relying on social media for their news. This only accelerated the decline of our democracy via mass misinformation, both intentional (fake news) and via our gross ignorance on important issues (war, terrorism, government, geography, and politics just to name a few).
But it was our innate tendency to be easily distracted that was reinforced over time by a culture of comfort and lack of responsibility or accountability for any beliefs we might acquire with our short attention spans. These qualities enabled the app ‘attention’ getters to get insanely wealthy. And our politics to get insanely crazy.
Thus we have a ‘attention economy’ built on top of a ‘distraction culture’. Can you think of a solution to this trend? It doesn’t matter. As the saying goes ‘”culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

"To become informed and hold government accountable, the general public needs to obtain news that is comprehensive yet interesting and understandable, that conveys facts and outcomes, not cosmetic images and airy promises. But that is not what the public demands." - Eric Alterman

" Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all are likely to pay a steep price-individually and collectively-for their nation's continued efforts to dominate the global scene."  - Chalmers Johnson

"To be innocent in America is to permit the continued theft of hundreds of billions of dollars from the state by Wall Street swindlers and speculators. To be innocent in America is to stand by as insurance and pharmaceutical companies, in the name of profit, condemn ill people, including children, to die. To be innocent in America is refusing to resist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are not only illegal under international law but responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. This is the odd age we live in. Innocence is complicity."  -  Chris Hedges

Dear Editor,
It doesn’t matter if Trump’s distracting antics are a result of his genius or insanity. The bigger problem that Dana Milbank (“Get ready for Trump fireworks” Sunday 12-3-17) alludes to is that most newspaper readers are addicted to distractions instead of important issues.
Social media engineers used their genius to bring us addictive apps that made our lives increasingly out of touch with reality… insane. We think we are more ‘connected’ to the world texting while walking across the street. Using the cognitive science’s findings on addiction they created a booming ‘attention economy’, making themselves insanely rich. But few had any concern for either the immediate or long term consequences on our nation.
Nearly half of all Americans now get their (fake?) news from social media platforms that we are increasingly addicted to. And, while many people and software companies are now rightfully concerned about the loss of individual privacy and the larger risk to our democracy from an increasingly misinformed electorate, few have raised concerns about our longer term and more serious addiction to distractions.
Our species was never engineered (via evolution or creation) to passively accept hyper-paced lives and the exponential growth of technological change. And, no one engineered our governing and electoral systems to accommodate these stresses either. What most people want are simple and comfortable lives speckled with random but largely non-life threatening distractions. Unfortunately, lethal threats have been growing in the absence of us being responsible citizens regularly petitioning our elected officials.
For decades most Americans lived in a relatively comfortable economy peppered daily with semi-exciting distractions (sports, sex scandals, movies, wine tastings, concerts, and political side shows). Our comforts enabled our distractions. Meanwhile we persistently ignored the important issues all around us. Rarely do we consider applying the fundamental principles that our nation was founded on (“Truths” we ‘hold to be self-evident’”). Or, the “pledge” most Americans have given repeatedly to the flag to ensure “liberty and justice for all”.
So Trump’s genius or insanity is not the problem! He is just a symptom of our ‘attention economy’ built on our ‘culture of distraction’. It is as unsustainable as Trump’s failure of principled leadership.


Monday, November 6, 2017

US deaths in Niger (and future deaths) could have been prevented.

Dear (Washington Post) Editor,

The three troubling front page stories (Saturday Nov. 4, 2017) on “Africa/ISIS”, “climate change”, and “migrant” issues were each forecast in President Carter’s 1980 Presidential Commission on World Hunger.  It presaged the consequences of ignoring world hunger and poverty in terms of future “international terrorism”, “war”, “environmental hazards”, “refugees” and other problems.   It stated, ”Calculable or not…this combination of problems now threatens the national security of all countries just as surely as advancing armies or nuclear arsenals.”  
The report concluded “In the final analysis, unless Americans -- as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world -- place far higher priority on overcoming world hunger, its effects will no longer remain remote or unfamiliar.  Nor can we wait until we reach the brink of the precipice; the major actions required do not lend themselves to crisis planning, patchwork management, or emergency financing... The hour is late.  Age-old forces of poverty, disease, inequity, and hunger continue to challenge the world.  Our humanity demands that we act upon these challenges now...”     
Your editorial the same day titled “After Niger, a needed debate” called for “updating the legal authorization for U.S. military action against terrorist groups”, the “AUMF”.  This suggestion ignores the wisdom of most counter-terrorism experts who believe that military force alone cannot defeat this metalizing violent extremist threat.  What could make a difference is the “long-neglected business” of sustainable development.   Appropriating funds to meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would be more effective than any “AUMF”.
Carter’s Commission understood this back then: “promoting economic development in general, and overcoming hunger in particular, are tasks far more critical to the U.S. national security than most policymakers acknowledge or even believe. Since the advent of nuclear weapons most Americans have been conditioned to equate national security with the strength of strategic military forces. The Commission considers this prevailing belief to be a simplistic illusion. Armed might represents merely the physical aspect of national security. Military force is ultimately useless in the absence of the global security that only coordinated international progress toward social justice can bring.”
The SDG’s are our best hope.   This may not be “Constitutional” but it is fundamentally wise.