Tuesday, July 31, 2018

All wars are now foolish

Foolish Wars Have Consequences 1  James Zogby

Fifteen years ago, we were still in the early stages of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, “the war that would change everything.” Looking at the Middle East today, I feel an overwhelming sadness as I consider the far-reaching and devastating impact that the Iraq war has had on my country and the region and its peoples.  (this summary of history post 9-11 is well done). 

My conclusion:  If an American President was ever to be tried for war crimes...it would be George W. Bush.  HIs decision to invade Iraq has given us the endless wars we have today.  And, our world could have been catastrophically worse off if his invasion had resulted in the release of Smallpox as was rightfully feared.  But there is a chance...IF we learn from his error of starting a "foolish war" that 'war' itself is no longer a rational choice (given the evolution of weaponry and WMD proliferation).  We must find a rational means of ending these endless wars.  But, it appears the only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history.   Connect the dots. See the web of life. Work for justice...or prepare for the catastrophic consequences.   No justice...no peace.  It's either the global rule of law or endless, lawless wars.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

US immigration laws violate the Laws of Nature and Nature's God.

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is, the search for a moral justification for selfishness." - John Kenneth Galbraith

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" - Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) wrote in 1883 - The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." - Leviticus 19:33-35 New Revised Standard Version

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, May 28, 2018

100 Anniversary of chaos...prevention needed more than ever

This year marks the 100 year anniversary of both World War I and the Spanish Flu.  Most Americans don’t know that more US soldiers died of the Spanish flu than that the war itself.  There is strong evidence that the war exacerbated the spread of the killer virus that ultimately killed more US citizens at home than all the Americans (Soldiers and civilians) that died in the second world.  
Every virologist knows it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ a comparable flu pandemic will occur.  Uncontested studies by DOD, CIA, CDC and National Academy of Sciences have all agreed that ‘new and re-emerging infectious disease’ are a fundamental national security threat to our nation.   Yet we remain lethally unprepared.  Worse yet, few Americans (public and policy makers alike) consider this and other non-military threats as worthy national security issues.  But global warming is increasingly exacerbating the infectious disease threats as well as contributing to failed states and the spread of terrorism and the proliferation of WMD.
We seriously need to re-consider redefining the phrase “national security”.   Again, because we failed to do so after a 1980 bipartisan Presidential Commission clearly warned us about the preventable security threats unrelated to invading armies or ICBMs.
That 1980 commission specifically warned about the future consequences if we ignored the global injustice of poverty related hunger - stating “The most potentially explosive force in the world today is the frustrated desire of poor people to attain a decent standard of living. The anger, despair and often hatred that result represent real and persistent threats to international order…  Neither the cost to national security of allowing malnutrition to spread nor the gain to be derived by a genuine effort to resolve the problem can be predicted or measured in any precise, mathematical way. Nor can monetary value be placed on avoiding the chaos that will ensue unless the United States and the rest of the world begin to develop a common institutional framework for meeting such other critical global threats as the growing scarcity of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, environmental hazards, pollution of the seas, and international terrorism. Calculable or not, however, this combination of problems now threatens the national security of all countries just as surely as advancing armies or nuclear arsenals.”

The commission also stated “that 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.”

Six months ago a comprehensive report (Winning the Peace: Hunger and Instability) was released by the World Food Program USA that combined data from dozens of previous studies that repeatedly documented the connection between food insecurity globally, global instability, and US national security.  Other studies link other issues like global warming to the spread of infectious diseases and terrorism.  A recent CDC report found that over the last 12 years three times the number of Americans have been infected by insect borne diseases --  arguably linked to climate change.  Meanwhile real world events and DOD studies link growing global instability and other related US national security threats to climate change and raising sea levels.  It was the longest drought in Syrian modern history that pushed hungry farmers into Syrian cities where peaceful protests led to a brutal government response and eventually a civil war.  The consequences expanding in the region and even exacerbating tensions between superpowers.
The lethal linkages between various issues is indisputable.   Words often repeated by respectable agency or institutional spokespeople offering solutions is ‘the need for’ a “comprehensive”, “wholistic”, or “whole of government approach” approach.  These words are followed by the plea for our need to build “resilience”.  This last word acknowledges what we are doing will probably fail.   Our government’s worsening political dysfunction is no secret.  It is fundamentally designed not to work fast.  But now, it is now not working at all.  And its persistent failings to invest adequate resources in preventing problems, instead primarily responding to them cannot be sustained economically.   Many economists and national security experts believe that our nation’s debt burden itself is a greater threat to our “national security” than any foreign enemy. 
Our “government disfunction” should not be underestimated.  Even before Trump’s election a survey of US national security experts identified it as our nation’s second greatest threat.  Just ahead of Iran, N. Korea, China, Russia and climate change.  Terrorism was number one.   Today that survey might produce a different result.  But, given the trajectory of threats, their interconnectedness and the decline in our political atmosphere and national leadership, ‘dysfunction’ could become number one. 
The wisdom and economic value of prevention is obvious.  But worthwhile investments in prevention of are sometimes best made beyond our shores.   According to a 1997 GAO report an investment of just $32 million US tax dollars into the global eradication of Smallpox saved US tax payers over $17 billion since its global eradication in 1971.  Back then Americans were spending $150 million annually vaccinating US children against the disease while it had been largely eliminated from the US for decades.  The eradication of Polio was targeted for the year 2000 but because of wars and violent extremism abroad polio remains a threat with hundreds of millions of dollars being spent domestically each year while the virus remains sparsely in only two war torn countries abroad.
Fortunately, there is one campaign focused on comprehensively preventing most threats. It is a set of 17 Sustainable Development goals the world has already agreed to meet by the year 2030.  The problem, is finding the two trillion dollars needed annually to achieve them.   It’s self-evident funding will not be coming from taxpayers’ pockets.  But if nations agree to freeze and then seize a fraction of the estimated $32 trillion sitting in off shore bank accounts stashed there by drug lords hiding illegal gains, wealthy entities avoiding taxes, and kleptocrats who stole billions from their own nations then miracles could be achieved.
Our real national security demands that we put the protection of human rights at the top of our priority list.  The SDGs could achieve what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights intended.  The cost savings from this wise investment would more than pay for itself as the eradication of Smallpox once did.  Failng this, there is not enough money in the world to save us from the chaotic and lethal global forces that continue to drain our personal, state and national budgets.  Things change.  Our priorities must too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Technology won't save us...without wisdom.

Dear Editor,
Sputnik’s effect on US national security history will not repeat itself.  Ultimately, the world is no safer today because we won the space race and winning the AI or Quantum Mechanics race will not ensure any nation or individual lasting security.
We are running out of time and money thinking that security is a function of technology.  AI and Quantum mechanics will only add to uncertainty of a secure future for every nation and even our species. 
Every technology ever created has been weaponized and globalized.  Biotechnology, cybertechnology, nuclear, and now drone technology have only delivered us a new normal of increased vulnerability and insecurity in every aspect of our lives (war, health, economics, terrorism, communications, energy, environment, crime…).
What we need is a quantum leap in wisdom and governance.  Governing systems and structures that effectively codify the fundamental moral principle of the Golden Rule that are championed in the written word within every major religion and in the first two paragraphs of our Declaration of Independence.   Unfortunately, we humans rarely follow these profound ideals in our local or global actions. 
If we are not destroyed by our own doing eventually we may learn that ‘Liberty and Justice for all’ is the only reliable pathway to sustainably maximining human freedom and security on our increasingly interdependent planet.  A planet that is now increasingly divided by selfish, nationalistic, ideological, cult, and cultural beliefs…where the search for truth has largely been abandoned.
The leader of the most powerful nation in the world tells an average of 6.5 lies every day since he was elected.  And the pace is accelerating.  It went from 4.9 falsehoods each day in his first 100 days to nine a day in the past two months.  What ever happened to the Truths that we hold to be self-evident?
Our government has never really codified them.  And most Americans think our inalienable rights only belong to American citizens.  And then can’t imagine why the world is pissed off at us enough to want to undermine our democracy.  
Instead of Congress investing already limited government resources in the 2019 budget attempting to seek the illusion of security by increasing military spending and building walls perhaps they should invest their time contemplating transformational changes to both the US and UN systems of governance that continues to put the protection of national sovereignty above protecting the human rights of all people and the health of the environment which sustains us all.
Only the truth can sustainably ensure our freedom and our security.  Any other belief system (religious or political) that ignore fundamental truths will cost us dearly.   Inevitably, it doesn’t really matter what we think.  It matters what we do.   And if our actions are inconsistent with fundamental truths what we do will only exacerbate the chaos and contentions that is already escalating around the world.

If people really understood the range of national and individual security threats that we all face there would be only one priority worthy of our attention and resources.  That would be meeting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals ASAP.   They represent the only comprehensive plan available to bringing liberty and justice for all to our troubled world. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Freedom requires responsibility, or else!

David Von Drehle missed an essential element for protecting, promoting and sustaining human freedom anywhere in the world – responsibility (“Freedom is still worth fighting for”, Washington Post 3-25-18).

We (and everyone else in the world) are free to do as we please.  But no one will remain free of the consequences of their actions, and too often the actions of others.

Unless our government’s policies result in just and responsible actions here and abroad, we will never be free from the ensuing chaos and loss of our most basic freedom here at home. 

Irresponsible US actions are inevitably unjust to someone, somewhere in the world.  Lacking any effective global justice system, our lack of responsibly in the world will always come back to bite us as terrorism, climate change, trade disputes, threats of war, and or economic chaos.  

There is vast wisdom in the last three words of our Pledge of Allegiance “liberty and justice for all’. 

Samuel Adams once said, "Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." 

"But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint:" -  Edmund Burke - Source: Reflections on the Revolution in France
"Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience." - George Washington  - 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, 1737
"We demand entire freedom of action and then expect the government in
some miraculous way to save us from the consequences of our own acts...”  Calvin Coolidge (1873-1933), 30th US President
"Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
― George Bernard ShawMan and Superman

Sunday, March 25, 2018

FBI cannot protect our privacy and our security

McCane’s choice of words (Washington Post's Sunday op-ed 3-25-18) in explaining his stunningly improper dismissal from the FBI is that his colleagues would continue to “protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.”   I believe Andrew McCane is an honest and honorable man.  But the problem he (and we all have) is a system of government that he and others have sworn an oath to protect, cannot both protect us and the U.S. Constitution at the same time.   Our Constitution’s Bill of Rights cannot keep us safe if lawmakers keep enacting (and our government keeps trying to enforce) irresponsible and unjust laws both here and abroad.
This is a fundamentally unresolvable dilemma given the unprecedented access and affordability to increasingly powerful dual-use everyday technology.  Even with no easy access to guns, nearly every American (or extremist) has easy access to multiple technologies with WMD potential (via UPS delivery, Home Depot, plans on the internet,  legal cars, rental trucks, fuel oil and fertilizer… to name a few).  
If the desire to mass murder exists there is virtually no way to prevent mass carnage without violating the 4th Amendment.  Intrusions into people’s private lives before they can act on any real or perceived grievances will be essential. 
Fueling this lethal dilemma is the fact that the Constitution that we seem to worship enforces an unjust legal system instead of a true ‘justice’ system.  ‘No justice, no security’  is a no brainer. 
But the fundamental flaw in our Constitution is the codification of a mental concept that does not exist in reality -- political Independence.  
We assume without question that our nation’s policies are independent from the rest of the world’s nations.  Yet many overt and covert policies of ours (and theirs) often have intended and unintended lethal consequences on innocent people.  Without justice and security for all, our nation’s military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies cannot protect our privacy or freedom commerce or travel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Logic’s devolution and humanities fate

A new study strongly suggests that logical reasoning in humans is innate and appears as early as 12 months after birth - before the development of language.


Researchers believe this ‘logic ability’ “might be continuous over development.” I don’t believe them.  There is far more evidence in the world today that the adult mind’s political and religious world views are abandoning logic.  Logic may in fact be on the edge of extinction, and us with it. To whatever degree logic survives in the unscientific regions of our brain, it is now used to defend conspiracy theories or advocate for government policies and religious behaviors that largely ignore the world as it really is.  Or, the ‘mental world vs real world’ dilemma theory of extinction’.
The first offering of evidence is the fact that more teenagers die today from texting while driving than from driving while drinking and school shootings combined.  My next offering is that adults continue to believe that an increased military budget and constructing border walls will makes us safer.  And, our ‘national sovereignty’ is more useful in maintaining our freedom and security than the “self-evident” “truths” illuminated in our Declaration of Independence.  More condemning evidence is our emotional craving to feel good instead of being good. This powerful urge makes us avoid people we disagree with, take opioids, over eat, smoke, avoid exercise, hire divorce lawyers, and sing patriotic songs that justify war and the killing of innocent people by labeling them ‘collateral damage’.
My hypothesis is that pure logic in the mind only exists until adolescence.  It then gets muddied rapidly as hormones and our culture of hypocrisy sadly infects the mind and increasingly interferes with its original function and extraordinary capacity for ‘real world’ problem solving.  As this mental infection progresses the mind increasingly relies on emotions to dictate its perceived reality.  This gradually betrays the mind’s original function of protecting the body’s health, life, close relatives, greater tribe, and the environment upon which all these lives depend.
The final symptom of this contagion is the mind’s full devotion to defending its own beliefs, values, and principles. Literally, defending them to the death, and sometimes justifying murder. These lethal values, beliefs, and principles are often invented by other minds or learned from another so called ‘free’, irresponsible and priority-distracted culture. The minds can even be validated with million dollar contracts. Some CEO’s, star athletes or winning coaches might come to mind.   These priority delusional cultural environments can have few real world consequences -- until it is too late. 
The predicament is that the mind’s power is virtually supreme.  It cannot be reasoned with.  Its reality is dictated by its existing beliefs which it defends at all costs. This ‘hard headedness’ then determines the body’s emotions and reactions to perceived threats or opportunities -- creating a perpetually harmful positive feedback loop.  If the mind comes in contact with a belief it dislikes, it feels threatened and reacts accordingly. If another mind agrees with it then both minds are validated, leading to an emotionally rewarding feedback loop -- and a society at great risk.  
Our only salvation (a reliable defense against this self-inflicted cultural insanity) is recognizing who we really are.  First, we are NOT our mind. That’s just a voice we have in our head that won’t shut up. We may believe we are special being an American - yet draw an unconscious division between being a north, south or central American.  Or, being a U.S. citizen makes you more valuable than someone only possessing a Green card.
In reality we are human. We might be white, black, male, female, or somewhere in between but we have forgotten that our mind likes grouping things. And, we may never have learned (or intentionally forgot) the profound survival value of genetic diversity.  In reality the greatest threat throughout most of human history was not another tribe or sabretooth tigers. It was infectious diseases. These remain a primary threat today. Our biosecurity is increasingly at risk due to our mind’s capacity to create biological weapons capable of targeting specific genetic profiles, and then thinking they need to be eliminated. This is a monstrous abuse of the human mind’s capacity and its original function of protecting human life. If you wrestle enough with this concept the solution becomes self-evident.  Re-purpose the mind. Use it to look for solutions that unite instead of divide. Use it, instead of it using you.
Last year a young Marylander won an Olympic Gold medal in wrestling. He was the world’s first ever 19 year old heavy weight champion. And he was smaller than most he wrestled. He soundly defeated the best that Iran, Russia and all other nations had to offer.  It wasn’t because he was American, white, or genetically blessed. I’m convinced it was his father’s coaching advice to become “the landlord of your mind”. Kyle Snyder committed himself to using his mind to become the best, regardless of what his mind and body was telling him during intense training.
Until we commit ourselves to being the best humans we can be and devote ourselves to managing a world where the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – and “justice for all” – are our highest priorities, we will continue a downward spiral of emotionally driven reactions that fail any logical analysis. The logic of abiding by the “Self-evident” “Truths” offered in our Declaration of Independence continues to hold profound promise. Why? They are based on the “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” (it’s okay to feel emotional about these).  Our survival depends on codifying these collectively into our mental constitution, our U.S. Constitution, and the U.N. Charter.
Our minds are free to believe anything.  Literally, anything! But our bodies, brains, spirit, and our life preserving environment will never be free of the lethal consequences of actions or indecisions determined by flawed mental beliefs.
The infant logic study referred to initially involved 144 babies between 12 and 19 months.  They were healthy babies. While some people may frown on experimenting with babies, where is the logic in ignoring/allowing well over 10,000 babies dying every DAY from easily preventable malnutrition and infectious diseases?  And, at the same time ignoring/allowing kleptocrats, drug cartels, and wealthy capitalists who have stashed over $32 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid taxes.
Wise adults surviving the chaos and mass casualties of World War II, atomic vaporization, and a government-led genocide used their logic to write a declaration to prevent repeats of these unthinkable horrors.  Unfortunately, those in political power driven by emotional reasoning gave the new global institution (the UN) zero power to enforce the declaration of human rights. The comprehensive logic of this Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains today (exactly 70 years later) in the form of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030.  Freezing and seizing some of the trillions stashed in offshore accounts could virtually enforce these unalienable rights if devoted to them. And no new taxes would be needed on anyone.  
Better late than never such an effort could provide a comprehensive approach to preventing the destructive global forces we increasingly face today.  Things change. Emotions change. Minds should too.  Logic now dictates that if we don’t change our minds, we may yet go the way of the dinosaur. Think about it.