Monday, December 10, 2018

Dec 10 Human Rights Day.

December 10th should be the most important day of the year - worldwide.  

Yet you’d be lucky if you hear anything about it anywhere.  Both of the days major Washington DC newspapers (the moderate Washington Post and the conservative Washington Times) and the prime government media outlet (C-Span) failed to acknowledge this profound day as the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).   

Exactly seventy years (shortly after World War II ended) various legal scholars and philosophers from Canada, India, China, France, and Lebanon formed a drafting committee under the chair America’s First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and watched together as every nation in the world ratified this profound document.  They had completed their work of researching the most basic drivers of war and developed a list of what they (and most of the world would agree) are fundamental inalienable human rights.  Rights that all people have simply because they are born.  Not because of their skin color, sex, wealth, ethnicity, religion or nationality. 

This very concept was reflected in our nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence which Abraham Lincoln described as our nation’s “Apple of Gold”.  In the Declaration of Independence, they recognized certain ‘self -evident truths’ established by “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”.  These included the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  Tragically, they ignored this profound reflection when creating the U.S. Constitution (which Lincoln saw as our Apple of Gold’s “Frame of Silver”).  Ignoring this fundamental principle of human rights would eventually cost more American lives in our Civil War than all the wars that our nation has fought in since then, combined.  
But even after amending our Constitution with the 13th Amendment back then, lethal and potentially catastrophic flaws remain today that will require additional Amendments.  Our Bill of Rights is officially honored every Dec. 15th.   Check this blog after that date for amendment suggestions that could potentially save the lives of millions of Americans and maximize the protection of both our freedoms and our security from a variety of global threats.  

The UDHR is like our Bill of Rights, but far more comprehensive in protecting what Eleanor’s husband called the four basic freedoms (freedom of speech and beliefs -- and freedom from fear and want).  Unfortunately, unlike our Bill of Rights the UDHR has no means of enforcement.  This comprehensive list remains nothing more than a profoundly useful set of ideals capable of maximizing humanities freedoms and security in our irreversibly interconnected and interdependent world.

A lack of human rights enforcement by the UN was intentional. The top priority of the nations creating the new system of international law was to protect the rights of nations, a centuries old model referred to as ‘national sovereignty’.  Functionally defined - “national sovereignty” is the right of any nation to do whatever it wants, whenever it likes, to whom ever it can, whenever it can, if it believes it has the military power, the foreign alliances, the will of God, and/or the capacity for anonymous action.

The protection of human rights was never really a priority of the governments engaged in creating the UN.  Because of the war they were obviously far more interested in ensuring their own immediate security and didn’t agree that the fundamental purpose of government is for the protection of human rights.

So the flaws within the UN Charter remain a significant danger to us and the world along with the flaws that remain within our U.S. Constitution.  Together, they ensure that war will always be with us.  At least until we obliterate ourselves with nuclear or biological weapons; or Artificial Intelligence gains the wisdom and physical capacity to hold all individuals accountable for intentionally violating anyone’s fundamental human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s common knowledge that if one person kills another person, we call them a murderer.  If he kills a dozen innocent people, we call them by their name.  But if one person kills tens of thousands of innocent people, we call them President (can we hope that AI fixes that?).
Another weakness our nation has today beyond the flaws in our Constitution is our nation’s largely deluded view of patriotism.  So called ‘patriots’ worship national sovereignty without question.  They hold it superior to the God given rights that they pledge allegiance too every time they put their hand over their heart while taking to our nation’s flag.   

Sovereignty was originally conceived and defined as a gift from God to all people.  Essentially, it was human freedom, self-ownership and autonomy. Or, a fundamental natural right to be one's own person, to be the exclusive controller of one’s own body, thoughts, actions, and direction in life.   We yield some of it when we enter into social or economic contract with a spouse, bank, college, city, county, state, country, military branch, religion, or limited environment.   Somehow this limited and precious resource got full transferred to the nation state government that can declare war or enrich corporations that can impact every aspect of your life without your approval.

Now, our greatest external threats are from terrorism combined with WMD proliferation, pandemics, new and re-emerging infectious diseases, failed states, re-emerging superpower tensions, global warming, global poverty, and global economic instability.  Each of these are fueled by each of the other threats -- and the growing number of refugees that they each continue to produce.  None of these growing threats (some existential) will be stopped at the border by the most sophisticated walls, advanced military power, or well-funded independent government agency.

There isn’t enough money in the world to stop these threats once they reach our lungs, our nation’s infrastructure, or our nation’s borders.  Our only rational investment is in global prevention efforts.  As you might have observed, ‘prevention’ is an un-American word.   It can best be defined as “deep thinking and wise action that stops the need for wasteful spending of blood and treasure.’  The thing that Eleanor Roosevelt (and crew) were attempting with the UDHR after surviving the most horrific war humanity had ever experienced.

Is there really any question why our world today is a growing cauldron of instability, unprecedented weapons capacity, increasing populism, national tensions, and seemingly unresolvable problems?   Look no further than the insane sanctity of national sovereignty.
Over the years I’ve made multiple attempts to enlist liberal colleagues and institutions into a campaign to redefine the phrase ‘national security’.  There are organizations, umbrella campaigns and reputable studies that encourage this but most liberal organizations remain siloed and focused on their own singular priority.  And, because federal and private funding is limited, each organization competes with all the others in a zero-sum game over limited tax dollars, national media attention, and public support.  

Bringing all organizations together to work on a comprehensive solution like funding the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is like herding cats.   They all agree that a ‘movement of movements’ (MoM) is needed but none have taken it seriously with a willingness to lower their movement’s status equal to the importance of the others. 

There are three basic progressive movements.  The peace movement, the environmental movement, and the economic/social justice movement.  Each is fundamentally aligned on maximizing human freedom, security and sustainability. 

The majority in the peace movement won’t move beyond their historic focus on nuclear disarmament, cutting military spending, closing foreign bases, or internal squabbling over their ideological/historical different views of past or current wars. They believe ‘peace’ is the ultimate goal of all humanity, even though human freedoms are too often sacrificed in the push for peace.  

Many in the environmental movement rightfully frame global warming as a threat to civilization or all life on earth.  But, just like the peace movement does with nuclear weapons.   They don’t acknowledge that there are other urgent and catastrophic threats that could, overnight, steal their attention and political thunder.  Plus, environmentalists too often fail to calculate the damage to human freedom and immediate human security from poverty.  They are accurate in accusing a largely unbridled capitalist system of impoverishing people and trashing the environment.  But even the Economist magazine credited global trade with 2/3rds of the reduction in poverty related deaths, and aid with the other third.  And, its usually the wealthier nations that make the most progress on environmental protections.  Still today approximately 11,000 children die every day from easily preventable malnutrition and infectious diseases that would be happening even if the planet wasn’t warming and the environment wasn’t at risk.  Too many environmentalist and peace activists fail to consider the real-life consequences of nearly 2 billion people attempting to live on $2 a day.  People who are largely illiterate, malnourished, sick and with no access to health care or credit.    Hundreds of millions of these individuals are driven by despair and multiple injustices toward violence. Or, motivated to murder others because of political, ethnic, religious or economic differences or for a job.  Mix this with unprecedented volumes and varieties of weaponry and WMD relatively easily made from dual-use technologies and peace, sustainability and human development becomes very, very difficult.

Then there is the tens of thousands of organizations working to provide nutrition, clean water, sanitation, micro credit, living wage jobs, health care, education, and other human rights protections.  They know that political stability and a clean environment are essential to the delivery of their life saving/transformative services.  Yet they don’t have enough money to achieve their goals either.

The one thing all of these progressive organizations and movements have in common is a lack of resources to effectively achieve their mission.  Yet, each of their specific goals is included within at least one of 168 smaller goals contained within the larger comprehensive 17 SDGs.

The great news is that all of these goals are achievable, achieving them will be far cheaper than the catastrophic consequences of failing, and there is no shortage of money in the world to achieve them all by the year 2030.  And, while most of the governments are in debt and unable (or unwilling) to commit to adequately funding for the SDGs, there is at least $32 trillion stashed in off shore accounts.  Ill-gotten money that was originally in the hands of governments for public goods, or owed to them in taxes, or diverted from them through illegal sales of drugs, weapons, human slaves, or endangered species.  
One piece of legislation that could tap this wealth has the potential to bring all of these progressive efforts together into a MoM capable of passing a bill that could effectively freeze and then work with other nations to seize some or most of these ill-gotten gains.  
The Global Fund could work as a model for establishing a system and structure for fair distribution of newly acquired resources to the most effective organizations in each of the essential issue areas and regions.   What’s missing is the political will.

And the political will could be mobilized if US policy makers were clearly informed on the catastrophic risks and costs to our freedoms, national security, and prosperity if human rights are not placed first on our national security agenda.   As General Mattis once said, if we don’t do this, we need to buy his guys more bullets.

The idea of redefining national security isn’t new.  It was expressed 38 years ago by no less than Presidential Commission on World Hunger.  A word search of that old document revealed fourteen references to nontraditional national security threats that the commissioners believed Americans would face in the future if their recommendations were ignored. 

“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...”  Presidential Commission on World Hunger, 1980.

The commission specifically warned about the future consequences if we ignored the global injustice 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.”

Many other studies and reports have followed this commission. 

Winning the Peace:  Hunger and Instability
Each clearly documents the direct and indirect links between protecting human rights global and US national security.    They have offered many affordable and achievable recommendations calling for urgent and comprehensive action, but it is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that offers the most comprehensive agenda.   Humanity cannot afford failing this fundamental challenge if we are to sustainably maximize freedom and security for all, on this increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. 

Are you aware of any other solutions? 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dec 9 International Anti-Corruption Day

“Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad.”   ― Henry Kissinger

There are few things more corrosive to the trust of citizens, voters, and civilization itself than corruption.   

The Corruption Perceptions Index is an index published annually by Transparency International.  It ranks countries "by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." The CPI generally defines corruption as "the misuse of public power for private benefit".  But corruption also exists where ever you find people -- who can be corrupted. 

And corruption ensures far more than corroded trust.   It drains enormous financial and environmental resources that are essential for ensuring human security, protecting human rights, and sustained prosperity for all.   Kleptocrats stealing from public coffers can be measured in hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars.  And when essential human needs are not met, or reasonable expectations thwarted, people do desperate things.  (See Syria, Iraq, Venezuela, Central America, Haiti, South Sudan, 2016 US elections…).  Routinely, there is no political consensus on practical steps to address it on a global level.  Could it be because much of the ill-gotten gains are sitting in offshore accounts or invested in properties owned by anonymous owners? 

When governments fail, for any reason, to invest in basic human needs or human capital a society stops maturing and can easily backslide into political divisions, chaos and ultimately mass violence.  History is replete with this destructive scenario. And it continues to prove the maxim that the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.

"We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."  ~Albert Einstein 

Politicians are addicted to money because it helps them get re-elected.
Corporations are addicted to profit because it helps them get access to politicians, so their business can benefit and increase their profits.
People are addicted to money to feed their children, cloth them, shelter them, and educate them in hopes they will eventually earn enough money to take care of themselves, their families, and their aging parents.
When addiction to money (greed) gets more important than our addiction to liberty and justice for all, we might have an existential problem.

 “A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”   ― Theodore Roosevelt

There is no doubt that corruption also hurts businesses.  In 2013, bribery, corruption and facilitation payments were the most commonly reported issues recorded by the Institute of Business Ethics' media monitoring. They accounted for 13% of all the stories on business ethics. The sectors most frequently mentioned were extracted resources (70%), defense and security (63%), pharmaceuticals (47%) and broadcast/media (33%).  

In May 2016, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an anti-corruption summit. Associated with it was an analysis of the relationship between corruption and per capita GDP, a rough living standard indicator.   Combined with a 2016 Global CEO Survey examining business leaders’ views on corruption across countries and sectors - it proved there should be a strong motivation to businesses for stamping out corruption. The analysis showed that a one notch-increase in perceived corruption levels is associated with a $380 decrease in per capita GDP.  Conversely, persistently lower levels of perceived corruption are associated with higher levels of per capita GDP.

While correlation may not imply causation (there could be other factors driving income levels) there are decent reasons to believe that reducing corruption should also boost overall economic prosperity within a country, and the world. 

Looking at China’s model of development, investment in human capital, and capitalism under government control, an exceptional increase in economic prosperity appears possible, even if not environmentally sustainable.  Just 35 years ago 3/4s of China’s population lived in extreme poverty by world standards. Today it’s down to 1 percent.

China’s investment of trillions of dollars on its global ‘One belt, One road’ policy while minimizing in state corruption, may be a wise investment.  For now, loan recipient nations and their people appear to be more favorable to China’s long term economic and national security goals. And less favorable of ours.

US leadership in funding the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals could be a way to short circuit China’s global economic outreach and dampen its environmental shortcomings at the same time.  Unfortunately our leader is taking the US in the opposite direction.

Amazingly, there is an abundance of economic resources that could be used for this wise investment.  And it not need come out of US taxpayers’ pockets.  It could be funded by the money stashed by corrupt foreign leaders who skimmed billions from aid money originally targeted for improving the lives of their own people.  And the super-rich capitalists, business owners, and crime cartels that use the same offshore accounts to stash their ill-gotten assets. 

In a January 2017 Washington Post article “Five myths about Kleptocracy”, By Natalie Duffy and Nate Sibley (both researchers at Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative) highlighted a 2012 report estimating there was at least $32 trillion available in private offshore accounts from these sources. 

Another article ( February 2017) by Martin Kenney “Put our own Tax Havens in Order, America”  stated that  “The U.S. holds 20 percent of the global market for financial services for non-residents with foreign assets of $16.75 trillion (2013), and foreign direct investment of $3 trillion (2014).

Freezing and seizing some or most of these ill-gotten gains could fund the 17 SDGs and put humanity on a path of increased security, human freedom and sustainable prosperity - for generations to come.

An arguably bias view of corruption from the top within the US government go to:

We will not be able to make America great, secure, free or prosperous without first ending the worst aspects of corruption as well as the worst aspects of global poverty, injustices, and environmental destruction.

The US government won’t do this unless ‘we the people’ demand it.   If we don’t do it soon, we may not be able to do it at all.  Some things that are broken, don’t get fixed. 
George H.W. Bush’s recent funeral brought back memories of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  He was praised today in the Washington Post for a speech he never gave.  When the Berlin Wall fell he never touted that ‘we won’ the Cold war as many had expected. It’s rumored he didn’t want to instigate an overreaction to such a taunt.   Back then there were a few others who believed the USSR was only the first superpower to fall.   Today it appears they had some reasons for their assertion.

Dec 8 Civic Superpower Day?

There are many things Americans believe that just isn’t so.   Our capacity to believe anything may be our minds greatest flaw but our minds capacity to ignore the most powerful source of human action comes in a close second.

Most adult Americans assume that we have virtually no power to change the course of our increasingly dysfunctional government, other than voting, donating to a campaign, stopping the anonymous flow of money to campaigns, or running for office ourselves.  While the last option may be the best it is also the least likely to result in succeeding in getting anything don --  other than spending money and justifying a belief that our electoral system is dysfunctional. 

There is another possibility that few Americans are aware of.  And even after being enlightened of the option, still avoid it, preferring to stick to their core beliefs that a) the system is rigged against them. b) their vote really doesn’t matter.  c)   If they have a government job, the Hatch Act prohibits them from getting involved in politics.

To a significant degree each of these are true.  
A.     The system has been rigged by those with money which does increase their access to political power.  
B.     Their vote once every two or four years really doesn’t make much difference given the 700,000 eligible voters in their Gerrymandered Congressional District and the quirks of the Electoral College.
C.     The Hatch Act does prohibit government employees from partisan campaigning with their time.

The superpower that these US citizens ignore is the fundamental right of every US citizen to “petition” their/our government each of the 365 Days a year between elections.  

Only a tiny fraction of Americans have experienced a small group effort of meeting with their own elected official and educating him/her on an issue that they believe is important, and then remaining loving and persistent involved in making actionable requests of that elected official to report back on what action they took.  

There were two times in my life when everything I had understood about life and myself changed.  The first was witnessing the 21-hour process of my wife giving birth to our first child.   The second was in a 20-minute meeting witnessing the rebirth of a Republican Congressman.

The Congressman was Norman Shumway, serving a fourth term in Northern California’s 14th Congressional District and was scored on the extreme right of the  “Ideology Leadership Chart”.   One of the RESULTS groups in my US Region had been writing him for two years asking him to support child health and nutrition programs within the US Foreign aid bill.   A month earlier he had written this RESULTS Chapter a brief two paragraph letter literally saying ‘as long as I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never voted for a foreign aid bill.  As long as I’m here I never will.  Please don’t waste any more of your time asking.” They insisted on a personal meeting with him before ceasing letters and phone calls to his office.   He agreed and five volunteers from the group and myself as Regional Coordinator attended the meeting (I was only there as an observer).  

Each of the groups trained volunteer Partners gave a 2 minute “laser talk” extolling the benefits of childhood immunization, Oral Rehydration Theory, Micronutrients, and breast feeding.  Then the group’s leader asked Congressman Shumway to sign and send a letter to the “Ranking Member” (second in command) of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the full Appropriations Committee (the Democrats were the majority in Congress then, so they had the Chairmanship of that key subcommittee).  After the Congressman heard of the thousands of children’s lives that could be saved each day from a relatively small appropriation of US tax payers money he leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and thought about it (which seemed like hours). Then he rocked forward, put his elbows on his desk and shyly said, “I can do that.”  Then he asked, “Would it be OK of I sent a letter to the Chairman as well.”   

He continued to be a supporter of this groups requests until he was not longer in office.  Only he would know if his compassion for innocent children played any part in his loss but I’d bet it didn’t.

I know of other similar stories of ‘hopeless’ conservatives who were converted after loving and persistent meetings with well trained RESULTS volunteers.  A few years later as Issues Director of the Alliance for Child Survival I was paid to organize US professionals with medical and health degrees who had interest or experience in international work.  One lived in the Louisiana Congressional District held by a Republican Congressman who was Chair of that same Sub Committee of Appropriations (Republicans were now in control of the House, so they were in charge of markups that were made then).  A pediatrician convinced him to add millions of additional tax dollars to other child saving foreign aid programs if the pediatrician agreed to one requirement.  The Congressman asked him not to tell anyone about it.

Loving and persistent volunteers from other organizations eventually convinced Jesse Helm’s who once claimed “HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment of homosexuals” to significantly increase foreign aid funding to treat and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS globally.  

Someone once said “Congressmen are a lot like Boy Scouts. They’re good people.  They just need a lot more adult supervision”. 

The system is rigged against the average American.  And money does influence who is elected.   But only because it’s been spent misinforming, largely uninspired and uninformed US eligible voters.  Many of whom are more interested in the immediate benefits the US government will get for them instead of smartly investing in fixing the flawed government efforts that only respond to various crisis instead of preventing them. 

Prevention efforts require deeper and longer term thinking and action regarding the flawed systems and structures that we have largely relied on to ensure our security, protect our freedoms, and improve our prosperity.   Most of our most passionate concerns are voiced in the context of a two-year election cycle instead the future of our children, and our children’s children.   

FACT:  There is not enough money in the world to continue only responding to the growing array of threats that Americans (and the world) faces.  It’s way past time to invest in systemic changes with a comprehensive program that rely on fundamental principles instead of ‘conservative or progressive principles’ that too often ignore them.
It wasn’t voters or money that elected Trump.  It was our flawed or overconfident beliefs that government would do the right thing without ‘we the people’ being deeply and persistently involved.  We trusted them and now we blame them.   Some of us blame the media.  But the media is only a reflection of our values.   Do we value profits, comforts and distractions?  Or fundamental principles that we have pledged to our flag?   We will never have ‘liberty and justice for all’ unless we demand it of those who represent us in the House, the Senate and the White House.

The U.S. Constitution has several profound flaws but the greatest threat to it and our way of life is that we have ignored the power it offers us within it, to organize and petition our government 365 days a year.   

“If there were just 10 people in every Congressional District who really pushed on the issue of world hunger, we could literally change the world.”  Senator Paul Simon as a Congressman in the early 1980s.

In a recent news story by wrote "One of the best parts of Ocasio-Cortez's arrival in D.C. as a new leader is that she notices, and is revolted by, the corrupt, corporatist rituals that are so embedded in D.C. culture that most politicians and journalists barely notice them." 

'Lobbyists Are Here. Goldman Sachs Is Here. Where's Labor? Activists?' Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez Pull Back Curtain on Corporate-Sponsored Freshman Orientation

What are you going to do about it?   The future is in our hands.  "We the people". 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Dec 7 International Civil Aviation Day

It seems odd that anyone would have chosen December 7th as International Civil Aviation Day, and then continue celebrating it for 17 years after commercial airliners were used in attacks on September 11, 2001.
History conscious people know that December 7th, 1941 would remain “the Day of Infamy”.  It is the day of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that killed over 3000 Americans, causing the US to declare war and enter into World War II immediately afterwards.
It obviously wasn’t civilian air craft that the Japanese used that sunny morning.  But the second consequential surprise attack on Sept 11, 2001 killing nearly 3000 Americans, was accomplished using them.  And, that horrific day sparked a national commitment to wage a global war against an undefeatable target -- a tactic called terrorism.   Today, almost 17 years later and upwards of five trillion dollars spent, this war still has no end in sight. 
In 2002 Howard Zin authored an article titled “Our Enduring War” predicting such.  But more recently it was made clear that US troops would not be leaving Afghanistan anytime soon and Americans were asked to prepare themselves for an “enduring war.” A war that even President Trump wanted out of.
Today’s technology advances will soon be translated into pilotless air taxis and commercial drone deliveries capable of carrying anything or anyone they can physically lift into the air.  There will certainly be laws restricting what and who they can carry but you can bet your worried behind that there will be insufficient government money or human power to effectively regulate or enforce most of the laws passed.  
What is carried by the wings of any kind of flying machine, or launched by catapults or bows, will not be easily stopped prior to landing or unloading its given payload.  And, with any imagination and limited budget, formidable biological and chemical weapons will not be difficult to acquire.    
Even if by some miracle 99% of destructive payloads are stopped, and only 1% succeed in a lethal delivery, that sector of commercial or private flight would likely be crippled economically.  And it would likely impact others.
Economics and passenger safety are the primary drivers of Civil aviation rules for both private and commercial efforts and success.  They remain vitally important future investments in the technological and engineering development of the industry.  Civil aviation is also important to the social and economic development for at least the wealthiest half of the world.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be doing much for the poorest half.   In fact, it appears to be accelerating even more damage to the world’s environment and the exploitation of the world’s poor, than most people even consider.
For now, it is less environmentally damaging to travel across the US by air than car. But as solar power decreases environmental and economic costs of generating electricity -- eventually bullet trains, vacuum tubes, or electric cars will become more affordable and hopefully safer.
And, for now, US commercial airlines are shockingly safe.  Except for that one unfortunate lady sucked from her window seat partly out the window of the plane carrying her across county, there hasn’t been a single fatality in nearly 10 years. Given all the airmiles flown that seems impossible.  It was achieved by rigorous engineering standards and maintenance procedures that were enforced by both government, public and professional entities. 
Here’s the trillion-dollar question.  What is the one factor that prevents our national government and/or the UN from achieving such a profound track record in protecting lives and preventing future catastrophic failures? 
If you can answer that question you should be running for Congress, or at least meeting with them regularly and telling them what they need to do (if they would like to be reelected) to save our nation money, protect American freedoms, and best ensure America’s security.
Sure. It’s amazing a tourist or business traveler can make it all the way from the rain forests of Africa to New York’s LaGuardia airport in under 12 hours.  But given the incubation period of Ebola, Lassa fever, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and dozens of other pathogens -- we must face the fact that this amazing and affordable transportation system comes with profoundly dangerous downsides.  There are few things that could inflict more damage to US freedoms, prosperity, and security than a pandemic (natural or manmade) accelerated by commercial or private air travel.  
Perhaps there should be a 1% airline tax codified for investments in the prevention of such diseases and deplorable conditions where infectious disease and ideologies are created and accidently or intentionally mutated.   It is the wisest and most affordable means of protecting the world from the inevitable spread of their lethal consequences resulting from the global injustices we now largely ignore.
And then there is the endless future potential of turning civilian aircraft into weapons.  It will be as hard as stopping cars and trucks from ramming groups of people or blowing up federal buildings.  And even un weaponized future aircraft will be increasingly vulnerable to other technologies such as drones, computer viruses, or cyber hacks providing fake landing coordinates.  One of the US militaries most advanced and expensive surveillance drones was highjacked by Iran hackers emitting a stronger GPS guidance signal. They landed it without a scratch in their own back yard.
Another failure of Imagination? 
Anyone familiar with Japan’s use of Kamikaze pilots toward the end of WW II should have been able to predict Islamic extremists turning commercial air liners into self-guided WMD.  Shockingly (and this is no conspiracy theory) in the final summary of the official 9-11 Commission Report the commissioners concluded that the attacks that day were the result of a “failure of imagination”.  WTF?  OMG?  Our government couldn’t imagine it happening?  That’s not a failure of imagination.  It’s a massive failure of government systems (independent agencies) and structures (political minds). 
The prediction that terrorists would use civilian planes as weapons was offered in at least 11 open source documents prior to 9-11.  That doesn’t include an issue paper I personally authored nearly 3 years before the attacks.    Even Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the Press Club on November 10, 2001 warning that ‘someday, terrorists would bring death to Americans in the “belly of an airplane.”  And today, the most likely delivery of a nuclear weapon to the US air space is in the belly of a faked commercial or private airline carrier.  Not targeting a city, but instead attempting an EMP attack that could kill tens of millions of Americans if not more (see yesterday’s Electricity Dependence Day blog).
An airline tax may be a start in transforming the world’s hell holes into petri dishes of freedom and prosperity.  But sustainable transformation would require trillions, not billion of dollars.   And that money is only a short commercial air flight away in various off shore accounts where at least $32 trillion dollars of illicit money is stashed to avoid exposure to any form of justice.  Kleptocrats, drug cartels, and wealthy capitalists avoiding taxes robs the rest of humanity the money needed for basic human needs, protection of other human rights, global security and environmental sustainability.  Just a portion of these ill-gotten funds could largely achieve the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals urgently needed to improve global conditions for the half of the world’s people who cannot afford a ticket out of their corrupt, failed or failing states.   

They may not be able to leave on an airplane but those festering nation states will speed the flow of infectious diseases, terrorism, poverty and environmental consequences to our shores as fast as a civil aviation flight from the Congo to New York, and as surely as night follows day.
Tomorrow, Dec 8th will highlight our civilian American superpowers.  If you want to know how you can take the most powerful action from within the most powerful nation in the world -- and have a profound impact in forwarding the vision that our nation’s Founding Fathers offered in the Declaration of Independence, treat yourself to it.   A personal action that can make a credible assist in transforming the world from its current state of increasing chaos and lawlessness to one with ’liberty and justice for all’. 

FYI:  Civil Aviation Day exists to raise and reinforce awareness about December 7th’s importance, and about the role the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has in facilitating a global aviation network to benefit everyone. The ICAO, which is a specialized agency of the United Nations, is made up of about 190 countries that work together to come up with standards for air travel around the world. Each country has a civil aviation authority that oversees areas of civil aviation. For example, in the United States there is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The civil aviation authority in each country regulates aviation licensing, oversees flight operations, issues certificates of airworthiness for aircraft, oversees aircraft maintenance organizations, designs and constructs aerodromes, and manages air traffic services. The ICAO was established by the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, a document signed on December 7, 1944. International Civil Aviation Day began being celebrated by the ICAO in 1994, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Chicago Convention. In 1996 the United Nations adopted a resolution that proclaimed the day as International Civil Aviation Day, and urged government and government organizations to take steps to observe the day.

DEC 6 Electricity Dependence Day?

"[M]odern man is just ancient man... with way better electronics."  - Author unknown, "A Short History of Breakfast," from a Jack in the Box tray liner, 2006

Most of us take electricity for granted.   Until a storm knocks it out.   A recent report by the Air Force Electromagnetic Defense Task Force acknowledges the growing risk of catastrophic damage when a solar superstorm hits earth or an adversary detonates a nuclear weapon in our upper atmosphere.  A solar event is inevitable.  The last happened in 1859 when telegraph lines were hung across America.   That event fried the lines and started fires in telegraph offices.  We don’t know when the next will hit but it will.  Astronomers can see  a coronal mass ejection coming, but they don’t know its potential magnitude until it’s about 90 minutes from Earth.  Certainly not enough time to prepare for the long-term catastrophic consequences that it would cause.

What the military’s focus on is the loss of command and control centers essential for direct communication with its forces.  An obvious target for any US adversary.  But the greater threat to our nation from such an event is the loss of multiple civilian functions that we all rely on for nearly every aspect of our civilized lives.  Imagine living without refrigeration, lights, gas station electric pumps, banking systems, water purification plants, hospital operations, police communications, cars, trucks, stop lights, generators, cell phones… everything needing wires and computer circuits to function.

You don’t need to imagine. Just read the testimony offered in a 2004 report by the ‘Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack’.  It predicted that “90 percent of all Americans would die within 12-18 months of an EMP attack.  If even 10% died it would still mean the end of the United States as we know it.

But solar flares and nuclear weapons aren’t the only thing capable of bringing down all or parts of our vital electrical grid.  Fallen tree limbs have caused significant multi state blackouts.  That problem has been largely reduced to a local outages.  But we are still vulnerable to a well-coordinated cyber-attack or even a dozen individual terrorists with sniper rifles, RPGs, or car bombs taking out electrical substations in key locations.   
Recently, General John Hayden, commander of the US strategic Command, warned that “EMP is a realistic threat, and it’s a credible threat.”  The recent Air Force report stated that “most experts agree that if a GMD [Geomagnetic disturbance] or EMP incapacitates an electrical grid, the grid will likely remain in a failed state from weeks to months.”  “In turn the ability to provide continued electrical cooling for nuclear power plant reactors and spent fuel pools would be at the top of electricity restoration priorities within hours.”  Currently, however, the ability to assist distressed nuclear power stations is “very limited” with power plants having roughly 16 hours of backup battery power.   “In the US, this would risk meltdowns at approximately 60 sites and 99 nuclear reactors…with consequentially disastrous impact to the economy and public health”.

These are all potentially catastrophic events given the degree our nation is dependent on electricity.  Even the few who have cut their dependence on electricity by going off grid will not be free of the lawlessness and chaos of others who were not as discerning.

It’s reasonable to assert that western civilization is dependent on sustainable provisions based on abundant and resilient electricity.  A western journalist once asked Gandhi what he thought about Western civilization.  Gandhi replied, “I think that would be a good idea!”
Our nation’s array of indigenous Indian nations was virtually wiped out with our immigration into their lands bringing with us our technology dependent lifestyle.  A life style that is now killing hundreds of thousands of us annually from ‘suicide by back side’. That’s the new phrase our Centers for Disease Control is now calling the rising rates in easily preventable deaths from lack of exercise, death by opioid overdose, firearm suicide, texting while driving, and demise while taking a selfie.

Is increasing military spending really going to make America safer or great again?  Our sophisticated military capabilities might spot and destroy an incoming ICBM, but they are unlikely to detect and destroy a nuclear weapon concealed in a bogus commercial air liner.  Some protection measures exist.  But Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, warned that the cost of preventing widespread failures from an EMP would “be astronomical.” 

Bottom line?  People in electricity dependent nations shouldn’t create, antagonize, or threaten enemies.  

While China is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in development and infrastructure projects that improve lives around the world, Congress is demanding more military funding and expecting to upgrade hundreds of military bases we now have in over 100 nations around the world.   The US conducts special forces and drone operations in over half of those nations.   These often lethal operations do not include a trial before lives are extinguished.  Too often innocent men, women, and children become ‘collateral damage’ in these ‘operations’.  People near the attacks know these dead more personally as mom, dad, son, or daughter or friend.   This is no way to make friends.

Last week my family’s ‘new’ refrigerator broke down.  Again (second time in 4 months). It’s still on warranty but the last repair service took three weeks.  Our neighbors were helpful in taking food before it spoiled but they were of no use in fixing it.  Last night, by coincidence a wise soul on a group phone call stated that “the refrigerator is the worst thing ever invented”.   He based this on his experience with indigenous Indians.   They were forced to remain close to nature which required considerable effort on their part to acquire all of their essentials.  Our relationship to nature is quite different.  We are excessively dependent on electricity for our modern comforts, distractions, and essentials.  This has distanced us from the lives of others we share this solar drenched planet with while we continue to ravage it with little personal motivation to change how we do business, war, or foreign policy.

But things do change.  And, living things that don’t, rarely survive.

We must stop making enemies and start investing in projects that make more friends in this hyper-interdependent world.  In the long run it is the only way civilizations can survive and thrive.   

Adequate investment in achieving the 17 global SDGs before the 2030 deadline is as important as our nation preparing ourselves for inevitable catastrophic events -- solar flares being only one source.  Ignoring the multiple warnings that we have been given on a growing number of threats may allow us to feel better psychologically, but physically, ignoring inevitable catastrophic threats it’s a really a very, very bad habit.