Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture and Drones are both unAmerican

Michael Gerson's’ “Occam” analysis of “the release of the Feinstein report on CIA interrogations” wasn’t ‘Occam’ enough!   His assertion that our nations use of torture and drones (“Acceptable tools of War” Washington Post, Dec 9th, 2014) is based on dangerously flawed.  The simplest reason for explaining a desire to expose our nation’s crime of torturing suspects wasn’t “guilt, hypocrisy and betrayal”.  It’s because it was simply wrong.   Harming people without a fair trial is also simply un-American.  And, as even the highest ranking intelligence, military and elected officials now realize.  Having done it only increases our security risks.
Gerson claims that both torture and drone strikes of suspected terrorists was “following the exact letter of the law” “deemed lawful by the attorney general” and “authorized by the President”.
Gerson obviously doesn’t understand that the three essential elements needed to give the ‘rule of law’ (which our nation claims to based on) its legitimacy.  The laws must be made and enforced by a democratic process, applied equally to all, and, most important, protective of a basic set of inalienable rights.  Two of those are the right to life and freedom from torture.
When innocent people die because they are suspect or someone close to them is suspect, that violates the basic notion of what we believe is civil and moral.   Approving any ‘tools of war’ that ignore these vital elements of legitimate law, simply to protect ourselves, is not only cowardly.  It should be criminal.  And those responsible be they torturers, Presidents, or trigger pullers should be held accountable.  Doing the government’s work inside or around the beltway, in Ferguson, MO, or in Fallujah, Iraq should not make one immune to just law.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Preventing Ebola, ISIS, and Climate change. In 2016.

The Progressive’s loss of the mid-term elections was largely the result of failing to tell the facts about Ebola, ISIS, and climate change to the American voter.  Conservatives succeeded in framing Ebola and ISIS as border threats exacerbated by Obama’s failed leadership. Missing is the fact of our irreversible global interdependence.  
The public’s immediate fear of hemorrhagic fever, beheadings or a lackluster economy was easily hyped over the theoretical fear of runaway climate change.  Yet each these threats are closely related.  And each share fundamental features.  Each was preventable. None can be solved militarily.  No single nation can resolve them.  And, none were budgeted for.  
The origin of ISIS was in the oil drenched Middle East where US support for dictators, kings and even extremists is well known.  Oil sales help finance ISIS barbaric and murderous expansion.  Boko Haram continues kidnappings and terrorizing oil rich Nigeria where Ebola was recently checked.  Some believe the weaponization of Ebola is inevitable.  The Soviets tried and failed in the 1980s.  The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult tried and failed in the 1990s.  Advances in biotechnology make it entirely possible now.
The key element essential to preventing or resolving each of these threats remains progressive values.  Global cooperation, enforcement of global standards, sufficient investments in human capital and the protection of human rights and the environment are all essential.
Imagine what the world would be today with actual universal access to basic education; primary health care; clean water; safe sanitation; adequate nutrition; early detection and emergency response infrastructure; targeted investments in research and development; and global protection of the most fundamental social, political and economic human rights.
There is profound hypocrisy in conservatives demanding that big government “play it safe and quarantine” the courageous souls returning from West Africa “whatever it costs” -- yet voice the opposite government response to climate change.  
Conservatives calling for more border control ignore the facts, the historic precedent, science and the fundamental reality that borders can never be effectively sealed.  The Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China and the fall of virtually every castle or fortress in history confirms that committed humans, advances in technology and infectious shred the concept of border control.
Building alliances, respecting the limits of nature and particularly improving the lives of others is the only real long term defense for ensuring our security, retaining our freedoms and sustaining our prosperity.
Life, liberty and justice for all are fundamental to all human beings, not just Americans.  Some cultures and political systems certainly reject and resist such idealism, but ours should not.   It’s what made our nation great and it is the only thing that will keep us safe and free.
Perhaps progressives will get better at spreading these facts and conservatives will get more in touch with reality before 2016.

Friday, October 24, 2014

UN Day! A day of celebration? Condemnation? Or Education?

Today is UN Day!  Many will use this day to promote this polite global agency that once held so much promise for human kind.  Others will use it to proclaim with some merit that the UN is virtually useless in today’s world of increasing risks and failed states.
Ebola, ISIS, climate change. WMD proliferation, Russian expansion… all competing for attention and world action.   Which US national security threat is the greatest?  Which should we work on first?  If you are concerned at all about these and/or the fate of humanity…or just want to protect your own family and personal fortune, you might be thinking ‘so many threats, so little time’.  It seems hopeless.
But, please note there is one sliver of possibility.  There is one change, a major change, that if we could pull it off, we could best prevent most of the threats we face and most effectively reduce the costs in lives and dollars from most of the other threats we cannot prevent.  This singular change however, requires a clear understanding of what the common thread is that now that sources and sustains nearly all of these threats and several others not listed.
Drum roll….national sovereignty (NS).  NS is the antiquated global governance structure that was first established at the Treaty of Westphalia approximately 400 years ago and enforced today by the founding documents of the United Nations.  NS is essentially, the right of each nation, to do whatever it want, whenever it wants, and to whomever it wants (usually within it’s own borders) without accountability for any gross or minor violations of basic human rights.  The same rights that all nations agreed to in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but have only gotten lip service at the UN by even the most powerful government leaders. 
Unfortunately, the UN has absolutely no power, capacity or resources for the protection of humanities God given rights.  It was designed that way.  All it has is flowery words, comprehensive documents and principled agreements that have no enforcement mechanisms to hold individuals accountable for their crimes.  Crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, torture or reprehensible environmental destruction cannot be stopped by any UN institution.  That’s the way world governments like it…most of the time.   The UN only has the force of good ideas and noble summits.  Summits where people of power, knowledge and ‘interests’ can talk.    At best, the UN has hope.  The hope of the world’s people and many working within the UN that nations working together can resolve many world problems.  But all they have now to hold nations, leaders and corporations accountable are war, threat of war, sanctions (which can be more deadly than war), and diplomatic harsh words or feeble actions that are more likely to hurt the citizens of a nation than the leaders who are ultimately irresponsible in their activities.  
The change we urgently need is to move from the current law of force the world now operates under (those with the most force make the rules).  To the ‘rule of law’ --  where laws are created by a democratic process with ‘we the people’ representing far more than nice words in the UN preamble.  Enforceable laws applied equally to all (ensuring justice) and holding individuals accountable for their actions (or lack of action) instead of entire populations.  And most importantly, laws that are primarily for the protection of the inalienable human rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Instead of existing national laws that protect those fortunate enough to be endowed with political, economic or military power.
If the universal human rights had been enforced at the end of World War II as intended by the heroic leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt and others also working to prevent another holocaust, world war or usage of unprecedented weapons of mass destruction, the world today would be far more peaceful and free than it is now.  But now, with each passing day, our world is less secure and less free.
Inadequate or nonexistent health care systems in West Africa are now the driving the call by Ebola free nations to quarantine West African nations.   Restricting air travel and increased surveillance isn’t isolated to the Ebola threat. The NSA surveillance powers are focused on ISIS and other potential murderous extremist groups spreading their infectious ideology to receptive ears.   Our best ‘intelligence’ institutions are now pleading with Congress to prohibit social media sites from blocking their backdoor cyber access.  Something they claim is essential to quickly identifying suspects who may wish (or are actually planning) to do us harm.  These agencies appear to lack the wisdom the First Lady had in 1945 - of eradicating the conditions that lead to war (violence between nations), genocide (mass murder within nations) and any global insecurity (abuses by any nation) or horrendous (torture) or murderous (Drone strikes) national tactics where innocent people may be caught in the cross fire.  
Their ‘ideal’ hopes back in 1945 were to create a global social, physical and psychological climate in which the number of sick, illiterate and/or psychopathic extremist individuals would be minimized.  And the numbers of healthy, intelligent and physiologically well balance individuals would be so enlightened, that they would understand it was in their own self-interest to insist on the freedom, security and ultimate welfare of all others -- as well as their own kin.  Unfortunately, we missed that boat in this unprecedented globally interdependent world.
An sound argument can be made that we may be too late to create such a world now that we are in a new era of permanent war, still dragging persistent poverty with us into the future, and maintaining an unwavering dependence on fossil fuels and militaries to ‘keep’ things running as they are.
Fundamentalist Christians assure us that end times are near. Fundamentalist world federalists want the world to know we should instead end any negative self-fulfilling prophecies and act on the same ideals that our own nation’s founding fathers risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for.   Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all humanity. 
Woody Allen once said, “humanity stands at a cross roads. One road leads to utter hopelessness and despair.  The other.  To complete annihilation.”  He said “I hope we have the wisdom to choose the right path”.   I’m gambling that our children, and our children’s children, are hoping we will choose the right path.  World federation, where the fundamental rights of all people are superior to any nation states’ rights.
There is no doubt that things are changing rapidly.  The key question is, “Can we?”.
Chuck Woolery,
Former Chair, UNA Council of Organizations.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Convergence of threats and solutions in NY Sept 20-22nd

A Convergence of threats and solutions.  What to consider this weekend at the NY Climate march & UN Summit starting Sept. 21st, 2014:
At this moment in the news cycle we appear to be facing three existential threats:
1.       Religious extremists instigating a permanent war that will cost lives, more loss of privacy, human rights and the hope for real security …as it depletes valuable resources and attention from other vital concerns.
2.       Changing climate that promises to change every aspect of life as we know it… costing the health of our environment, our children and our economy… while exacerbating scarcity and other factors related to national security and individual freedom and security.  
3.       Ebola, a rapidly mutating hemorrhagic fever that is spreading exponentially in poor nations with inadequate health/medical infrastructure threatening to destabilize African nations. It could also be adopted by suicidal extremists to further terrorize the world and disrupt civilization as we know it.
What do ISIS, Ebola and climate change all have in common?   None can be stopped militarily. None can be stopped by any single nation.  None can be stopped by the United Nations as it exists today.  None will be stopped by unenforceable International laws.  None can be stopped without the devotion of timely and sufficient economic resources applied to immediate needs, workable and sustainable solutions, and long term efforts to prevent the re-emergence of war, disease or other factors leading to environmental collapse.
War, climate change and Ebola are not the only existential threats we face.  Others not mentioned have the same characteristics of these now grabbing our immediate attention.
Realistically, what can environmentalist achieve in gaining the attention and focused action of those engaged in an escalating war against terrorism, stopping the threat of genocide or controlling Ebola?
There appears to be only one rational approach to changing this hopeless equation so that we, our children, and our children’s children can live healthy, relatively safe, free, prosperous, and fulfilling lives in a fruitful environment.
We must replace the current systems (economic, governance, security, social…) that got us to this point and institute a global system of enforceable laws that put the protection of fundamental human rights and the environment ahead of short term national, corporate or extremists’ interests.
The evolution of weapons, disease and environmental insults is accelerating.  Things are changing rapidly.  Can We?
  “Science is my passion, politics my duty.”  Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Beheadings by the dozen! And it's not news.

While the be-headings of two US journalist raises the specter of new US military actions in Iraq and possibly Syria, ISIS lags far behind our friendly ally Saudi Arabia in the head count. 

In August of this year Saudi authorities beheaded at least 23 people including a few convicted of low-level drug possession and one convicted of sorcery.   Amnesty International claims many of the sentences were based on confessions drawn from torture.  Other beheadable offenses include adultery, robbery, rape and blasphemy. 

ISIS isn't even JV.

Ebola terrorist! Chaos vs Human Rights.

The Ebola terrorist!  Hemorrhagic Death and chaos -- or global law enforcement of Human Rights?
Americans safe within our border need not fear the accidental importation of Ebola. As bad as some believe our ‘health care system’ is, it is well capable of stopping any Ebola outbreak here. Still, we have much to worry about.
It is now projected that the exponential spread of the virus could kill 100,000 Africans before it can be stopped. The bad news is that there are virtually no proposals now for responding appropriately to this entirely predictable crisis.
It was not the first Ebola outbreak and it won’t be the last pandemic emerging from the impoverished conditions spread throughout much of our unjust and ungoverned world.
What Americans and the rest of the world should fear are the entirely predictable catastrophic consequences of our collective failure to respond to this specific hemorrhagic fever.
What is certain to happen is the unprecedented breakdown of what marginal society, poor public health systems, governing infrastructure and political stability African nations how have. With this increasing chaos, groups like Boko Haram will increasingly gain advantage and be ignored by a world already overdrawn on to too many other trouble spots. Boko Haram already controls much of northeast Nigeria creating “a national emergency” even without the Ebola effect.
What is likely to happen as it did in the 1995 Ebola outbreak, is this mass murdering virus perking the interests of extremist individuals. Crazies who would like to use it in creating more terror in the hearts of the so called ‘civilized’ world, more over-political reaction and even more economic burden. Given today’s technological capacity for genetic re-engineering (which by itself is off the scale scary) the weaponization of this new Ebola strain is highly likely. Then there is always the possibility of an accidental release as was the case with yet another strain of Ebola in a Virginia laboratory just outside this nation’s capital that was detailed in the nonfiction book “The Hot Zone”. In the late 1990s US scientists were experimenting with gene segments from Ebola and HIV/AIDS to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Stuff happens.
The spread of Ebola is primarily a consequence of poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, and inadequate health care systems at the local and national levels of government. What should worry us is the complete absence of any accountable government structures at the global level to stop diseases from spreading anywhere people can fly. WHO is not an emergency response structure. It’s not even funded sufficiently to monitor outbreaks let alone respond to them.
What is also likely to happen is economic consequences that will hit American’s directly but not hard and the African economy directly very hard. The consequences of increased poverty and chaos in Africa will have direct national economic and bio security consequences globally.
Unlikely, but possible is the mutation of this mass killer virus into a strain that is harder to detect, easier to spread and impossible to cure. Think of an airborne HIV/AIDS that kills in days or weeks instead of years.
Besides the complete absence of any effective global institution capable of reacting to such a crisis we have a global political paradigm that puts national sovereignty supreme to any global capacity for response or quarantine enforcement. International law has been virtually inoperable in stopping human inspired war, genocide or terrorism. It will prove worse at instituting an effective global emergency response effort and worse yet at resolving the underlying causes of almost all pandemics or other global threats to our freedom, security and sustainable prosperity.
In the face of national shortfalls of money, health care systems and emergency resources; and an abundance of public panic, conspiracy, ignorance, poverty and injustice – it is reasonably predictable that things are going to get worse before they get better.
Essentially, humanity lacks the political will to use science to determine best government policy at the local, state and national levels. It has virtually no political capacity at the global level to follow scientific findings. In the current ‘global governance system’ we have the protection of innocent lives (regardless of age, race, sex, nationality or religion) is at the whims of national leaders. The protection of inalienable human rights remains secondary to the protection of national sovereignty (the right of any nation, to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whom ever it wants). Those national governments with nuclear weapons appear immune to any global consensus or commitments.
Don’t believe for a moment that the death, disability, fear and suffering that this disease is causing in Africa will not have a host of other consequences that affect us all. From economic to environmental, criminal and even health and bio-security threats.
Infectious agents don’t make national distinctions. We do at our own peril. Pathogens do recognize the one thing we all have in common. The same body temperature.
If it mutates, if we mutate it, or if something worse comes a long our national militaries will be helpful. Most likely in controlling the chaos within each of our artificial borders with privacy gone and our freedom to travel or meet in large groups outlawed.
There is another way. But it will require facing our real enemies of ignorance, apathy, poverty, indifference and global injustice.
After the horrors of World War II America’s first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt led the effort to create a global document that if enforced, would prevent most of the underlying causes of almost all human sourced threats we face (war, genocide, hunger, most diseases…). And if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were enforced globally, most of the other threats we face from nature or one another, threats that cannot be prevented, could be dealt with far faster and more effective.